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Broadway ticketbuyers marginalize critics, Tonys

Show with little acclaim top the Rialto box office

The Times Square bomb scares threw off Broadway biz for awhile — meaning May 10-16 box office was the first “normal” session since Tony noms were announced. And many shows registered big jumps — but it’s doubtful those increases were due to the Tonys.

Such awards-blessed shows as “Fela!” and “La Cage aux Folles” registered five-figure bumps. But then, so did “The Addams Family” and “Promises, Promises,” even though both were critically drubbed and awards-snubbed.

Those shows are the only two from the current season that reside at in the Top Five of the B.O. pack, both doing near-sellout biz.

Clearly, Broadway ticket-buyers are ignoring the Tonys and crix.

For example, the Tony-nommed “Next Fall” is the lowest-grossing show on Broadway, despite what are arguably the best reviews for a new play.

And it’s possible that all the publicity over Sean Hayes’ perf benefited “Promises” more than if it had received a Tony nom for best musical revival. (Whoever thought the “Will and Grace” star’s sexual orientation would turn into the biggest news story of the 2009-10 Broadway season?)

Ramin Setoodeh’s Newsweek diatribe against the openly gay Hayes playing a heterosexual drew a condemnation from SAG, but Actors’ Equity, which is supposed to handle legit actors’ concerns, has remained mute on the issue.

No one can trash a critic for not liking a performance, but to criticize the performance based on the thespian’s sexual orientation is a problem. Conversely, some bigots blamed Setoodeh’s homophobia on his ethnic background — an offense the Newsweek critic has rightly railed against in various news reports.

Reviewers and awards be damned, the Broadway auds have already voted with their ticket purchases, and it’s clear they’re perfectly OK watching the openly gay Hayes and Nathan Lane play straight men onstage.

Whatever liberalness legit auds extend to actors, however, those same theatergoers are not turning out in equal droves to see plays about gay people.

Aside from “Next Fall,” Off Broadway’s “The Temperamentals,” about the creation of the first gay rights org, closes at the end of May after a short-lived, money-losing stint. MCC’s production of “The Pride,” despite enhancement from some major Broadway producers, failed to move. After a short run at the York Theater, “The Yank,” about gay servicemen in WWII, has announced a Broadway run but no date or theater, with its full capitalization yet to come. And the jury is still out on the recently opened “My Trip Down the Pink Carpet” and “The Kid.”

Meanwhile, execs at CBS are less than thrilled that Lane and Hayes, as well as their respective co-stars Bebe Neuwirth and Kristin Chenoweth — all stars with TV profile — aren’t assured a slot to perform on the Tonys telecast.

In the end, the Tonys need those four more than any of them need the Tonys.

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