If we know reviews aren’t as powerful as they used to be, then why . . .

If ever there was a Fall that demonstrated the lack of a correlation between a rave and a run, this was the one.

Both Finian’s Rainbow and Ragtime, two of the Best Reviewed Shows of 2009, are folding way earlier than anyone predicted the morning after their opening, when their reviews were the talk of the town.

(Funny side-story, but I overheard two women talking about Ragtime on the subway, and both were talking about how wonderful a show it was – they had seen the original.  They had both heard the new production was fabulous and both wanted to see it.  Then one of the women said, “But you know, you can’t get a ticket. It’s the hottest ticket in town.”  That’s where I jumped in.  When I asked where she heard that it was a hard-to-get ticket, she told me she had read a review.  She equated a rave with an impossible-to-get ticket.  You can bet I corrected her, and told her to buy a ticket that day . . . and then, after Ragtime, I told her to see Altar Boyz, but you probably guessed that already.)

There is no longer any doubt that sensational reviews are no guarantee of a run or of recoupment, especially for musicals (although, I think plays are catching up . . . notice The Norman Conquests, Mary Stuart and even Godot on that Best Reviewed list).

Ok, ok, I know what you are all saying, “Ken, we know all this.  This ain’t our first barbeque.”

I know, I know, but let’s extrapolate this theory, and apply it to pre-producing.

If we know reviews aren’t as powerful as they used to be, then why do so many of us use them to decide if we want to transfer a show from Off-Broadway to Broadway, or from Out-Of-Town to Broadway???

I can’t tell you how many times over the last year I’ve heard people say that they were getting involved in a show solely because its out-of-town tryout, or its regional tryout, or because its Off-Broadway production got a rave.  Another side-story – recently I asked one Broadway Producer what they were working on next, and they said,

“Well, it looks like we’re going to move XXXXXX.”

I was a bit surprised.  “Really,”  I said.  “Wow.”

“Yep.  I mean, with the review we got, we sort of have to.”

No, you don’t.  And you shouldn’t.

Tell me you want to get involved with a show because the audience is going crazy for it.  Tell me you want to get involved with a show because you think the Author’s message is important.  Or tell me you want to get involved with a show purely based on your gut.

Or better, tell me it’s ALL of those things (you wouldn’t buy a stock just based on its price, or just based on its p/e.  You buy because of a combo of its charactertistics).

But don’t tell me you’re doing it because it got a good review.

Because reviews are like wrapping paper.  They make things look pretty, but they don’t last long.

It’s what’s inside the paper that counts.

My Tony Award Predictions

Ok, here they are, as promised:  my predicts for what the 800 or so Tony Voters will select as the winners of this year’s Tony Awards.  To clarify, this is not what I think should win, nor is it what I necessarily voted for myself, but rather this is who I expect to be standing on that stage on Sunday night.

Drumroll, puhleeze.

BEST PLAY:  GOD OF CARNAGE

The French can be snooty and smelly, but neither of those adjectives apply to French writer Yasmine Reza or her work of “Art.”  Her star-studded, super-grossing ($900k for a play?), smart yet accessible comedy (complete with barf jokes) will win out over the primary competition, Labute’s reasons to be pretty.

BEST MUSICAL:  BILLY ELLIOT

The Best Musical landscape is similar to Best Play.  Another import, this one British, squares off against a smaller, perhaps more challenging, American musical, Next to Normal.  Unfortunately for all you patriots out there, the British and Billy will take the big prize of the evening.  And seeing the 147 kids in the show storm the stage at the end will be a sight to see, so stay up!

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:  TOM KITT & BRIAN YORKEY, NEXT TO NORMAL

The Americans strike back here, as N2N deservedly picks up the score trophy.  This award also comes with a note from many voters that reads, “Sorry we didn’t vote for you for Best Musical.  We loved your show, but . . .”

BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL:  LEE HALL, BILLY ELLIOT

For awhile, I thought N2N would pull a Urinetown or Falsettos split (and take both score and book while giving up the big prize to a more commercial choice, Millie and Crazy for You, respectively), as the voters like to reward writers of challenging work.  The upset of the night would be if the voters tipped their hat to Hunter Bell and the TOS crew with an award.  But frankly, I just don’t think enough of them saw the show last fall to make that happen.

BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY:  THE NORMAN CONQUESTS

Great revivals were like foreclosures this year . . . on every block!  (Too soon?)  This category would have been even tougher to pick, had the nominators not forgotten about some of the fall shows (specifically, The Seagull).  Norman gets the girl in this category, partly for its great production, and partly because of the degree of difficulty in staging three British comedies and running them in rep  (I’d also bet that a bunch of voters voted for Norman while only seeing one of the plays.)

BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL:  HAIR

The Most Improved Show award goes to Hair this year.  Luckily, West Side doesn’t need it with its Wicked-like grosses (it’s a revival!).

BEST SPECIAL THEATRICAL EVENT:  LIZA’S AT THE PALACE

Obviously, I’m praying that I’m wrong with this one.  Will’s got a chance, thanks to the phenomenal success of the run and because it’s fresh in everyone’s memory.  But a Hollywood A-lister bringing down Broadway royalty seems like a long shot to me, so I’m putting my money on the safe bet. That’s ok.  I’m still happy having put my investors money on the other guy.  🙂

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR IN  A PLAY:  GEOFFREY RUSH, EXIT THE KING

This is the easiest to call, which is unfortunate for Raul Esparza, who deserves to have a couple of trophies on his mantle.  But God knows, he’ll have more chances to get up on that stage, as I don’t see him making an exit anytime soon.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTRESS IN  A PLAY:  MARCIA GAY HARDEN, GOD OF CARNAGE

There is a 60 second section in God of Carnage where Marcia doesn’t utter a word.  But you can practically read her thoughts as if they were written in a bubble above her head.  She wins for that moment alone.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR IN  A MUSICAL: THE THREE BILLYS, BILLY ELLIOT

Tatum O’Neal, Daisy Eagan , Anna Paquin.  Voters love to give a kid a trophy.  And the only thing better than one kid nominee  . . . is three.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTRESS IN  A MUSICAL:  ALICE RIPLEY, NEXT TO NORMAL

In an example of the Hollywood Rain Man syndrome (where playing a challenged individual of any type, physical or mental, gives you a boost at award time), Alice will win for her terrific portrayal of the challenged mom in N2N.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTOR IN  A PLAY:  JOHN GLOVER, WAITING FOR GODOT

This one could also be called the Best Spitter Award (previous winners would have included Jonathan Groff in Spring Awakening).  John wins for saying the most with the least to actually say.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTRESS IN  A PLAY:  ANGELA LANSBURY, BLITHE SPIRIT

There is currently only one woman who has won five Tony Awards.  After Sunday, there will be two.  Watch for the standing ovation when Angela takes the stage.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTOR IN  A MUSICAL:  CHRISTOPHER SIEBER, SHREK

The guy is on his knees for the whole show for Shrek’s sake!

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTRESS IN  A MUSICAL:  HAYDEN GWYNNE, BILLY ELLIOT

Hayden hits a trifecta here:  Outer Critics, Drama Desk, Tony.  That much momentum can’t be stopped.

BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY:  MATTHEW WARCHUS, GOD OF CARNAGE

For awhile, I thought Matthew’s two noms would split his vote, but then I saw I took another look at God’s grosses ($900k for a play?), and realized that he would take the Tony on the back of the show’s success, and deservedly so.

BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL:  STEPHEN DALDRY, BILLY ELLIOT

For awhile, I was calling a bit of an upset here, because without Diane, Hair would not be the hit it is.  But at the end of the day, I think the majority of voters will give it to Daldry for the sheer magnitude of the work he did in directing Billy.

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY:  PETER DARLING, BILLY ELLIOT

When dancing is a major part of your plot, you better win choreography!  Hands and toes down, Darling is the winner.

BEST ORCHESTRATIONS:  MARTIN KOCH, BILLY ELLIOT

Big show + big score = Tony.

BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY:  DEREK MCCLANE, 33 VARIATIONS

The other nominees in this category are mostly stationery sets, so Derek’s “musical” set wins.

BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL:  IAN MACNEIL BILLY ELLIOT

They had to drill a giant hole in the basement of the theater to allow for that house to come up through the ground, like a man from a mine, but it’ll earn this man a Tony.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY:  DALE FERGUSON, EXIT THE KING

Whenever Kings and Queens are in a play, the odds for winning a costume award jumps up tremendously.  Normally, I’d say give this one to Mary Stuart, but I’m going with Dale, for the absurdist suit of armor.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL:  TIM HATLEY, SHREK

Costume awards go to designs that stand out, and in a field of nominations that include one show about the 60s and two shows about the 80s, Shrek certainly stands out.

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY:  HUGH VANSTONE, MARY STUART

On Broadway, “rain” is an electrician and a lighting designer’s job. It rains in Mary Stuart. And that’s cool and memorable. So it’ll rain a Tony on Hugh.

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSCIAL:  RICK FISHER, BILLY ELLIOT

With the design awards, sometimes bigger is better.  The bigger the show, the bigger the budget, and the more toys the designers have to play with.  In this case, bigger is Billy.

BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A PLAY:  RUSSELL GOLDSMITH, EXIT THE KING

This is a tough one.  Your guess is as good as mine.  I went with the sounds of a dying king.  Creepy.

BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A MUSICAL:  PAUL ARDITTI, BILLY ELLIOT

Paul will win for excellent work, yes, but also for a syndrome I call, “Tony By Association.”

So that’s it!  Make sure you tune in on Sunday to see how I do!  And don’t forget to make your picks on my Tony pool!  There is only 2 days left to play and win $500!  Click here.

If you’re not following me on Twitter, click here. Just like last year, I’ll be tweeting from my $900 seat (yep, that’s how it costs – crazy, huh?) and I’ll fill you in on everything that’s going on from inside Radio City, including the not-suitable for airing, in between commercial breaks stuff.

If you don’t yet have a place to watch – try Times Square!  The Tonys will be on the Big Screen!  With the new blocked off streets, it should be fun.  Tweet me from there if you go. I’d love to hear what the party is like.

Oh, one more prediction before I sign off:  during the telecast, I predict there will be two Jeremy Piven jokes.  🙂

The results are in! Here is what YOU think will RECOUP this season!

Ok, my Virtual Broadway Investors, the contest is now officially closed!  (Insert trumpets sounding the start of the race here).

The winner of the iPhone will be announced on September 1st (or earlier if we have the recoupment results . . . or later if we don’t!).

Until then, let’s see how you voted!

There were 9 shows on our list . . . and the majority of you think only TWO will recoup (which is consistent with the somewhat industry standard stat of 1 out of 5 shows recoup).

What were those two shows?  Here’s the rundown of the shows and the results!

THE WILL IT RECOUP SURVEY RESULTS

1.  Will 33 Variations recoup?

53.5% YES
46.5% NO

2.  Will Impressionism recoup?

30.1% YES
69.9% NO

3.  Will Blithe Spirit recoup?

80.2% YES
19.8% NO

4.  Will God of Carnage recoup?

36.2% YES
63.8% NO

5.  Will Exit the King recoup?

45.3% YES
54.7% NO

6.  Will Irena’s Vow recoup?

26.1% YES
73.9% NO

7.  Will Reasons to be Pretty recoup?

33.1% YES
66.9% NO

8.  Will Mary Stuart recoup?

29.8% YES
70.2% NO

9.  Will The Norman Conquests recoup?

23.7% YES
76.3% NO

 

Well, there you have it.  Blithe and 33 Variations are the ones you’d put your money on.  And I know a bunch of people that put their actual money in one of them!  🙂

Keep watching here for updates as the season goes on.  And good luck to you . . . and even better luck to the actual investors in all of the shows.  Here’s to ALL 9 shows recouping!

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