5:00am PT by Scott Feinberg
Tonys: Revisiting Bradley Cooper, Jake Gyllenhaal and This Season's Already-Closed Shows
By the time Tony nominating committee voters sit down to determine the nominees each spring, many of the eligible Broadway shows have already come and gone. Oscar and Emmy voters pick nominees under similar circumstances — except that films and TV shows that have already come and gone can be revisited via screeners (DVDs, Blu-Rays or links provided to voters to help them remember what they saw, or to see it for the first time).
For Broadway shows, though, a closing notice — which can come because of commercial under-performance, a star's limited window of availability, a venue's obligation to house another production or any number of other reasons — means that nom-com voters will only be able to revisit the show in their minds, which can quickly become crowded with newer productions, especially in a year like this one, which features 14 openings in the month of April alone.
For this reason, I thought it might be worthwhile to look back at this year's shows that have already come and gone.
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These shows simply didn't bring in enough money to sustain their costs.
Holler If Ya Hear Me (6/19/14-7/20/14, THR review) — One of Broadway's biggest bombs in years, this musical, directed by recent Tony winner Kenny Leon (A Raisin in the Sun) and inspired by the music of Tupac Shakur, lasted for only 17 previews and 38 performances. It was skewered by critics and was "one of the worst-selling musicals of recent years," according to The New York Times. Some speculated that its failure meant that it would be a long time before another rap/hip-hop show would be mounted on the Great White Way. In fact, it will be only a few months: Hamilton, an off-Broadway phenomenon, will move into the Richard Rodgers Theatre on July 13.
Disgraced (10/23/14-3/1/15, THR review) — Ayad Akhtar's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about religious identity in post 9/11 New York moved to Broadway after a glowingly received premiere in Lincoln Center's off-Broadway space for work by emerging artists. Its cast included TV stars Josh Radnor and Gretchen Mol, as well as Hari Dhillon in an impressive Broadway debut as the central character. Akhtrar's smart and provocative script resonated with most critics, but a dark and dialogue-heavy show proved a tough sell to the general public, resulting in its premature closure. Even so, a national tour has been set for November.
The Last Ship (10/26/14-1/24/15, THR review) — Sting's semi-autobiographical romantic musical came into this season with loads of hype — in fact, he performed its eponymous song on last year's Tonys telecast. But, despite his catchy score, a book by Tony winners John Logan (Red) and Brian Yorkey (Next to Normal) and direction by Joe Mantello (Wicked), this expensive production quickly ran aground, and not even Sting's addition to the cast in December could save it.
Side Show (11/17/14-1/4/15, THR review) — This 1930s-set musical about conjoined-twin Vaudevillians was first mounted on Broadway in 1997, proving a commercial flop but landing a best musical Tony nom and, appropriately enough, a shared best actress Tony nom for its leading ladies, a Tonys-first/only. The show's recent revival, the first Broadway production directed by Oscar winner Bill Condon, landed reviews of the sort that would suggest it has similar awards potential — but the fact that it also closed early and lost $7 million attaches to it a scent of disappointment that may be hard to shirk.
Honeymoon in Vegas (1/15/15-4/5/15, THR review) — Unfortunately, this is the second well-reviewed Jason Robert Brown musical-adapted-from-a-1990s-movie in as many years to quickly flunk at the box-office, after last year's The Bridges of Madison County. Perhaps Emmy nominee Tony Danza and Tony nominee Rob McClure (2013's Chaplin) simply weren't big enough "names" to draw people to this one, a musical comedy based on a barely remembered film.
Shows of this sort run for a pre-determined period of time — generally three or four months — usually with the option of extending for an additional few weeks. They make possible the presence on Broadway of many big-name Hollywood stars, who can rarely escape their other commitments for a period longer than 16 weeks. And they are also largely responsible for high-priced premium tickets, since they need to earn back their investment quickly — or else.
This Is Our Youth (9/11/14-1/4/15, THR review) — Kenneth Lonergan's play about New York adolescents in the Reagan era, which ran off-Broadway in 1996, was remounted at Steppenwolf and then brought to the Great White Way by August: Osage County Tony winner Anna D. Shapiro and three Broadway newbies, Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin and Tavi Gevinson. It received very warm reviews but did modest business at the box-office.
Love Letters (9/18/14-12/14/14, THR review) — This production, a revival of A.R. Gurney's 1988 play, centered around just two characters, a male and a female, seated at a table reading letters to one another that convey the passage of time. (Think of it as the anti-Boyhood.) To draw people to a show without bells and whistles, a rotating cast of big names was enlisted in those parts (Brian Dennehy, Mia Farrow, Alan Alda, Candice Bergen and Carol Burnett all made appearances). But, despite generally positive reviews, poor advance sales meant that it couldn't hold on long enough for all of them to cycle through (Stacey Keach, Diana Rigg, Anjelica Huston and Martin Sheen were announced but never appeared).
