Broadway Box Office: Tide Rises as Sting’s ‘Last Ship’ Launches

The Last Ship review Sting Broadway

A rising tide lifted all boats on Broadway — or most of them, anyway — as sales upticked and attendance rose, with upward motion contributed by new fare including the first previews of Sting musical “The Last Ship” and Ewan McGregor’s initial performances in “The Real Thing.”

“Last Ship,” based on Sting’s 2013 album of the same name, pulled in $533,382 for seven previews and played to houses that averaged 72% full, both solid if unspectacular numbers for the first week of a new show with a relatively unfamiliar title. The figures, as well as producer Jeffrey Seller’s anecdotal evidence about the audience makeup at the show’s early perfs, suggest that the musical likely won’t live or die on the turnout of Sting fans but of the traditional theatergoers who are usually the first to christen a show a hit.

“Real Thing,” the Roundabout Theater Company revival that co-stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and Cynthia Nixon, played five previews and logged $264,607. That’s about average for a nonprofit outing in one of the Street’s smaller houses, but those receipts suggest McGregor isn’t one of that rare breed of Hollywood star who’s an instant Broadway sales juggernaut. (See: Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts.)

With a robust lineup of previewing productions that includes megaseller “It’s Only a Play” ($1,248,660) as well as “On the Town” ($565,544) and “Disgraced” ($292,989 for seven), the overall Broadway slate swelled to 32 titles and pushed the overall cume up to $23.2 million. Attendance climbed 14,000 to 242,265, a pretty good showing for a week that incorporated Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday that usually takes a bite out of the Main Stem’s weekly tally.

With the fall season heating up, two shows opened: “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” ($501,192) and “The Country House” ($196,922). Both posted declines, but that’s to be expected with critics’ perfs and heavily-comped openings. “Curious Incident” in particular looks poised for a boost, following the glowing reviews the London hit earned in the Gotham papers this morning following its Oct. 5 opening.

Meanwhile, in its final week, “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” ($762,599) hit a new high powered by auds grabbing at their last chance to catch Audra McDonald’s Tony-winning turn as Billie Holiday.

Despite the overall B.O. rise, some individual shows slipped including the fluctuating “Cinderella” ($487,724) and “If/Then” ($456,099), with the latter down in part because of topliner Idina Menzel’s scheduled absence over three shows.

The Street’s outlook for the coming week, at any rate, is optimistic, as Columbus Day weekend promises to bring in tourist traffic that’ll keep box office on a roll.

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  1. Phil says:

    I saw this show on Saturday evening Oct 18, still in previews. I had read a comment elsewhere before I saw the show that it was a bit “Dirgical”, and would have to agree if I think I understand what that word means. I think the production numbers were great fun, but otherwise, the music was a bit dull. Like with all Broadway musicals, we have to remove ourselves just a bit and accept that people break out into song, which is kind of odd when you think about it, but the songs all worked and contributed to the story. I accept the songs, but when people break out into dance it has to have a purpose. The scenes at the pub I can buy, but the ones at the shipyard made no sense. Although well done, as the dancing goes, they distracted from the narrative to the point of distraction. Not sure how to say it, but perhaps a bit “too choreographed”. Singing voices were top notch Broadway, but no one really stood out except, perhaps, for the woman who played Meg. I was quite impressed with the economy and beauty of the set and transitions between scenes. If there is a star in the show it is the person who did the lighting. Something I rarely notice, but it is spectacular, and really made the theatrical experience. I don’t think this show will be a big hit, but the lighting guy should get a TONY lifetime award right now.

  2. David Willis says:

    My wife and I just attended “The Last Ship” Our overall feelings are that it is a worthy show. My feelings were that it falls in the category of a “Rock Opera” more so than a broadway musical. The first half went on just a bit too long. The second half resolves better and ends in a spectacular way. It is musically interesting, but the one thing I think might be added is a “signature” aria that audiences will take away and remember. The rousing “Irish” group ensaebles are effective but can be cut back somewhat, especially in the first act. Again, what is missing for me is that signature, lyric ballad that we take away and remember. Perhaps the woman who is put between two lovers should be the one to express herself with this kind of ballad.This would balance the predominately “Irish Masculinity” of the other sections.

  3. cadavra says:

    I hate to be a pedant, but Ewan McGregor isn’t a Hollywood star. He’s an English star. Yes, he’s made a few films over here, but he’s not near the top of anyone’s list at the major studios..

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