‘Buffalo’ shuffle in Boston

Critic Ed Siegel of Boston’s leading newspaper the Globe found it “a hoot short of a hoot and a half,” while the Boston Phoenix’s Carolyn Clay raved that “Lawyer Ludwig’s farce ‘Moon Over Buffalo’ may be even funnier than his 1989 hit ‘Lend Me a Tenor,’ ” and the Boston Herald’s Iris Fanger saw it as “surely the first hit of the coming New York season.”

The Boston reviews of the new play by Ken Ludwig, who is both a lawyer and a playwright, were mixed, even though virtually all of them lauded the play’s two stars, Carol Burnett (on her way back to Broadway after 30 years), and Philip Bosco. And business slipped after the first week of its four-week Boston tryout. The first week’s take was $354,881, falling to $308,652 in the second and $283,183 in the third, out of a potential $532,158.

The production began previewing at the 1,658-seat Colonial Theater on Aug. 7, opened Aug. 15, and closed Sept. 2. Its top ticket in Boston, where it’s being presented by Jon B. Piatt, is $65, $5 more than the $60 top it will have when it opens on Broadway at the 1,200-seat Martin Beck on Oct. 1 as the first new production of the new season.

And while the Boston grosses aren’t peanuts, they’re nowhere near the sell-out status of the touring version of “Angels in America” when it was at the Colonial some months ago at a $65 top per part. But then that play had tremendous long-term pre-publicity.

Elizabeth Peck Williams, the leader of the hefty handful of “Moon” producers, says that the main reason why the box office gross in the first Boston week was higher than the following two was because Boston’s Show of the Month Club members attended during the first week. She also suggested that the box office as a whole may well be affected by August being the dog days, when most people are out on Cape Cod, adding that a major reason for bringing the production to the Colonial was the fact that Piatt, who runs it, was willing to give the producers a guarantee.

Right now everyone involved with “Moon” in Boston is doing what out-of-town tryouts are for – going all out to get things right for Broadway. Rewrites and re-workings have been under way and being put into the production from its first preview and before. They’ll continue after the play’s Boston run and into the New York preview period from Sept. 13 to Oct. 1. Among the revisions are the building up of Burnett’s part, the lack of a big enough role for her being noted by a number of critics.

Said Williams: “Our plans for our out-of-town run and the rewrites were always to use them to make Charlotte (Burnett’s role) a commanding figure equal to George (Bosco’s role) and our rewrites are addressing that.”

Agreeing that it takes a while to play farce well, Williams said, “That is why we chose to shorten our rehearsal period prior to Boston and come to the Colonial to continue working in front of an audience.”

The budget for “Moon” is somewhat over $2 million, a figure that includes the cost of the out-of-town tryout. “We’re lean and mean with our budget,” said Williams, “and our break-even figure is fairly low, about half-capacity.”

Williams added that the production has an “excellent group-sales advance of around $1 million in New York” and that individual tickets sales are good. The Broadway box office opened Aug. 28.

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