'Wicked,' 'Billy Elliot' play well to family crowds
Winter vacations kicked in at some East Coast schools last week — and they brought with them an attendant boost to family-friendly Broadway shows.On the highest rung of the top 10, “Wicked” ($1,449,915) shot up about $220,000, while a newer crowd-pleasing hit, this season’s “Billy Elliot” ($1,180,057), pirouetted upward by $125,000. Previewing tuner “Guys and Dolls” ($608,247) also proved a draw to the family crowds. Grosses didn’t skyrocket, but attendance hit 100%, a promising indicator of the title’s ability to attract theatergoers. The big green ogre of “Shrek the Musical” ($850,280) also got a rise out of the influx of all-ages auds (unsurprising given the show’s strong box office over the year-end holiday frames), and “The 39 Steps” ($246,919) played to 88% capacity, suggesting the slapstick comedy may be making inroads toward drawing the tourist crowd that producers have said is one of their targets. Will Ferrell also pulled in ticketbuyers, with his recently recouped show “You’re Welcome America. A Final Night with George W Bush” ($871,127) playing to full houses. Even long-running stalwarts benefited from the bounty, particularly “The Phantom of the Opera” ($772,937), up by $125,000 and playing to 95% capacity auds. It wasn’t all good news, of course. Struggling small-scale musical “The Story of My Life” ($84,060) shuttered Sunday after it got slammed by several critics last week and attracted auds that averaged just 30% of capacity. More serious fare geared to grown-ups — like “Pal Joey” ($290,366) or “August: Osage County” ($280,378) — were among the shows to see sales taper. The previewing play “33 Variations” ($257,720), starring Jane Fonda, hasn’t yet gained much momentum on its way to its March 9 opening. Meanwhile, the 2008 Tony winner “In the Heights” ($842,141) was off, but not by much, in the wake of the departure of creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose final perf in the musical was Feb. 15. Overall, however, more shows were up than down in a frame that in the last few years has seen cume drop after a Presidents’ Day spike. This year, total sales climbed $700,000 to $15.1 million for 23 shows on the boards.