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Broadway Box Office: ‘Waitress’ Musical Is Piping Hot in Its First Week

With the Easter holiday prodding the overall Broadway box office to rise again, the new musical “Waitress” had a hearty debut, averaging a whopping $140,000 per performance in its first three previews.

Based on the 2007 Adrienne Shelly film, “Waitress” ($425,7830) is powered by a score by singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles and by the movie’s feel-good tale. It doesn’t hurt, too, that the story, centering on an unhappy waitress who enters a pie-baking contest, seems to hold clear appeal to the largely female demographic that makes up the majority of Broadway ticket buyers. In its first days on the boards, the show played to full houses and broke the box office record at the 1,045-seat Brooks Atkinson Theater for a single performance, reporting $145,532 for its first preview.

Another previewing musical, “Shuffle Along” ($358,845 for three), also posted strong sales (and full-capacity audiences) in a frame during which four performances had to be cancelled due to star Audra McDonald’s illness. A third previewer, “American Psycho” ($365,186 for four previews), also did solid business in its first half-week, playing to crowds that averaged about 98% of capacity.

Those titles, and every other production running, was given a leg up by spring-break tourism that coincided with the week of the Easter holiday. Total Broadway attendance spiked by about 23,000 to 291,508, or a crowded 90% of the entire week’s ticket inventory. Overall sales spiked $4.9 million to $31.5 million for 34 shows, and the average price paid per ticket shot up to $108.

Broadway knew this seasonal influx of city visitors was coming, so three of the Main Stem’s top sellers — “The Lion King” ($2,629,844), “Wicked” ($2,532,613) and “Aladdin” ($2,127,857) — added an extra show apiece to the standard eight-performance week. A baker’s dozen of titles topped the $1 million mark, with shows like “Les Miserables” ($1,015,672), “Something Rotten!” ($1,011,004) and “Finding Neverland” ($1,009,392) among those rejoining the millionaires’ club.

Among nonmusicals, the starry revival of “The Crucible” ($651,186) remained the top-selling play on Broadway, leading a pack that also included “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” ($554,597), “Blackbird” ($475,196), “The Humans” ($395,820) and “Eclipsed” ($318,920). “The Father” ($163,744 for seven), a new nonprofit production starring Frank Langella, debuted, while the struggling production of “Hughie” ($278,658) shuttered.

Last week Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s bluegrass musical “Bright Star” ($384,716) managed to uptick, even though the production accommodated critics performances and its opening night. It could still use a hefty boost at the box office, but its 95% attendance looks encouraging, and its very mixed bag of reviews including some high-profile opinions that skewed positive.

In the coming week, producers can likely look forward to more robust numbers: Spring break season continues, and the three shows of the 2015-16 season that remain to begin previews — “Fully Committed,” “Tuck Everlasting” and “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” — will start up, adding even more coin to the overall pot.

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