Mister D: Many of you take offense at these Broadway business articles because you think they are negating Bernadette Peter’s talent, but only a simpleton would fall for that logic. It’s just not necessarily so. She could be the greatest Dolly but if she doesn’t have the international name recognition or the broad appeal of a Bette Midler then that could spell trouble. Peters never had the remarkable career arcs that Midler has had.
Wall Street Journal
Without Bette Midler, ‘Hello, Dolly!’ Sales Aren’t Looking as Swell
By Charles Passy
Feb. 7, 2018 5:30 a.m. ET
By most measures, the Tony Award-winning actress Bernadette Peters is one of Broadway’s biggest stars. But compared with Bette Midler, her star apparently doesn’t shine quite as brightly.
Since Ms. Peters took over for Ms. Midler in the Broadway revival of “Hello, Dolly!” last month, the musical’s weekly grosses have dropped by more than half from their peak of around $2.5 million, according to the Broadway League, the trade group that tracks the industry. For the seven-day period ending this past Sunday, the show reported grosses of $1 million.
The sales offer an interesting insight into a question that has long plagued Broadway producers: How will a show perform after the departure of its marquee-name star?
To a great extent, the sales decline for “Hello, Dolly!” was anticipated: Ms. Midler’s Tony Award-winning performance in the lead role of Dolly Levi was heralded as one of those once-in-a-lifetime theatrical events. Over the course of her 10-month run, the show grossed about $90 million.
What’s more, Ms. Peters started her engagement during the postholiday winter period, traditionally one of the slowest stretches in the Broadway season.
Scott Rudin, the veteran producer behind the “Dolly” revival, declined to comment on the show’s sales. But “Dolly” insiders pointed to encouraging signs about the production since Ms. Peters took over.
In particular, they note that the show is still drawing audiences greater than 90% of weekly capacity, even if the average price paid per ticket has dipped, thus accounting for the decrease in total sales. That means the production is besting such long-running hits as “Kinky Boots,” which played to 69% of capacity last week, and “The Phantom of the Opera,” which played to 82%.
Plus, Broadway observers say, if the show continues to gross at least $1 million weekly, it will likely be profitable in any case.
“I think as long as they hold this line, it’s great,” said Chris McKittrick, a writer with Daily Actor, a trade website that covers theater.
Still, a change in casting doesn’t always translate into a sales decline for other shows.
“Dear Evan Hansen ” actor Ben Platt, who won a Tony for his performance in the title role, left the show in November. After television actor Noah Galvin took over the lead, weekly grosses generally increased. In the final week of 2017, the show set a new weekly record of $2.1 million.
Of course, “Dear Evan Hansen” is built as much around the musical’s plot and themes, which are especially geared to a millennial audience, as the cast itself.
“I always think of the show as the star,” said Stacey Mindich, the show’s lead producer.
The show is now undergoing another casting change: Broadway veteran Taylor Trensch has taken over for Mr. Galvin as of this week.