Thursday, October 22, 2009

Avenue Q

Avenue Q continues to surprise people, even six years after its Broadway debut. It surprised audiences when it opened because… well, foul-mouthed puppets are a little shocking. It was the upset win for Best Musical at the 2004 Tony Awards, beating out the favored mega-hit Wicked. And it announced what no one saw coming at its closing night performance on Broadway on September 13—the show was re-opening off Broadway!

The announcement sets a sort of precedent for struggling Broadway shows; The New York Times reported that the last incident of a Broadway-off Broadway transfer occurred in 1984. When last January saw the closing of three Best Musical Tony winners (Spamalot, Hairspray and Spring Awakening), enthusiasts claimed the shows were too good to be closing this soon. Of course, if a show’s not making enough to pay the bills, that’s just the way it is. But Avenue Q’s surprise move could start a new trend in New York theater. And it makes perfect sense—Avenue Q wasn’t selling well enough to earn its keep at the Golden Theatre, yet interest in the show was still strong enough to fill an off-Broadway venue. Perhaps Avenue Q’s strategy will give new life to future shows that have slipped in sales, but still maintain a strong fan base.

I saw Avenue Q on Broadway in 2005 and loved it. But a few years have passed and I forgot the reasons that made it great. Viewing it at its new home at New World Stages (where it opened last night) made me remember, and grateful that this show got its second chance.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Some great rock musicals have made their way to Broadway in the “post Rent” era. Spring Awakening, Passing Strange, and Next to Normal have all piqued my interest in the evolution of the Broadway musical. With Memphis billed as a story about “the birth of rock and roll,” I was expecting to tack another show onto this list. And I had reason to think so.

While I was standing outside the Shubert Theatre in the brisk October morning air, two people walked by me, noticed I was waiting for tickets, and exuberantly told me what a treat I was in for. This kind of man-on-the-street feedback was surprising to me, particularly for a show that was still in previews. I felt so good about myself! I was the first rusher in line at 9:30 a.m. (come on people; you’re making this too easy!) and only had to wait a half hour to get front row tickets to a show that two New Yorkers thought was great.

The student rush policy for Memphis was a great one. It was the good ol’ two-tickets-in-the-front-row-for-$26.50-each deal. The reason I say “was” though is because the policy was only in effect during previews (Memphis opened last night). When contacted, publicists for Memphis told me that there are no official plans to instate a rush post-opening, but there has been talk of it and it will depend on week-to-week sale monitoring. So I guess that means all you rushers waiting to see this new musical will have to hope the show isn’t a sellout. Memphis sold just over 91 percent of its tickets last week, so the likelihood of a rush being reinstated soon isn’t looking too good.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Trust no one! That is the message of Oleanna. Well, there are actually quite a lot of messages packed into David Mamet’s two-character drama, but that’s certainly the theme that I left the theater with.

Bill Pullman and Julia Stiles box star in this revival of Mamet’s 80-minute drama about a college professor and student embroiled in a high-stakes battle of words. But trust me; it’s uglier than it sounds. Is the college professor (Pullman) sexist? Is the student (Stiles) over sensitive? Has he made an attempt to diminish her? Or is she just out for blood? None of these questions can be answered definitively, which is frustrating. But half the fun is considering all arguments in your head when the play is over.

What’s frightening about Oleanna is that it’s setting is based on an occurrence we can all relate to: seeking extra help from a teacher. It’s innocent enough—a student is trying to learn and the teacher is willing to aid the process; no one expects, well… the furniture to be turned upside down. Oleanna presents this common scenario in nightmare form: the student feeling harassed and the teacher having his career and personal life about to be shattered.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"Next to Normal" Ends Rush Policy, Begins Ticket Lottery

In the words of Melchior in Spring Awakening, "HHHHNNNOOOOOO!!" Next to Normal will end its excellent rush policy October 12 and begin a ticket lottery for day-of seats. Granted, this means no more cold, early mornings, but with it comes the uncertainty of seeing the show. I am greatly disappointed by this news, not only because it makes getting rush tickets for the Yorkey/Kitt musical significantly more difficult, but I've always felt the "snobby," we're-too-good-for-you shows employ ticket lottos.

