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Historic Tony Win Propels Broadway’s ‘Lady Day’ into Profit

Broadway play-with-music “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill,” powered by a lead performance that won Audra McDonald a historic sixth Tony win, has recouped its $2.6 million capitalization costs, according to the show’s producers.

Classified as a play by the Tony Awards but featuring a hefty helping of Billie Holiday songs, bio-play “Lady Day” joins a growing list of shows from Broadway’s spring 2014 season to have recouped. Megahit Denzel Washington starrer “A Raisin in the Sun” proved the swiftest hit, but Bryan Cranston topliner “All the Way” also pulled in major money. The recently closed “Of Mice and Men,” starring James Franco and Chris O’Dowd, also recouped. (Musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” fueled by Neil Patrick Harris’ Tony-winning performance, also has recouped.)

McDonald doesn’t have quite the Hollywood profile of Washington or Cranston, but she’s a favorite among theater fans, critics and Tony voters. The mixed reviews for the play itself were overshadowed by across-the-board raves for McDonald, who portrays Holiday and sings in the jazz great’s signature style.

Now that “Lady Day” is in the black, its future B.O. revenue will count as profit, minus the weekly costs of keeping the show running every week.  The production has about eight weeks left in its run, following a recent extension to Sept. 21.

“Lady Day” has posted what would normally be considered middling numbers for a Broadway show, but the lower dollar figures correspond with the fact that the production’s venue, Circle in the Square, is one of the Street’s smallest. Since McDonald’s Tony win in June, “Lady Day” has pulled in between 80% and 90% of its total gross capacity.





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