Count me shocked — SHOCKED I TELL YA — that the current Broadway revival of Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women is selling SO well SO early in its run.
Before we go any further, let me just state for the record that I’m overjoyed this is the case; plays on Broadway are always a financial gamble, so any of them raking in the moolah is a huge achievement worth celebrating, especially when such worthy artists are involved. But if every endeavor featuring artists who deserve success were actually successful, then a vast majority of Broadway outings would make back their money! Instead, only a fraction do, which is why it’s imperative to dissect this rare breed.
I’d be more inclined to understand these impressive grosses if they were posted after last week’s glowing reviews, but free seats have been scarce throughout previews. Which leads me to ask:
What element(s) of the production compelled people to buy tickets sight unseen?
A few possible factors come to mind:
Since he’s one of the few (super)producers savvy enough to consistently spearhead straight plays to recoupment on the Great White Way, maestro Scott Rudin definitely knows how to attract his low-hanging fruit, aka Broadway-going play lovers, a small but passionately loyal group. He likely offered them discounts to attend AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE to ensure that AS MANY SEATS AS POSSIBLE were available to the masses who prefer to wait for the quality stamp of approval from critics. But that’s true of almost every theatrical venture that’s not a sure thing, including many Rudin enterprises that never sold this well.
And it can’t be Albee’s name alone bringing the girls to the yard. Yes, he’s one of the titans of 20th century American drama. But though his work is many things, commercial isn’t one of them. Most consumers simply don’t equate Albee’s eloquent misery to a good night out on the town. And even though it’s a Pulitzer Prize winner, Three Tall Women is by no means his most beloved play.
Director Joe Mantello is adored by those in the know, but how many really know?
Which leaves us with the usual draws: the cast.
Am I just severely underestimating Glenda Jackson’s star wattage, and New York’s theatre literati’s appetite to bask in it after being deprived for so many years? She was last seen on Broadway in 1988!
Or maybe the combination of her A Doll’s House, Part 2 Tony Award last season and her Academy Award-nominated turn in Lady Bird last year (I wish I could’ve written Oscar-WINNING; I heart Allison Janney and her I, Tonya performance, but it’s too comfortably in her wheelhouse for my taste) skyrocketed Laurie Metcalf’s stock? But is the general public really familiar with Laurie Metcalf now? Like, will they so want to be in the presence of Lady Bird’s mom that they’d be willing to shell out Broadway’s big bucks?
As for Alison Pill, let’s remember her last lead outing on the main stem: The Miracle Worker, which lasted less than two months back in 2010, AKA it lost miles and piles of dough, even though everyone and their mothers recognize the title (as to whether people who know it actually want to see it is another matter entirely). And Pill hasn’t hit it big since that revival; IMDB lists the most popular titles of a performer’s onscreen career, and all of hers predate The Miracle Worker — it’s not like peeps are lining up to see her because of The Newsroom!
I guess all of these factors together could convince notoriously-stingy theatergoers to part with their hard-earned cash…but that’d still be a rather unexplainable anomaly.
If anyone would like to solve this mystery for me, I’m all ears!