Monday, November 27, 2006

What's with my feet? They're happy!

I don't know how many of you readers out there know this, but the three final names mentioned for this last revival of Sweet Charity were Christina Applegate, Brittany Murphy and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Applegate of course was the one who ended up in the show. But, recently, while I was listening to Murphy sing during Happy Feet (which I rushed to see in IMAX), I began wondering what her Charity would have been like. Then I jumped to a more important topic—would her name have sold more tickets than Applegate’s name did? Now, I’m not talking about after reviews, I’m talking advance.

I have a feeling, out of those three people, the name Christina Applegate probably sold more tickets to people who would buy Sweet Charity tickets than the names Brittany Murphy or Maggie Gyllenhaal would have. (And, before anyone points this out, I am aware that the name Christina Applegate did not sell many tickets.) I think this because Applegate had been getting a lot of press for Friends and that show had tons of fans of all ages. Whereas, my mother (who always serves as my litmus test for the ticket-buying suburban audience) probably couldn’t spot Brittany Murphy or Maggie Gyllenhaal out in a lineup. This is all speculative on my part—I haven’t run any focus groups on the matter.

But this thinking led me to an even more important topic… How big a star does one have to be to really sell tons of tickets to a Broadway show? Now, any of the three above mentioned actresses would get a bunch of press, which is helpful to a show. And if they sold 200 tickets to fans, that’s sadly probably 170 more tickets than an actress known primarily for her theater work would sell to her fans. So I see the advantage of having any one of them in a show, but I also know none of them would make tickets fly out of the box office. I mean, I’ve long thought it would be great to lure Murphy back to the stage, but I accept the fact that that would mean nothing to the majority of Americans.

So how big a star does a show need to guarantee a healthy advance? It depends on the project and a host of other issues, I know, but, I ask this question with the assumption that all other things are equal. Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, Tom Cruise… those are names that are sure to sell. But what happens when you step down a level? Sure Jake Gyllenhaal would sell more tickets than Patrick Wilson, but would a Broadway show with him be an automatic smash? If Josh Harnett had taken Journey’s End would that have made it instantly huge? I’m not convinced. We know Hilary Swank didn’t sell The Miracle Worker

OK, I’m really, really tired, but I want everyone to think on this, as I shall. On another topic--I have heard a bunch of shows for the replacement Roundabout slot. I think I know the correct one, but, as I am not 100% sure, I’ll wait for the actual announcement like a good little girl. I think it’s coming very soon. Though, if they don’t make it in the next few days, I may grow impatient. Right now I’m too tired to be impatient.

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