First family's visits look to benefit shows, Rialto overall
The Obamas like Broadway, and Broadway’s loving it.Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha caught a preview performance of “The Addams Family” on Monday night — the day after the first family saw the matinee of musical “Memphis.” The Obamas’ latest visit to the Main Stem, during the kids’ school break, comes after the president and his wife’s attendance at a Rialto revival of the play “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” last May. Shows recently visited by the Obamas look likely to get a B.O. bump, since “Joe Turner” got an instant 30% spike in sales last spring. On a broader level, the general Broadway brand can expect a nice boost from the attention. “It validates Broadway as a national pastime,” said Drew Hodges, who heads legit marketing firm Spotco. “And it can’t be lost that they’re African-American. That’s an audience that’s increasingly coming to Broadway.” It’s also notable the first lady brought her kids to the Main Stem, with family auds not only an important factor in Broadway sales but also considered an important means of exposing youngsters to legit entertainment. “Since children who attend Broadway shows are most likely to become theatergoers as adults, we are thrilled that Michelle Obama is making Broadway a significant part of her daughters’ lives,” said Charlotte St. Martin, exec director of the Broadway League, the trade association of legit producers and presenters. A number of factors can lead the Obamas to visit a certain show. The “Joe Turner” pick can be traced to one of the production’s actresses, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, wife of Samuel L. Jackson, who hosted an early fundraiser for the presidential hopeful. Regarding the “Memphis” selection, Randy Adams — a lead producer with Sue Frost and Kenny Alhadeff — said the show’s composer, David Bryan, has a friend in Chicago who was involved in the campaign and is an investor in “Memphis.” Besides, Alhadeff comes from a prominent Seattle family that has been involved in the Democratic Party for generations, “and he was working through his avenues,” Adams said. The box office effect on “Memphis” could be significant. The show opened last fall to mixed reviews and has generally logged steady but not spectacular sales. It could also boost attendance by black auds. Despite the tuner’s predominantly African-American cast, the Sunday matinee attended by the first family saw few other black aud members. But with the Obama imprimatur, “Memphis” can perhaps expect to borrow biz from the lucrative African-American circuit that generally plays Gotham in the Beacon Theater and the Apollo Theater. At the moment, “Addams” doesn’t have a lot to gain at the box office. The show’s weekly sales have topped $1 million in its first two frames on the boards, claiming the No. 2 spot in the top 10.