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amBroadway | Shows struggle to sell seats amid crowded landscape and nominations delay

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Photo: Marc J. Franklin

If all had gone according to schedule, the Tony Award nominations for the 2021-22 season would have been announced on Tuesday, May 3, providing publicity and a potential box office boost for nominated shows. So, what happened?

The nominations announcement has been pushed back to Monday, May 9 “due to the challenges that Broadway has faced in recent weeks, and in an effort to allow nominators to see Tony eligible shows,” the Broadway League and American Theatre Wing said in a joint statement.

The eligibility cutoff date was also extended to Wednesday, May 4, though this had virtually no impact since the jam-packed opening nights of April (in order to meet the original cutoff date of Thursday, April 28) had already been scheduled. The Tony Awards is still set for Sunday, June 12.

Last week’s gross reports show how numerous shows are currently struggling at the box office. Compared to just a few weeks ago, twice as many shows are now on Broadway, substantially increasing the competition to attract ticket-buyers. The acclaimed new play “Hangmen” was at only 55.6 percent capacity, and the musical “Girl from the North Country” (which closed in January but has returned for a short encore run, assumedly to build Tony buzz) was at 56.21 percent capacity.

Not surprisingly, the situation has already led to a number of closings. “The Little Prince” (a circus-like spectacle based on the children’s book of the same name) will close on Sunday, May 8, and the revival of “for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf” (which recently opened to acclaim) will close on May 22. Don’t be shocked if more shows announce closing dates after the nominations announcement next week.

One show that is currently doing very well at the box office is the revival of “Funny Girl,” which was at 96.96 percent capacity last week and grossed $1,116,472.95 in spite of heavily comped press performances and the absence over the weekend of both Beanie Feldstein (who had prescheduled absences) and Ramin Karimloo (who caught COVID). In Feldstein’s absence, the role of Fanny Brice was played by her standby, Julie Benko (who is set to take over the role again from August 26 to 28).

‘Death of a Salesman’ to be revived with Black actors

An acclaimed London production of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” in which the central characters are played by Black actors, will transfer to Broadway next season, with a cast that includes Wendell Pierce (“The Wire”) as Willy Loman, Sharon D. Clarke (“Caroline, Or Change”) as Linda Loman, and Tony Award winner André De Shields (“Hadestown”) as Willy’s brother Ben. “Looking at ‘Death of a Salesman’ from the perspective of a Black family living in a predominantly White capitalist world changes the way that you hear this text,” director Miranda Cromwell said in a statement. Prior to the pandemic, a revival of the play was being developed by Scott Rudin that would have starred Nathan Lane and Laurie Metcalf. 

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