Let the facts speak for themselves. Hair, In The Heights, Rock of Ages, Shrek, West Side Story, and Wicked all hold ticket lottos. With few exceptions, these are shows that generally sell at least 90 percent of their tickets every week. Shrek is an odd beast in that it hasn't consistently sold well since it's opening last December and it also has a (overly-priced) student rush policy. In The Heights was a huge seller for a year after its 2008 Tony win for Best Musical, but has recently dipped to dangerously low numbers (some suspect it might close in January). But Hair, Rock of Ages, and West Side Story are monster-sellers and crowd pleasers, not to even mention the mega-bucks earnings of Wicked, which always sells out the 1,809-seat Gershwin (aka. the largest Broadway theater).

Now in my mind, Next to Normal is the best musical currently on Broadway. But we have to think of this from a mainstream perspective: Next to Normal is no Wicked. The show has been on a massive high from its Tony wins, but attendance has slipped to the high 80s in recent weeks (still strong, but a decline nonetheless). And Broadway's prized theatergoers—families with kids—are not going to see this show. And there is nothing wrong with that. Next to Normal caters to theatergoers who aren't afraid of a dark, depressing, thought-provoking show. But this is not the show to start a ticket lottery with. As much as I'd hate to see its sales suffer, I would be surprised if it maintains its current momentum into the post-holiday winter.

Lotteries are for shows—such as Wicked and Hair—that have certain longevity. But if recent trends have taught us anything, is anything on Broadway certain?

What do you think, Stage Rushers? Are you happy about this new lotto policy for Next to Normal, or are you clenching your fists in an anguished grip?

PS: In perusing the updated show rush policies, I noticed that the new musical Memphis, currently in previews, has a rush policy "in effect only for preview performances." Memphis, I really want to see you; I do. But let's not play the we-can't-have-a-rush-policy-because-we're-going-to-be-too-popular card until we've opened, shall we?

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Boy and His Soul

Editor’s note: In the spirit all the exciting changes that are occurring with this blog, it is my pleasure to present Stage Rush’s first guest blogger, Kym Formisano.

When Jesse asked me to be the very first guest blogger for Stage Rush, I cannot deny the wave of complete and utter fear that washed over me. I certainly questioned his sanity briefly; after all, handing Stage Rush over to little old me is akin to entrusting a homeless man on the subway with your firstborn. Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration. But there was a huge amount of trepidation and anxiety on my part, especially when I discovered I would also be covering the first off-Broadway play to be discussed on the blog. Gulp.

As it turns out, I had little need to be so concerned. Actually, what began as a nerve-wracking trip to the always-beautiful Union Square turned into not only one of the easiest and most efficient rushes I’ve done, but also a powerful and vivid theatrical experience matched only by the energy and undying vigor of the show’s star.

Colman Domingo, one of the players in the gone-too-soon masterpiece Passing Strange and its recent film adaptation by Spike Lee, stars in the one-man show he authored, A Boy and His Soul, at the Vineyard Theatre. The Vineyard, previous home to shows like [title of show] and Avenue Q, is an unassuming brick structure with a quaint sensibility (before a certain time, one must be buzzed into the lobby) and an interior that brings to mind a combination of a small-town theater company and a modern art gallery. Because of the erratic nature of some off-Broadway theaters and their rush policies (I’m looking at you, Atlantic Theater Company), I decided to check with the receptionist well before show time to make sure I had the correct rush policy information. After being buzzed in by a super-pleasant voice, I entered the lobby and was immediately greeted by an enthusiastic and helpful box office attendant. The rush policy here is fairly standard: show up two hours prior to curtain with cash in hand and receive up to two tickets at $20 each. It is also a general rush, so don’t worry if you’ve lost your student ID. I left with a sense of confidence, ready to return at 5 p.m. and purchase my tickets.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

PSA: Major Upgrades

Big news, Stage Rushers! To kick off this new Broadway season, Stage Rush decided to step up its game and get some upgrades. Why? Because we want to bring you the best in covering Broadway and the rush experience. And because, well, we kinda like doing it. So please listen up for the following announcements:
  • Stage Rush can now be found at (But we guess you've already realized that.)
  • Stage Rush is now on Twitter! Please follow @StageRush
When you're rushing a show, @ us on Twitter and let us know how it's going! The hours before the box office opens can move pretty slowly in those cold winter months; you might as well tell someone about it. @ us whenever you have a theater-related thought or have something you want to share. Theater is a community and we're honored to be a part of it with you. Thank you for reading Stage Rush!