Show topper predicts over 90% capacity in March

NEW YORK — “Remember, for ‘The Full Monty,’ 95% capacity is sold out,” says Lindsay Law, the musical’s producer with Thomas Hall and Fox Searchlight. Last fall, “The Full Monty” grabbed nearly as much positive pre-opening press as “The Producers” is currently producing. The morning-after reviews for the David Yazbek/Terrence McNally show were also very positive, if not across-the-board raves. Broadway had a big fat hit.

So why has the new tuner sold out just one session (Christmas week) since opening on Oct. 26, and fallen below 90% capacity for the past two months despite being housed in the 1,108-seat Eugene O’Neill, a relatively small theater for a big musical?

Law explains: “Fifty seats which are partial views in the orchestra can only be sold at the box office. Ticket buyers have to be told in person, and who wants partial view at these prices? That’s 5% of our capacity, and those seats only sell after standing room is sold.” Hence the 95% cap.

As for those lower caps during January and February, Law says he hates to admit to “mistakes,” but says, “We were so caught up in opening the show, we hadn’t looked into the winter season. People in New York have become savvy to winter sales. It’s the time to see shows at a discount. We had no sale out there, so why see our show now at full price?”

The advance is back up, and Law predicts the show will be over 90% capacity in March and beyond.

Nevertheless, marketing adjustments have been made. The original “Full Monty” ad campaign showed a chorus line of bare male legs, emphasizing the musical’s nude finale. Was the Disney crowd turned off?

“We’ve never gotten even one letter of complaint,” says Law. Still, the producers are having lunch this week with group sales execs who’ve found a certain “hesitancy” toward the show from Midwestern theater parties. “This is silly,” says Law, “but there are some old-fashioned people out there.”

New ad campaigns feature photos of fully clothed actors. In one of them, actor Patrick Wilson holds his arms out wide as if to embrace the Daily News quote “A delightful salute to the human spirit!”

“It’s touching and heartwarming and you want to get that message out there,” says Law. “Families love this show.”

Surprisingly, some group sales find the far more risque “Chicago” a favorite with schools, who avoid “The Full Monty.”

Then there are those pesky Wednesday matinees. “They drag us down 5% to 10%,” says Law. “We’re addressing that with a radio campaign. Otherwise, we sell out.”

“The Full Monty” national tour begins May 21 in Toronto, with productions going to five major foreign cities in the next 18 months.

Pulitzer deadline looms

The Pulitzer Prizes will be announced April 16, but the cutoff date for submissions in music and drama is March 1. Bud Kliment, deputy administrator of the awards, says there is “no formal process” for the submissions. “We do invite productions to submit scripts to alert the jury, but it is not a criteria for an award,” he says.

Thanks to intrepid jury members who actually go to the theater on a regular basis, “We’ve had plays win the award that have not been submitted,” says Kliment.

Legit observers agree that 2001 promises to be very competitive in the drama category, with David Auburn’s “Proof” one of the top contenders. If it wins, it would be the first time a play on Broadway was so honored since Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” won in 1993. (Jonathan Larson’s “Rent,” which transferred to Broadway from Off Broadway, was the rare musical to win the Pulitzer, in 1996.)

Agents and producers mention such Pulitzer favorites as August Wilson for “King Hedley II” and Edward Albee for “The Play About the Baby” as other contenders. Others mentioned more rarely are Moises Kaufman’s “The Laramie Project” and Horton Foote’s “The Last of the Thorntons.” With their world premieres imminent, Jon Robin Baitz’s “Ten Unknowns” and Kenneth Lonergan’s “Lobby Hero” are also eligible.

Wilson competed against himself last season, with both “Jitney” and “King Hedley II” submitted to the Pulitzer committee (“Jitney” was a nominee, losing to Donald Margulies’ “Dinner With Friends”). According to Wilson’s producer Benjamin Mordecai, “King Hedley II” has been submitted again in 2001. “August has done extensive rewriting on the play,” explains the producer.

If the second time proves the charm for “Hedley,” two-time winner Wilson (“Fences” and “The Piano Lesson”) would be put into the august company of triple winners Albee (“A Delicate Balance,” “Seascape” and “Three Tall Women”) and Robert E. Sherwood (“Idiots Delight,” “Abe Lincoln in Illinois” and “There Shall Be No Night”). If Albee takes it again, he catches up with Eugene O’Neill, who won four Pulitzers, for “Beyond the Horizon,” “Anna Christie,” “Strange Interlude” and “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”

Does the Pulitzer Prize mean much at the box office?

Shubert chairman Gerald Schoenfeld, who claims that his org’s Golden Theater has hosted more Pulitzer winners than any other Broadway venue, says it doesn’t make much difference. Emanuel Azenberg, producer of Neil Simon’s prize winner “Lost in Yonkers,” says it does. When “Dinner With Friends” won last spring, the producers jacked up ticket prices.

“It depends on the timing,” says Mordecai, who produced four Pulitzer winners: “Fences,” “The Piano Lesson,” “Angels in America” and “The Kentucky Cycle,” by Robert Schenkkan. “With ‘Piano Lesson,’ they announced the award five days before we opened on Broadway, and it had an enormous effect on the box office. We called it the miracle on 48th Street. Generally, though, I don’t think it has that much impact.”

Daryl Roth has seen three of her shows — “Three Tall Women,” Margaret Edson’s “Wit” and Paula Vogel’s “How I Learned to Drive” — take a Pulitzer. According to Roth, the box office effect had to do with perception. “In the case of ‘Wit,’ the Pulitzer added another layer of cachet, an extra endorsement,” says Roth. “Many people considered the subject matter (of cancer) off-putting. But the Pulitzer conveyed the fact that the play was beautifully written, and it helped enormously at the box office.”

Roth is also a producer on two of this year’s Pulitzer front-runners, “The Play About the Baby” and “Proof.”

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