Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Follies closes without turning a profit

ArtsBeat reports: More than 216,000 people saw the Broadway revival of Follies by the time it ended its five-and-a-half month run on Sunday. And most major theater critics raved about the production, which added three weeks of performances in response to ticket demand. Yet all of this was not enough to recoup the show’s capitalization and turn a profit, according to Michael Kaiser of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where the Follies revival began last spring.

Some fans of the 1971 musical about old friendships and unhappy marriages, which has a score by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Goldman, were rooting for this Follies to be the one to make money, given that the original Broadway production was a financial flop and the 2001 Broadway revival (by the nonprofit Roundabout Theater Company) had a brief, critically drubbed run.

In an article published in the Huffington Post yesterday, Mr. Kaiser, the president of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., wrote that “while the production did not recoup its full investment on Broadway, it did far better financially than I had planned.” Under the headline “The Lesson of Follies,” Mr. Kaiser added about the revival:

“It also brought more visibility to the Kennedy Center than any other single production in the Center’s history. Time will tell if this visibility contributes to the fiscal health of the Kennedy Center. But for me, ‘Follies’ is representative of the large-scale, ambitious, risky project that arts organizations need to produce if they are to capture the imagination of new and diverse funders and audience members. It also demonstrates the benefits of long-term artistic planning. We decided to produce ‘Follies’ in 2006 — a full five years before the production was mounted at the Kennedy Center. This gave us the time needed to assemble an artistic team and a cast. It also gave us time to find a group of donors who would support this large, expensive project.”
Mr. Kaiser did not disclose the cost of capitalizing Follies, but a spokesman said it was $5.5 million. The Broadway production grossed a total of $19.6 million over about 24 weeks of performances, according to the Broadway League database of box office receipts; the revival’s average weekly gross was about $815,000, while the weekly running costs for the show were about $600,000.

Follies will have a brief run in Los Angeles at the Ahmanson Theater starting in May, starring Jan Maxwell (reprising her Broadway performance as Phyllis) and Victoria Clark (replacing Bernadette Peters as Sally).

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