Vilanch and Shields: Highlights of 2004 Broadway Season

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2004 was a record year for Broadway
By Frederick M. Winship

New York, NY, Jan. 5 (UPI) — Broadway grossed a record $748.9 million in ticket sales in 2004, a 3.2-percent increase over the box-office take for 2003, thanks in part to the return of foreign tourists to New York, it was reported Wednesday by the League of American Theaters and Producers.

Jed Bernstein, president of the league, noted in releasing Broadway-attendance statistics for the past year that there had been a “dramatic upturn” in tourism from abroad beginning in 2003 after being reduced to a trickle by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

“Strong results for the year are particularly the result of 1.2 million foreign visitors in the 2003-2004 theater season, compared to 650,000 during the previous season,” Bernstein said. “We are quite confident that if the spring 2005 season performs as well as we expect, the overall 2004-2005 season will end on a very strong note.”

Bernstein cited ticket sales of 11.3 million in 2004, an increase of 230,000 or 2 percent over 2003 ticket sales. The $748.9 million gross was up from $725.4 million in 2003.

Broadway seasons traditionally run from June 1 through May 31. The fall season has seen few new shows open on Broadway (only one musical, “Brooklyn”) but the upcoming spring season will be a busy one with more than 20 plays and musicals scheduled to open by the end of the season. There currently are 31 shows on Broadway.

New musicals include “Little Women,” based on the Louisa May Alcott classic, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” based on the film of the same title, Monty Python’s “Spamalot,” a stage version of the musical film “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” “All Shook Up” with a score by Elvis Presley, and “Good Vibrations,” with a score by The Beach Boys.

Celebrity stars will include John Lithgow in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” David Hyde Pierce in “Spamalot,” and TV star Christina Applegate (“Married … With Children”) in a revival of “Sweet Charity.”

Play productions will include a new drama, The National Theater of Great Britain’s “Pillowman,” and a production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” with Denzel Washington in the title role. Jackie Mason will be back with a new one-man comedy show.

A number of revivals are scheduled including “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” with Kathleen Turner, “The Glass Menagerie” with Jessica Lange, “A Streetcar Named Desire” with Natasha Richardson, “On Golden Pond” with James Earl Jones and Leslie Uggams, and “Steel Magnolias” with Delta Burke.

Bernstein listed a number of highlights of the Broadway season including Brooke Shields stepping in for Ruth Sherwood in “Wonderful Town” and the establishment of such new stage stars as Bruce Vilanch in “Hairspray” and Drew Lachey in “Rent.”

He also cited unanimous critical acclaim for August Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean” and the revival of “Twelve Angry Men” and the welcome return to the Great White Way of composers Jerry Herman, with a revival of his “La Cage Aux Folles,” and Stephen Sondheim, with his “Pacific Overtures.”

The year 2004 also saw the establishment of another Broadway record, according to Bernstein. This was for the $600,000 taken in at the Broadway Theater box office for Billy Crystal’s one-man show, “700 Sundays” the day after its Dec. 5 premiere, the largest amount grossed in one day by a Broadway play.