Driven by a high-prestige pedigree and a powerhouse cast, “Shuffle Along, or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed” ($640,453 for six previews) played to audiences that averaged 98% of capacity. Crowds turned out for an ensemble that includes a trio of Tony winners — Audra McDonald (pictured above), Brian Stokes Mitchell and Billy Porter — and the reteaming of director George C. Wolfe (“Angels in America,” “Lucky Guy”) with tap master Savion Glover, a pairing that yielded the 1996 hit “Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk.” Not many people in the theater industry have gotten a chance to see “Shuffle Along” yet, but given the players involved in the project, it’s already being closely watched as a potential Tony Awards contender.
The healthy debut for “Shuffle Along” came in a strong overall week for Broadway, with attendance on the rise thanks to the annual spike in tourism that happens every year around spring-break season. Most shows reported week-to-week gains, with the heftiest bumps — at shows including “The Lion King” ($2,044,101), “Wicked” ($1,934,807) and “Aladdin” ($1,570,189) — happening at the biggest-name crowd-pleasers most likely to draw city visitors. (“Hamilton,” nestled high in the top 10 at $1,740,104, stayed steady, but that’s likely because it’s pretty much topped out.)
Among newer shows, “She Loves Me” ($505,150) posted a rise of almost 25% — which is especially impressive since the musical accommodated its comp-heavy opening night last week, not to mention the press performances leading up to it. Based on the raves it won from critics, the title may well continue to rise.
Also gaining notably last week was the previewing production of “The Crucible” ($659,753), which benefits from a well-known title and a cast that includes Saoirse Ronan and Ben Whishaw. The show was the highest-grossing non-musical last week, followed by last season’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” ($529,468) and “Blackbird” ($483,635), starring Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams. Despite a lot of critical love and an Oscar-winning star, Lupita Nyong’o outing “Eclipsed” ($419,842) hasn’t yet caught fire.
Also hoping for a boost this week is “Bright Star” ($312,937), the Steve Martin-Edie Brickell musical that’s having trouble attracting attention in a crowded season of musicals that includes “School of Rock” ($1,072,497), “On Your Feet!” ($934,149) and, oh yeah, “Hamilton.” “Bright Star” opens Thursday.
Overall Broadway sales rang in at $26.6 million (nearly $3 million higher than the preview week) for 31 shows, with attendance up 18,500 to 268,120, or 87% of overall capacity.