Tony Wins Propel 'Fun Home' to Profit on Broadway
While the move uptown had seemed a risky prospect, producers on Sunday announced recoupment of their initial investment, just eight months after opening.
A show about gay sexuality and suicide looked like it was never going to be an easy sell on Broadway, but a modestly scaled production, rave reviews and a tidy handful of Tony Awards have helped make Fun Home the first musical of the 2014-15 season to announce recoupment.
Lead producers Kristin Caskey and Mike Isaacson of Fox Theatricals and Barbara Whitman on Sunday confirmed that the intimate chamber musical has earned back its initial capitalization of $5.25 million, just eight months into its run at the Circle in the Square Theatre. That time span is relatively short by the standards of most Broadway musicals, which generally take a year or two to turn a profit.
Transferring to Broadway after a hit premiere engagement at the Public Theater in fall 2013, Fun Home began previews uptown on March 27, officially opening on April 19.
Box office saw an immediate spike following this year’s Tony Awards, where the show collected five trophies in all — for best musical, book (Lisa Kron), original score (music by Jeanine Tesori, lyrics by Kron), direction (Sam Gold) and lead actor (Michael Cerveris).
While ticket demand has eased in recent weeks, the musical continues to average houses of above 90 percent capacity, with cumulative grosses currently approaching $25 million.
Based on cartoonist Alison Bechdel's 2006 graphic memoir — billed as a "family tragicomic" — the show uses three different actresses to depict the protagonist's life at various ages. It traces her childhood, growing up around a funeral home in small-town Pennsylvania, through her college years and early exploration of her sexuality as an out lesbian, to her adulthood as she attempts to understand what drove her closeted gay father to take his own life.
While Fun Home in its downtown premiere had won a number of off-Broadway honors, including the Lucille Lortel Award for best musical and the same nod from the New York Drama Critics Circle, the show was perceived as far from a slam dunk for Broadway, with its dark subject matter and lack of star names or widely familiar title.
However, director Gold and the producing team were smart in their choice of venues, and in reconfiguring the show as an in-the-round staging. With 730 seats, the Circle in the Square is one of Broadway's smallest houses, allowing for an intimacy that might have been lost in a bigger theater. The production's timing was also fortuitous, its themes finding additional resonance in this landmark year for LGBT rights.
"We hope that the success of Fun Home will inspire others to produce groundbreaking, challenging and exciting new works of musical theater on Broadway," said the producers in a statement.
The show's cast recording this month was nominated for a Grammy for best musical theater album, and the production earlier announced plans to launch a North American tour during the 2016-17 season.