Tony Awards put Broadway's booming box office on display
The Tony Awards showed theater's freshness and creativity, but rampant Hollywood stars and high ticket prices are making Broadway less accessible to the masses, say critics.
The Tony Award show may have been down about 1 million viewers from last year, but it also offered encouraging signs about the state, health, and direction of American theater. Hand-in-glove with those positives, however, are some weaknesses and – as every year – some bewildering anomalies, say analysts and critics.Skip to next paragraph
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First on the good side. Broadway set a box office record without a centerpiece, must-see hit – such as last year’s “The Book of Mormon” – that drove attention to the Great White Way. That record could be due to soaring ticket prices, say some, as “Death of a Salesman" set a new high-mark for the highest ticket price ever charged ($499, beating out $480 from “The Producers” in 2001).
Producers admitted they upped the premium price after noticing that premium tickets were being sold in blocks to Connecticut and New Jersey zip codes – a sign that brokers were snapping them up in bulk and marking them up on websites, where a final performance ticket went for $1,600.
That shows demand is very high as long as the production is first rate.
“The Hollywood impact on New York’s theater environment has never been greater,” says Catherine Rodgers, professor of theater at Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C. Particularly for casual theatergoers, “the play itself might not be a draw but the A-list cast will be. Drawing a more diverse crowd rather than the typical New York, theatergoing audience will hopefully create broader appeal.”
Yet the Tonys showed that this starpower is not preventing the infusion freshness and creativity. Many of the successful productions on Broadway – such as Tony Award winner “Peter and the Starcatcher” – are coming from the nonprofit sector, where they’ve been in development before going to New York. And several winners Sunday upstaged many bigger names.