Thursday, December 29, 2005

Broadway's annual numbers light up NYC; plays rebound in strong showing

While it's very, very nice that Broadway has been strong this year, it's especially nice that plays -- and not just musicals -- also provided strong numbers.

Broadway grossed a record $825 million in 2005, up from $749 million in 2004, according to the League of American Theatres and Producers, a trade organization.

Four musicals in particular are still doing big business six months after being nominated for Tony Awards for Best Musical: Monty Python's Spamalot (which won the Tony), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and The Light in the Piazza.

But plays, too, have made an impact on Broadway -- after a period in which straight pieces were overshadowed by big effects, big hair and big budgets.

Ticket sales for plays along were up by 530,000, which means -- according to an industry rep -- that four out of every five additional tickets sold this year were for a play.

"Clearly, there is still a place for plays on Broadway, and hopefully this success will result in even more in coming seasons," said Howard Sherman, executive director of the American Theatre Wing.

Hit plays this season included the Tony-winning Doubt, 700 Sundays, the one-man reminiscence by Billy Crystal, along big star turns such as Lane and Broderick in The Odd Couple, Denzel Washington in Julius Caesar and Alan Alda and Liev Schreiber in Glengarry Glen Ross.

Doubt started at off-Broadway's Manhattan Theatre Club and then moved to Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre.

It won not only the Tony Award for Best Play, but also the Pulitzer Prize, the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, the Drama Desk, the Outer Critics' Circle Award, the Lucille Lortel Award, among others.

- Michael K

(Sources: The New York Times, Associated Press, League of American Theatres and Producers)

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