Two new plays, Tom Hanks topliner “Lucky Guy” and “The Velocity of Autumn,” have laid plans to land on Broadway in the spring.
And while the past couple of seasons have refuted the notion that new plays on Broadway are a thing of the past, turning a profit on an untested nonmusical title can still be difficult — which is why it helps to have a major Hollywood name like Hanks on the marquee.
“Lucky Guy,” which steps into the Broadhurst Theater (the venue previously reserved for the now-scuttled tuner “Rebecca”) for an April opening, is banking on Hanks. Given his high global profile, the thesp looks certain to join the small stable of stars whose presence onstage assures major box office.
The most recent performer to join that club was Ricky Martin, whose current gig in musical revival “Evita” has consistently kept that show’s weekly sales well above the $1 million mark. Hugh Jackman, Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington and Al Pacino — soon to return to the Main Stem in “Glengarry Glen Ross” — also have a proven track record for boffo B.O.
George C. Wolfe (“Angels in America,” “The Normal Heart”) helms “Lucky Guy,” a world preem from late scribe Nora Ephron. Hanks will star as Mike McAlary, the real-life journo whose storied career included Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the 1997 scandal surrounding the NYPD brutalization of Abner Louima after arrested him. “Lucky Guy” follows the trajectory of McAlary’s professional and personal life up until his death in 1998.
“Velocity of Autumn,” on the other hand, gears up for a run that stars two actors, Estelle Parsons and Stephen Spinella, who are much-respected among legiters but not familiar enough to general auds to set the box office on fire. Parsons is a veteran thesp currently appearing in tuner “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” and Spinella is a double Tony winner for his work in the two-part “Angels in America.”
Balancing the risk of the show’s lower-profile cast, however, is the fact that “Velocity” is an intimately scaled production with just two actors, which will help keep running costs low.
Play reps the Rialto debut of scribe Eric Coble, whose “Bright Ideas” was produced Off Broadway by MCC Theater in 2003. Molly Smith, the a.d. of D.C.’s Arena Stage, directs.
New play centers on an 80-year-old artist (Parsons) who resists her family’s attempts to move her into a nursing home by locking herself into her Brooklyn home with a stockpile of homemade explosives. Spinella appears in the two-hander as the artist’s estranged son.
“Velocity” initially bowed at Boise Contemporary Theater in 2011 ahead of an April run in Cleveland.
“Lucky Guy” and “Velocity of Autumn” join a 2012-13 Broadway season that also includes new plays “Dead Accounts,” bolstered by a co-starring turn for Katie Holmes; “The Anarchist,” a new David Mamet play starring Debra Winger and Patti LuPone; and “The Performers,” a world preeming comedy about the porn world that aims to attract attention with its subject matter and a starring role for Henry Winkler.
Last season was a robust one for new plays, with Tony winner “Clybourne Park,” “Other Desert Cities,” “Peter and the Starcatcher” and “Venus in Fur” just a few of the new nonmusicals on the 2011-12 slate.
But while more producers are willing to take the plunge with a new play, profitability isn’t guaranteed. Despite the awards attention, “Clybourne Park” never quite made it into the black; nor did shows including “Chinglish,” “Stick Fly” and “Seminar,” which brought Alan Rickman back to Broadway.
This season, “Lucky Guy” begins preview March 1 ahead of an April 1 opening at the Broadhurst, while the exact dates and theater have yet to be set for “Velocity of Autumn.”
The world preem of “Lucky Guy” is produced by Colin Callendar, Roy Furman, Arielle Tepper Madover, Roger Berlind, Stacey Mindich, Robert Cole and Frederick Zollo, David Mirvish, Daryl Roth, James D. Stern/Douglas L. Meyer and Scott and Brian Zeilinger in association with Sonia Friedman Prods. and the Shubert Organization.
“Velocity,” meanwhile, will be produced in Gotham by HOP Theatricals, topped by lead producer Larry Kaye. HOP has been on the producing team of past Broadway outings including “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” “American Idiot,” and “Oleanna.”