Business Booming Off-Broadway


(AP Photo/Blue Current Public Relations. Carol Rosegg) :: In this Nov. 2007 photo provided by Blue Current Public Relations, the cast of the off-Broadway show," Make Me A Song, The Music of William Finn," rehearses in New York for the show before its scheduled Monday, Nov. 12, 2007 opening. Off-Broadway shows have been booming since most Broadway productions closed because of the stagehands strike. From left are Sally Wilfert, Darren R. Cohen, Adam Heller, Sandy Binion and D.B. Bonds


Updated: 11/12/2007

NEW YORK

With most of Broadway dark because of the stagehands strike, business is booming off-Broadway, especially for those theaters in the Times Square area.

No new negotiations have been scheduled between Local One, the stagehands union, and the League of American Theatres and Producers. The stalemate has forced theatergoers, particularly tourists, to find other attractions and off-Broadway has some 48 productions now playing, according to the League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers.

On Monday in the theater district, people were passing out flyers advertising off-Broadway shows, meaning productions in theaters smaller than 499 seats.

Jeramy Peay, promoting the off-Broadway musical ''Altar Boyz,'' said some people think all theater is closed, not realizing off-Broadway is open for business. ''They don't understand the difference,'' he said.

John Parker of Los Angeles and his friend Paddy Reilly, from Dublin, Ireland, were at the discount ticket TKTS booth, where they collected flyers advertising various off-Broadway shows. They had bought tickets to ''The Lion King'' for Thursday, but they planned to bring the flyers back to their wives to consult on what to see instead.

''You can't be in New York and not see some shows,'' Parker said.

At New World Stages, a five-theater complex on 50th Street just west of the Times Square area, 11 weekend performances of seven different shows sold out. The theaters house an eclectic collection of productions, ranging from the children-oriented ''Gazillion Bubble Show'' to the campy Charles Busch comedy ''Die! Mommie! Die!'' to ''Make Me a Song: The Music of William Finn,'' a revue featuring songs by the composer of ''Falsettos'' and ''A New Brain.''

''We did very well,'' said Daryl Roth, one of the producers of ''Die Mommie Die!''

''On Saturday night, we had a large group of people (older high school students) who were disappointed to not get into the Broadway show they had tickets for. They just took a chance and they came to us.''

Busch, who also stars in the show, gave a curtain speech, welcoming them to off-Broadway. ''And they stood up and gave him a standing ovation,'' Roth said. ''They were yelling and screaming. It was very sweet.''

The 3,000-member stagehands union, which has between 300-350 members working on Broadway at any given time, walked out Saturday without much notice, two days after the parent union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, granted Local One authorization to strike.

The dispute has focused on numbers rather than wages — how many people are required to get a production up and running. The producers want to keep the number flexible, depending on a show's individual requirements; the union has been specific in its personnel demands — how many people and how long are they required to work.

Local One includes more than just the men and women who move the scenery and props; it also represents a show's electricians, carpenters and sound people.

But Broadway's loss is off-Broadway's gain.

''Everything we had (tickets) went,'' said Sue Frost, one of the producers of ''Make Me a Song,'' which officially opens Monday. ''A lot of it was people coming in at the last minute paying full price at the box office. They were wandering around looking for something to do.''

Frost said business had improved for the coming week, too. ''But I think people are waiting to see what is going to happen or if the strike is going to resolve itself quickly,'' she said.

Still, it's a challenge to get tourists to go to off-Broadway shows, said George Forbes, president of the off-Broadway league, because the shows don't have the name recognition of Broadway productions, the star power or production values. And for those planning vacations months in advance, many off-Broadway shows won't even be around because they have limited runs.

''The thing that makes off-Broadway special is that you are experiencing something with no more than 498 other people.'' Forbes said. ''There is not a bad seat in these theaters to the extent that you are not going to be in the third balcony. These are small, intimate playhouses and you are going to get a unique experience.''

———

Associated Press writer Karen Matthews contributed to this story.


Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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