Buy The Numbers

The conventional wisdom on Broadway used to be: Stick with the standard playing schedule, and don’t confuse the customers. No more. For several years now, producers have been willing to drop one low-drawing weekday night in order to add another matinee. Then Disney brought in “Beauty and the Beast” with a 7:30 p.m. curtain, half an hour earlier than most shows, to make it easier to bring the kids.

These days, so many shows have unfamiliar schedules that theatergoers should be warned to pay close attention to their tickets.

Experienced producers know, for example, that for many Broadway shows, the Wednesday matinee – popular with older patrons, tourists and theater parties – can mean the difference between a bad week and a great one.

Manhattan Theater Club, producer of the Street’s newest play, Terrence McNally’s “Love! Valour! Compassion!,” currently previewing at the Walter Kerr, figured otherwise. The show, which follows eight gay men as they gather each weekend at a country retreat over the course of one summer, is forgoing Wednesday matinees in favor of two Sunday performances, at 2 and 7 p.m. The company also hired the marketing firm of Mulryan/Nash to create a campaign targeting gay audiences, as it did for “Angels in America.”

“We don’t do Wednesday matinees at City Center,” said company spokeswoman Helene Davis, referring to Manhattan Theater Club’s Off Broadway home base, “and we felt it wasn’t a Wednesday matinee play.”

Neither did the producers of “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” the rock ‘n’ roll revue, which also plans a two-Sunday-matinee schedule, though at 1 and 6 p.m. – but not until after its March 2 opening. During previews, the show will play a standard Monday-through-Saturday schedule.

Still with me? “Beauty and the Beast” runs twice on Sunday – at 1 and 6:30 p.m.- and so does “Grease,” but at 1 and 6 p.m. “Tommy” plays at 2 and 7 p.m. on Sunday, giving up Tuesday evening, while “Crazy for You” gave up on Thursday, adding Monday evening instead. Then there’s the incoming solo show “Defending the Caveman.” After its March 26 opening at the Helen Hayes, it’s posted performances on Saturday at 5 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 7 p.m.

Got that?