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Tony Noms Won’t Save ‘Testament of Mary’

With star Fiona Shaw left out of acting category, slow-selling play will shutter

Ink on the Tony nominations is barely dry and already one show has called it quits: Sales-challenged “The Testament of Mary” will shutter May 5 after a short run.

It’s common for struggling productions to post notice after coming up empty-handed in the awards race, but in the case of “Testament,” it’s a little more complicated. After all, the world preem of Colm Toibin’s play, produced by a team led by Scott Rudin, earned three nods, including one for new play plus design noms for Jennifer Tipton (lights) and Mel Mercier (sound).

However, star Fiona Shaw, who plays the Virgin Mary in the solo show, was locked out of the lead actress race, an extremely competitive category that also didn’t find a spot for big-name thesps including Bette Midler and Scarlett Johansson. Director Deborah Warner was similarly excluded from the director category, suggesting nominators were more taken with Toibin’s script than the production in which it bowed.

Producers seem to have decided, probably rightly, that without a Tony-endorsed sense that Shaw gives a must-see performance, box office has little likelihood of improving. Most legiters believe, in any event, that the only Tony category that can really move the needle on sales is new musical.

“Testament of Mary” began perfs March 26 and never caught on with auds, with preview weeks of six or seven perfs each that never cracked $200,000 per sesh. Last week, during the eight-perf frame that included its April 22 opening, the show pulled in $216,533 and played to 76% capacity.

The show has been the focus of a handful of sparse and seemingly perfunctory protests by Christian groups objecting to the play’s frank re-examination of Mary and the crucifixion, but these never managed to draw much of a media spotlight. The largely favorable reviews seem to have gotten lost in the surge of Broadway opening last week, while others in the industry have questioned the effectiveness of the ad campaign’s dour key art.

On the show’s producing team with Rudin are Stuart Thompson and Jon B. Platt, among others. “Testament” will close at the Walter Kerr Theater after a total of 27 previews and 16 regular perfs.

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