'I Hope They Serve Beer on Broadway' has a tricky target demo for stage fare
It can be tough to make it to Broadway banking on straight men: The producer of the stage adaptation of Tucker Max’s frat-boys-behaving-badly chronicle “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell” has pulled back on an aggressive commercial trajectory for the show, abruptly canceling an Off Broadway transfer that was to have begun July 5.
It’s impossible to confirm whether concerns over advance sales led to the decision — a rep for the show, “I Hope They Serve Beer on Broadway,” would say only that all tickets for the upcoming transfer had been refunded. But in opting for a delay that may or may not turn out to be permanent, producer and director-adaptor Christopher Carter Sanderson is exercising caution with a property that seemingly appeals to a demo that’s traditionally almost impossible to lure to the Main Stem.
“I Hope They Serve Beer on Broadway” opened last month at a 99-seat Off Broadway venue and ran through June 29. The planned transfer to the 150-seat 777 Theater would have picked up perfs a week later.
“After a sold out showcase that provided an opportunity to see the show on its feet in front of live audiences, the producer has decided the best way to build on this success is to take the show back into development for a production to be announced at a later date,” said the production’s rep.
Because Off Broadway titles doesn’t report box office figures the way Broadway productions do, no sales numbers are available for the tryout run, but anecdotal evidence suggests the show sold well. The production’s single review — an industry take on the title in Variety — may not have been glowing, but it was far from dire.
The review questioned whether a dumb lark of a show would sell as well when the move to the larger space prompted a rise in ticket prices from $20 to around $50. Average top ticket price on Broadway is double that.
As efforts in recent seasons have shown, it can be tough to drum up sales for a title that appeals predominantly to the young straight-guy crowd rather than to the middle-aged female auds who are consistently the decision makers in Main Stem ticketbuying.
With its link to “South Park,” current juggernaut “The Book of Mormon” stands out as one of the rare Broadway outings that appeals as much to dudes as to any other demographic, and comicbook tuner “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” also holds its share of appeal for the guys. The only other recent production to to prove a significant attraction to the same crowd was another title associated with a well-known comedy property, “Monty Python’s Spamalot.”
A couple of ambitious sports-related plays, meanwhile, have fizzled. Basketball bio “Magic/Bird” shuttered quickly in 2012, and while pigskin play “Lombardi” ran for around eight months during the 2010-11 season, it still closed in the red.
Although the producer had only confirmed the now-scuttled Off Broadway transfer (ticket revenue from which was to have been supplemented by sales from the venue’s bar), planning had already begun for a presumptive transfer (to be capitalized at around $6 million, according to Sanderson) that would have gotten the show to Broadway.
For now, though, it looks like Max will have to wait to find out if they serve beer there.