Looking for a Broadway theater? Get in line.
That’s the state of affairs in the theater district these days, where an ongoing logjam of projects looking for homes is exacerbated by a season ripe with musicals that have the potential to take theaters off the market for years to come. “Frozen” and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” — not a musical but pitching camp in the musical-size Lyric Theater — could run for years; “Mean Girls” is looking promising and “The Band’s Visit,” now in previews, is rapidly accelerating at the box office. “Pretty Woman” and “The Cher Show” have already claimed Nederlander venues for fall 2018, and “The Prom” is promised a Shubert house.
That leaves potential incomers — musicals like “Head Over Heels” and “Girl From the North Country,” not to mention plays like “The Ferryman” — circling prosceniums. But if there’s one musical poised for the fast track, it might be “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.”
New Yorkers took note when the show broke the all-time box office record at Berkeley Rep, where its pre-Broadway run closes Nov. 5. If producers Tom Hulce and Ira Pittelman (“Spring Awakening,” “American Idiot”) had their druthers, they’d have the show in New York in time for the Tony Awards.
But that’s looking unlikely. “Getting a theater for the spring is not going to be easy, so it’ll be the fall,” Pittelman says.
Sometimes a delay like that can put a damper on a show’s momentum, that vague resource that’s a combination of word of mouth, critical buzz and industry enthusiasm. So Hulce and Pittelman are lining up a run for “Ain’t Too Proud” at another U.S. venue in the summer or early fall of 2018, before the move to New York, in part as a means of keeping momentum high. “We just don’t want to wait,” Pittelman says.
In the meantime, theater owners are taking a look at the show in Berkeley; a well-received reading earlier in the year made it look good in the eyes of Broadway investors.
Right out of the gate, ‘Ain’t Too Proud’ benefits from the global recognition of the Temptations.
Right out of the gate, “Ain’t Too Proud” benefits from the global recognition of the Temptations, recently named the top R&B/hip-hop artists of all time by Billboard. With an estimated capitalization cost of about $12 million, the musical is directed by Des McAnuff, the behind-the-music expert whose production of “Jersey Boys” played a decade on Broadway and will soon reopen Off Broadway. (McAnuff is also directing “Summer,” the bio-musical about disco queen Donna Summer bowing at California’s La Jolla Playhouse Nov. 7 — another potential contender for an upcoming Broadway vacancy.)
The book writer for “Ain’t Too Proud” has some buzz behind her too. Rising playwright Dominique Morisseau wrote a trio of well-received plays set in the Temptations’ hometown of Detroit (“Skeleton Crew,” “Detroit ’67”), and her latest, “Pipeline,” earned strong reviews at Lincoln Center over the summer.
Producers of “Ain’t Too Proud” are on the hunt for a Broadway theater with more than 1,000 seats, suitable for a musical with 16 onstage performers and a design that has some scale to it. But those are in short supply these days, at least until the current season gets up and running and it starts to become clear which shows will stick around for a while — and which won’t.
The wait might even benefit the musical, allowing creatives more time to hone it. But producers would happily bring it in sooner should the opportunity unexpectedly arise. As Pittelman says succinctly: “Sure, why not?”