Bette Midler Pushes B'way's 'I'll Eat

Play recoups its $2.4 million capitalization costs in about eight weeks

“I’ll Eat You Last,” the Broadway play toplined by Bette Midler, has become one of the first of the spring’s shows to make it into the black, according to producers, with the show recouping its $2.4 million capitalization well ahead of its June 30 finish.

Although weekly grosses for the show haven’t been in the million-plus range of Tom Hanks starrer “Lucky Guy,” the show, which began perfs April 5, still reps one the season’s major successes. Playing at the Booth Theater, which at 777 seats is one of Broadway’s smallest houses, the show has played to sold-out houses and seen sales rise past $850,000 for a single frame. Last week the average price paid per ticket, a reliable barometer of audience demand for a show, was a robust $149.

Because most musicals are much more expensive to mount than plays, tuners rarely recoup before the end of the season in which they open. However, successful plays, often powered by star thesps, sometimes manage it, with “I’ll Eat You Last” this season joining a short list of profitable plays including Al Pacino topliner “Glengarry Glen Ross,” Jessica Chastain starrer “The Heiress” and “Lucky Guy.”

Success of “I’ll Eat You Last” comes despite the lack of love from the Tonys, which shut the entire production out of the nominations list. Sales over the rest of the production’s run will be pure profit, minus the solo show’s weekly running costs.

Helmed by Joe Mantello (“Wicked”), the play by John Logan (“Red”) centers on Hollywood tenpercenter Sue Mengers, one of the first female superagents to rise to prominence in the 1970s.

“I’ll Eat You Last” is produced by a team that includes Graydon Carter, Arielle Tepper Madover and James L. Nederlander, among others.

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