Broadway’s new blood dries up as ‘Epic’ closes

No Tony contenders on Great White Way

NEW YORK — And then there were none.

When “Epic Proportions” closes Sunday, Broadway loses its first and so far only Tony contender for best play of 1999-2000. On Tuesday, there will be no new plays running on the Great White Way, with last season’s holdovers Warren Leight’s “Side Man” and Conor McPherson’s “The Weir” having closed Oct. 31 and Nov. 28, respectively.

The “Epic Proportions” producers posted a closing notice last week, which called for a quit date of Dec. 12. That notice was quickly taken down, only to be replaced Tuesday with one proclaiming that the run had been extended a week. Larry Coen and David Crane’s comedy about a Cecil B. DeMille-style movie epic opened Sept. 30; it will have played 28 previews and 92 regular performances.

Gross miss

“Epic Proportions” never came close to fulfilling its $301,055 gross potential at the 499-seat Helen Hayes Theater. The play’s weekly gross reached its peak, $146,150, the week of Oct. 4 and hit its low, $63,149, the week of Dec. 6. Last week’s downturn stood in marked contrast to tallies reported by other Broadway shows, most of which improved after the previous session’s post-Thanksgiving slump.

Calls to “Epic Proportions” lead producer Brent Peek were not returned, but a source close to the production puts its capitalization at around $1.5 million.

Last summer, “Epic Proportions,” David Hirson’s “Wrong Mountain” and Lisette Lecat Ross’ “Scent of the Roses” were the only three new plays scheduled to open this fall.

The producers of the Hirson play, citing millennial celebration conflicts, found the timing inopportune and postponed its opening to Jan. 13.

“Scent” held out-of-town tryouts, but shortly after opening in Nyack, N.Y., producer Arthur Cantor pushed back the Broadway premiere to spring. He said the decision was made for financial and other reasons.

Old order of day

Other likely new plays for the current Broadway season include incoming productions of Elaine May’s “Taller Than a Dwarf” and Michael Frayn’s “Copenhagen.” Beyond that, the Tony Award for best play could turn into a contest of everything old is new again. Noel Coward’s “Waiting in the Wings,” written in 1960 but never seen on Broadway until this month, may qualify. Arthur Miller’s “The Ride Down Mount Morgan,” first performed in London in 1991, is another Broadway debutante, scheduled for late-March previews.

As for what’s “new,” the soon-to-be-shuttered “Epic Proportions” also pushed the definition. Under the auspices of the Manhattan Punchline, the comedy opened at the Judith Anderson Theater in December 1986.

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