'Music Man' sets box office record for a reopened Broadway

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'Music Man' sets box office record for a reopened Broadway
Hugh Jackman, center, as Harold Hill in the Broadway revival of “The Music Man” at the Winter Garden Theater in New York, Feb. 1, 2022. Broadway has a new box office leader: A starry revival of “The Music Man” grossed $3.5 million last week, the most of any show since theaters reopened after the long pandemic shutdown. Sara Krulwich/The New York Times.

by Michael Paulson

NEW YORK, NY.- Broadway has a new box office leader: A starry revival of “The Music Man” grossed $3.5 million last week, the most of any show since theaters reopened after the long pandemic shutdown.

The musical, with a cast led by the ever-popular Hugh Jackman, is outselling “Hamilton” and every other show, triumphing over tepid reviews as it plays to full houses and sells tickets at top-tier prices.

Data released Tuesday by the Broadway League showed that “The Music Man” had grossed over $3 million for five weeks in a row.

The industry’s three big mainstays remain strong: Last week, “Hamilton” brought in $2.3 million, “Wicked” was at $1.9 million and “The Lion King” at $1.8 million.

The box office numbers were the first for individual shows to be publicly released by the league since March 2020, and suggested, as expected, that the relatively small number of mostly big-name shows that survived the omicron spike of the coronavirus late last year are fairly hardy, and most appear to be bringing in more money than they are spending on a week-to-week basis. The industry faces another stress test ahead, as the number of shows increases; no one knows whether there is enough audience to support the newcomers as well as the established productions.

Among the highlights, according to the new information: A revival of Neil Simon comedy “Plaza Suite” starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick is starting very strong, reflecting the enormous appeal of the two stars, who are married to each other and have not appeared together onstage for years. The play, still in previews, grossed $1.7 million last week, which is a huge number for a small-cast play in a modest-size venue.

“The Music Man,” which also stars the gifted Sutton Foster, had the highest average ticket price, at $283, and the highest premium ticket price, at $697. “Plaza Suite” was also selling notably high-priced premium seats, at $549, reflecting Parker’s popularity.

The numbers do show signs of concern for some shows. “Tina — The Tina Turner Musical,” played to houses that were only 55% full last week, grossing $778,000. And a new musical, “Paradise Square,” started slow in previews — the show drew large audiences (it was 97% full) but with unsustainably low ticket prices (it grossed just $355,000, with an average ticket price of $47). And sales for shows including “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Come From Away” and “Chicago” have notably softened since before the pandemic.

But there is also good news for other shows. In particular, the newly released box office data suggests that “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” has benefited from its decision to consolidate from a two-part play to one part during the pandemic. The show grossed $1.7 million last week; the two-part version had been bringing in around $1 million during non-holiday weeks before the pandemic.

By the end of last week there were 22 shows running in the 41 Broadway houses, up from a low of 19 earlier in the year. The average ticket price was a healthy $136, and 92% of all seats were occupied, although there were fewer spots to fill overall because so many theaters did not have shows in them.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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