Musical recoups cash, looks overseas

Broadway tuner “Spring Awakening” has recouped its $6 million capitalization, following a strong summer fueled by eight Tony wins.

Deals are nearly set for international productions in countries that include Japan, South Korea, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands, according producer Ira Pittelman. A U.S. national tour begins perfs in San Francisco in September 2008, and a London production is aiming for late fall of that year.

Advance sales for the Broadway production have lately hovered between $3.5 million and $4 million, Pittelman said.

Outlook was not always so rosy for the rock musical, which originated Off Broadway at the Atlantic Theater Company. Following a buzz-magnet limited run at the Atlantic last summer, the edgy tuner, based on the 1891 Frank Wedekind play about teens grappling with the darker side of growing up, struggled at the B.O. when it hit Broadway last fall.

By Pittelman’s estimates, the show lost more than $700,000 during the preview period (a sum covered by the reserve built into the capitalization cost). The show, with music by Duncan Sheik and book and lyrics by Steven Sater, earned glowing reviews from its Dec. 10 opening at the Eugene O’Neill Theater, but sales momentum was slow to grow.

Young auds, a target demo given the show’s subject matter, were cultivated through a heavy online presence as well as through low-priced onstage seating. But biz got its real kick from the 11 Tony noms in May and the subsequent eight wins, including trophies for tuner, score, lyrics and direction (for helmer Michael Mayer).

The day after the June 10 Tony ceremony, “Spring” wrapped more than $1 million in sales.

“There’s probably nothing more effective than winning eight Tonys,” Pittelman said. “That was the final validation for all those traditional theatergoers who weren’t sure this was a show they wanted to see.”

After the Tonys, B.O. receipts continued to rise throughout the summer. The musical has landed in the top 10 of the sales chart over the past two weeks, last week grossing $788,259 and playing to full capacity.

“Spring” was brought to Broadway by a large team of producers numbering around 30 people. Group is headed by Pittelman, Tom Hulce, Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel and the Atlantic.

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