There was little to cheer about last week as Broadway counted the take from its 1985-86 season.
Thirty-three shows (including 10 revivals) were presented--two more than last year. The average ticket price was $29.20, 14 cents more than last year.
But attendance and income were off again. Attendance fell to 6.5 million (it had been as high as 10.8 million in 1981-82). Income fell to $190.6 million (lowest since 1979-80, when, as Variety pointed out, ticket prices were roughly two-thirds what they are today).
Business on the road, however, improved. Income there was the second highest in history--$235.6 million. That would square with the theory that Broadway's big problem is a scarcity of new blockbuster musicals. The pipeline is still delivering on the road. But what will happen when the well runs dry?
The most promising source for new Broadway musicals these days is London. So there was some disappointment in New York when the London critics didn't unanimously cheer for "Chess," the new Tim Rice musical, which the Shuberts hope to bring to Broadway and eventually Los Angeles.
But who reads the London critics in New York? Frank Rich of the New York Times is another story, however. He went to London to see "Chess" for himself. And wasn't swept away. He found it "enjoyable," he wrote in his review, but not a show "to incite strong passions from anyone except those many advance ticket buyers who come to cheer their favorite hit songs from the record."
Rich's review did evoke some strong passions on 44th Street, but "Chess" is still coming to Broadway.
"Animal Farm" isn't coming to the Theater of Nations Festival in Baltimore.
The National Theatre of Great Britain's staging of George Orwell's satire on totalitarianism has been dropped from the festival on the grounds that it is a slam at the Soviet Union, a sponsor of the festival.
Director Peter Hall called the charge ridiculous and scored Wole Soyinka, artistic director of the festival, for censorship.
Soyinka said that it wasn't censorship--the production would still be seen in Baltimore, albeit not as an official part of the festival--and said that Peter Hall should jump in the lake.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK. Maggie Smith to Associated Press reporter Matt Wolf in London: "You cannot be a hit on Broadway; you have to be a smash hit."