You Can't Take It with You (9/28/14-2/22/15, THR review) — The farcical Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman play-turned-Oscar-winning-movie returned to Broadway, now accompanied by original Jason Robert Brown music and also under the direction of perennial Tony bridesmaid Scott Ellis. Boasting an eclectic ensemble that included Broadway newcomer Rose Byrne, James Earl Jones and Annaleigh Ashford, it generated strong reviews, but struck some as a bit dated and dull.
The River (11/16/14-2/8/15, THR review) — Few people are as popular on Broadway as Hugh Jackman, which is why ticket sales for this play were through the roof. But the character portrayed by the Aussie in this low-key drama, which received lukewarm reviews, is a far cry from the showman to whom Jackman's fans are accustomed, which may be why critics and many in the audience left it underwhelmed.
A Delicate Balance (11/20/14-2/22/15, THR review) — This latest revival of Edward Albee's 1967 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about a complicated family and its unexpected house guests, directed by Tony winner Pam MacKinnon (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), was highly anticipated, in no small part because it marked the return of Glenn Close to Broadway after a 20-year absence. But, despite her work and that of an enviable supporting cast (John Lithgow, Lindsay Duncan, Bob Balaban, Clare Higgins and Martha Plimpton), it failed to inspire much passion.
The Elephant Man (12/7/14-2/21/15, THR review) — It's hard to imagine a better showcase for the skills of Bradley Cooper than the physically-grueling role at the center of this Bernard Pomerance drama, first produced in 1977 and then immortalized on film by David Lynch in 1980. Indeed, the part of disfigured curiosity John Merrick has infatuated the three-time Oscar nominee ever since he was 12. This version, directed by Scott Ellis, was a critical and commercial smash, with Cooper and supporting players Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson earning great notices.
Shows of this sort tend to run as limited engagements, but for different reasons. Some theater organizations — Lincoln Center Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, Roundabout Theatre Company — fund productions largely through their subscriber bases, which in turn account for much of their audience. They do not face the same commercial pressures as most shows, but they do face certain limitations: their audiences are rarely as large and their runs are rarely as long as shows of comparable quality made outside of the nonprofit world.
The Country House (10/2/14-11/23/14, THR review) — This original comedy about a complicated family that reunites and explodes was scribed by Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Margulies (Dinner with Friends), directed by Tony winner Daniel Sullivan (Proof) and boasted a strong ensemble led by Tony winner Blythe Danner. Even so, its plot was a little too mundane and meandering for most critics.
The Real Thing (10/30/14-1/4/15, THR review) — RTC's revival of Tom Stoppard's 1982 play about intra- and inter-relationship transparency was poorly reviewed, despite boasting a talented cast led by Ewan McGregor and Maggie Gyllenhaal (making their Broadway debuts) and Cynthia Nixon (who appeared in the original production in a different part). It was directed by Sam Gold, who has since moved on to Fun Home.
Constellations (1/13/15-3/15/15, THR review) — This minimalist production, the first Broadway venture for director Michael Longhurst, came with a cast of just two people, Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal and Golden Globe winner Ruth Wilson, in what might be described as a brief (at just 70 minutes), complex (but engaging) acting exercise highlighting the many different directions that a romance can take. The show was critically hailed and proved to be one of MTC's biggest hits in years — indeed, many believe that the group made a mistake by not booking it into a bigger theater for a longer run, at least through Tony noms.
Shows of this sort are generally musical rather than theatrical attractions, receive brief runs in vacant Broadway theaters (usually over major holidays) and do not factor into the Tonys race.
The Illusionists – Witness the Impossible (12/4/14-1/4/15, THR review) — A Vegas-style extravaganza that featured seven magicians accompanied by an onstage rock band, it kicked off a 30-city tour across America by playing to packed houses at the Marquis Theatre over the winter holidays. It is but one of several unusual shows filling the place prior to the Nov. 2015 arrival of the Gloria Estefan jukebox musical On Your Feet!.
The Temptations & The Four Tops on Broadway (12/29/14-1/4/15) — Tourists visiting the Big Apple for the week around New Year's Eve had the chance to see two of Motown's biggest soul groups of the sixties perform their greatest hits. They took up a brief residency at the Palace Theatre, which was available due to Holler If Ya Hear Me's swift exit, just as Motown: The Musical was winding down its run at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.