'Hughie' with Forest Whitaker Folds on Broadway

Courtesy of Joan Marcus
Frank Wood and Forest Whitaker in 'Hughie'

Poor ticket sales have prompted producers to announce a March 27 closing date for the Eugene O'Neill drama, eleven weeks ahead of schedule.

Proving that an Oscar-winning star doesn't automatically translate to ticket sales on Broadway, Michael Grandage's production of Hughie, starring Forest Whitaker, will close on March 27, just one month after opening.

The limited engagement was scheduled to play through June 12 at the Booth Theatre. But producers on Thursday night announced the decision to lower the final curtain after just 55 performances due to insufficient advance ticket sales.

While reviews were favorable in a number of major outlets, the show was a tough sell. A downbeat Eugene O'Neill drama about a small-time New York gambler living on empty boasts, the play is essentially a monologue, clocking in at 55 minutes in the current production. Audiences clearly balked at paying Broadway prices — non-premium top tickets to the play go for $149 — for less than an hour's entertainment.

Given Grandage's track record on Broadway, with hits like Frost/Nixon, Red and a strong-selling Hamlet starring Jude Law, producers evidently were counting on rave reviews across the board to drive traffic. They also appear to have overestimated the box office draw of Whitaker, who is making his Broadway debut in the play.

The production, which also stars Frank Wood in a secondary role, began performances Feb. 8, with an official opening on Feb. 25. It made $330,000 in its best week, representing less than half of its gross potential, with total box office to date of less than $1 million. Lead producers on the show are Darren Bagert and the Michael Grandage Company.

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