'Cat' takes dive due to Howard's exit

Despite alarming drops for some normally robust performers, Broadway sales remained on track last week thanks to well-reviewed recent openers and a hefty crop of previewing shows that brought new blood to the Rialto.

Receipts for the 34 productions on the boards totaled $18,791,319, up a minimal $247,000 from the previous session. The estimated $852,000 gross for “Young Frankenstein” (down from $1 million the previous week) pushes the overall cume for the week closer to $20 million, signaling that Broadway is gearing up for the accelerated business of Tony season.

However, the drop in sales for the Mel Brooks tuner wasn’t the only significant dip of the week. The temporary exit of Terrence Howard from the cast of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (on a previously scheduled hiatus to promote “Iron Man”) took a bite out of box office for the all-black Tennessee Williams revival, which dipped 33% to total $475,709. Also down was “August: Osage County,” which slipped by 21% to $380,123, despite winning the Pulitzer Prize for drama the previous week. That play will remain dark for a week before moving from the Imperial into its new home at the Music Box.

Elsewhere, grosses were stable or slightly up. Continuing to build on its rave reviews and must-see status, Lincoln Center Theater’s “South Pacific” revival inched into the top 10, playing to 98% capacity. Box office grew by 5% to $744,929. Other recent arrivals registering solid weeks included “Macbeth” (up 24% to $473,447), “Gypsy” (up 3% to $842,233) and “Sunday in the Park With George” (up 12% to $445,710).

“A Catered Affair” dropped 8% to $341,232, due largely to press-perf and opening-night comps. Generally cool reviews for the musical will likely pose a challenge at the box office.

The upcoming June closing of “Curtains” and the return from vacation of star David Hyde Pierce boosted business for the Kander & Ebb tuner, which received a 35% bump to total $530,499.

In the crowded field of shows previewing in the run-up to the Tony consideration cutoff, the top performer was Mike Nichols’ starry revival of Clifford Odets’ “The Country Girl,” with Morgan Freeman, Frances McDormand and Peter Gallagher. That play pulled in $399,028 for 66.7% capacity.

The musical adaptation of John Waters’ 1950s-set romp “Cry-Baby” climbed by 11% to 72% capacity, totaling $309,222. In their first full week of perfs, Roundabout’s revival of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” toplining Laura Linney, scored a promising 77% capacity, with a $223,633 total, while solo play “Thurgood,” starring Laurence Fishburne, played to 63%, totaling $202,006.

Other newcomers beginning performances included Manhattan Theater Club’s staging of Caryl Churchill’s iconoclastic feminist play “Top Girls” ($138,652 for seven perfs) and the London transfer of swinging ’60s farce “Boeing-Boeing” ($81,063 for two perfs).

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