Now for a Rialto round of musical chairs.
This month, not one but two Broadway plays — “August: Osage County” and “The 39 Steps” — move from one Main Stem venue to another, both coincidentally beginning perfs in their new spaces on the same day, April 29.
And like any New Yorker transplanted to new housing, the existing productions find themselves juggling a slew of logistics as they settle in.
Theater shifts are not unheard of on Broadway, but it’s far more common for long-running tuners like “The Lion King” or “Chicago” (both of which have traded one stage for another in recent years) than it is for plays.
Both “August” and “39 Steps” move to allow the possibility of open-ended runs. Buzz magnet and newly anointed Pulitzer winner “August” is housed in the Imperial, which had long been booked by anticipated juggernaut “Billy Elliot” in the fall. “The 39 Steps” recently shuttered at Roundabout’s American Airlines Theater to make way for the next offering of the Roundabout season, “Les Liaisons Dangereuses.”
Producer Bob Boyett anticipates the tab for moving “39 Steps” could total nearly $2 million. That pricetag includes not only the cost of moving the physical production but also shifting box office operations to the show’s new home at the Cort, as well as the pay-scale adjustments required when a production goes from nonprofit to commercial.
Then there’s the readjustment of behind-the-scenes minutiae — particularly vital in the carefully timed costume-changing comedy of “39 Steps.” The production’s multiple and all-important prop tables will have to be reorganized backstage, because the arrangement of wing space at the Cort differs from the American Airlines. And the humidity levels of the new venue will have to be tested for the show’s smoke and haze effects.
Plus, the four actors must now get used to a slightly rejiggered arrangement of the physical space. “Considering how precise the timing has to be, the four extra steps an actor has to make are a big deal,” Boyett says.
“August” seems to have gotten off fairly easy by comparison. Producer Jeffrey Richards estimates the move from the Imperial (where the production closes April 20) to the Music Box will cost around $650,000.
By a stroke of luck, the show’s hulking three-story set will fit without much ado onto the Music Box stage. And the new digs are just down the block from the Imperial on West 45th Street, so there’s little worry that consumers will end up stranded at the wrong theater.
While the 1,400-seat Imperial is more traditionally a musical house, the 1,000-seat Music Box provides a more intimate setting generally considered to be better suited to plays. And the change in theater size also shifts the balance of supply and demand.
“With the numbers we’ve been doing, we’ll be selling out at the Music Box,” Richards says.
Amid such venue swapping, Lincoln Center Theater has recently decided to let its glowingly reviewed revival of “South Pacific” dig in its heels at the org’s Vivian Beaumont Theater. Originally skedded through June, the production is now an open-ended run with tickets on sale through Jan. 4.
That means upcoming LCT offerings will be displaced to other Broadway houses — just as “Seascape” (2005) and “Awake and Sing!” (2006) played the Booth and the Belasco, respectively, during the Beaumont’s extended hit run of “The Light in the Piazza.”
“The Adding Machine” is an increasingly rare beast on the legit scene these days: an Off Broadway commercial production of an unheralded new tuner.
The show, which recently topped the Lucille Lortel Award noms with six nods, is making a go of it in a difficult Off Broadway economy in which even a hit like “Altar Boyz” takes nearly three years to recoup.
Away from the Rialto, budgetary numbers are considerably smaller than they are for a Broadway production. A well-reviewed adaptation of Elmer Rice’s 1923 play, “Adding Machine” was capitalized at less than $700,000, according to producer Scott Morfee. With ticket sales proving generally resilient, the advance hovers between $100,000 and $150,000.
The show is beefing up its ad presence on radio and online as part of the effort to boost its profile and get its music heard. Morfee also believes Broadway’s recent interest in daring new tuners (“Spring Awakening,” “Passing Strange”) spills over to benefit the similarly ambitious “Adding Machine.”
A 16-week run at the Minetta Lane Theater is skedded through mid-June, with an extension possible. As with prior Morfee-produced shows like “Killer Joe” (1998) and “Bug” (2004), regional and international productions look primed to help make “Adding Machine” a profitable property.
“In the old days, those reviews we got for ‘Adding Machine’ would have meant three months of sellouts,” Morfee says. “We’re not there anymore. But if the show has found a sales plateau now, it’s a fine place to be.”