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Broadway Box Office: ‘Great Comet’ Rises 12% After Casting Controversy

Did “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” benefit from its recent casting controversy? The musical was one of the few to report a significant rise at the Broadway box office in a week that saw most individual shows hold fairly steady, but for a new notable exceptions.

There are a few reasons “Great Comet” ($981,664) might have jumped 12% (more than $100,000) last week. The show attracted a flurry of publicity following the abortive recasting of Mandy Patinkin in one of the title roles, and all that the attention may have prodded audiences to turn out in support of Okieriete Onaodowan before he exited the show Aug. 13. Musician Ingrid Michaelson also left the cast that day, which probably added to the bump. And then there’s the fact that last week the production posted a closing notice for Sept. 3, which might have gotten people to hustle to the theater, too.

According to one of the show’s creators, advance sales for the coming weeks had been pretty dire, which was the reason Patinkin was recruited in the first place. Whether the closing notice will help keep numbers elevated remains to be seen.

The rise at “Great Comet” was the one of the biggest of the week. Gloria Estefan bio-musical “On Your Feet!” ($1,054,473) got an 18% bump, fueled by theatergoers catching the show before it shutters Aug. 20, while “Wicked” ($2,066,330 for nine) stepped up with an extra performance to bring in hot-weather tourists. “Groundhog Day” ($703,896), meanwhile, got a nice lift in the same week that Bill Murray attended the show — twice in a row.

There was only one notable decline, and that was the doozy at “Kinky Boots” ($805,897), off 52% following the departure of Brendon Urie, the frontman of band Panic! at the Disco. Urie’s casting was, like Sara Bareilles’ turn in “Waitress,” one of the most successful star recastings on Broadway this season, helping revive sales at a show that had seen numbers begin to flag.

In a week that accommodated press performances and a heavily comped opening night, Michael Moore’s “The Terms of My Surrender” ($407,527) downticked, as might be expected, while previewing “Prince of Broadway” ($310,279) worked up to its first full week of eight previews.

Overall Broadway sales slipped by $1.1 million to $30.3 million for 30 shows now playing.  Attendance also was off a notch, down to 260,456 or 88% of overall capacity.

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