Broadway celebrates huge holiday

Grosses totaled $21.2 million for 33 shows

The springtime holidays gave Broadway a great big boost last week, with weekly box office climbing for almost every production on the boards — several by hundreds of thousands of dollars each.

With spring-break sales driven upward with the help of Passover and Easter (both landing in the same frame), cume totaled $21.2 million for 33 shows on the boards, up from $17 million the prior week. That’s a robust $4.2 million jump, surpassing the $2.9 million rise logged during the $20.8 million Easter week in late March 2008. (Last year Passover fell on April 20, with little discernible effect on grosses.)

As usual, it was the tourist-friendly fare — i.e., razzle-dazzle tuners — that experienced the largest jumps in receipts.

Nine shows topped a million dollars each, led by “Wicked” ($1,524,141) and “The Lion King” ($1,409,411). The hot new revival of “West Side Story” ($1,308,787) broke the box office record for the second time at the Palace, where “Legally Blonde” held the prior record for a 2007 holiday sesh. (Producers of “West Side Story” announced they’re already gearing up for a national tour, aiming to go out in fall 2010.)

Vacationing family auds helped propel all three Disney musicals, including “Mary Poppins” ($1,050,779) and “The Little Mermaid” (1,003,853), up by more than $300,000 each. Benefiting from the same aud influx, DreamWorks’ “Shrek the Musical” ($1,040,066) also put in an appearance in the millionaires’ club.

Even 20-year-old perennial “The Phantom of the Opera” ($951,710) came close to the million mark, while 12½-year-old “Chicago” ($764,173) stepped up by more than $250,000. A more recent addition to the Rialto slate, “Hair” ($822,889), played to near-full houses in the wake of strong reviews.

Hoping to join the ranks of such big-draw tuners, “9 to 5” ($505,671) played its first six previews. Also in previews, “Next to Normal” ($176,309 for seven shows) played to 67% paid capacity in a comp-heavy sesh that included press perfs leading up to the show’s opening Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in a frame that included a final preview and its opening night, the unexpectedly well-reviewed hair-metal tuner “Rock of Ages” ($375,157) gained a bit of steam.

Among straight plays, the starry “God of Carnage” ($744,195) led the pack, with revivals of “Blithe Spirit” ($621,770) and “Exit the King” ($515,662) also posting good numbers.

Lesser-known plays had trouble attracting crowds, with “Reasons to Be Pretty” ($157,040) and “Irena’s Vow” ($145,123) exemplifying the difficulty of standing out in a crowded season. The transfer of London hit “The Norman Conquests” ($96,014 for its first seven previews) faced a similar predicament.

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