Bway's Miss Saigon Standing Firm Through a Hard Winter

News   Bway's Miss Saigon Standing Firm Through a Hard Winter With Broadway theatres jam packed and new productions with their faces pressed against the glass, any chink in the armor leads to speculation about changes. In January, Smokey Joe's Cafe called it quits after more than 2,000 performances at the Virginia Theatre, with the Public Theatre's The Wild Party snapping up the space for previews to begin March 10. Then came the mid-February bombshell that Cats would exhaust all of its nine lives on June 25.

With Broadway theatres jam packed and new productions with their faces pressed against the glass, any chink in the armor leads to speculation about changes. In January, Smokey Joe's Cafe called it quits after more than 2,000 performances at the Virginia Theatre, with the Public Theatre's The Wild Party snapping up the space for previews to begin March 10. Then came the mid-February bombshell that Cats would exhaust all of its nine lives on June 25.

Will faltering grosses lead to a similar fate for the juggernaut Miss Saigon, or is it like several other shows braving the winter doldrums until springtime brings renewed traffic?

On the one hand, grosses for Saigon have declined steeply in recent weeks. Though late November 1999 saw the box office top half a million (the potential capacity is $893,002) with receipts regularly in the low $400K range, the show has fallen sharply after the new year. For the week ending Jan. 16, the show grossed $379,091 and played to 67.3 percent of capacity. For the week ending Jan. 30, Miss Saigon grossed only $302,842, with attendance at 47.8 percent. The following week, the take dipped to $265,584, less than a third of potential, with only 44.49 percent of the seats filled. The show rebounded (as did many others) for the week ending Feb. 20, grossing $431,899.

General manager Alan Wasser told Variety he had no plans to close Miss Saigon, even though "we're always looking where the show stands, but nothing firm [to announce] yet."

A production spokesperson at the Publicity Office told Playbill On-Line, "There's nothing to announce at all. The show is continuing to run, and we were very profitable last week." Asked how a long-running show like Miss Saigon makes it through the bleak winter months, the spokesperson said, "Well, as in the last six years, we had our winter sale. Also, during January-February, when there are fewer tours in town, we try to attract more of a tri-State audience with a variety of promotions. For example, one very successful promotion targeted a variety of suburban newspapers within a 100-mile radius; for a fixed price of $45, you could get a full-price ticket to the show and reduced parking." As for media, Saigon has been concentrating more on radio than expensive television slots. "We just finished a three-week radio flight on New York and suburban stations," said the spokesperson. Ultimately, If shows such as Miss Saigon can tough out the winter months, springtime promises the return of tourists and family audiences coming out of hibernation. The excitement of new shows opening during the spring, pre-Tony crunch can also carry over to Broadway as a whole.

Now in its ninth season, the Cameron Mackintosh production of Miss Saigon, set during the American evacuation of Saigon in 1975, is a love story between an American soldier and a Vietnamese woman.

C.C. Brown, who played Tom Collins in Rent and Musafa in Disney's The Lion King, joined the cast as John on Jan. 3. He replaced Billy Porter, who wrapped up eight months in the role on Jan. 1. Also starring in Miss Saigon are Luoyong Wang, Deedee Lynn Magno, Will Case, Margaret Ann Gates and Yancey Arias. The role of Kim is played by Liz Paw at certain shows.

For information on Miss Saigon at the Broadway Theatre, Broadway & 53rd Street, call Telecharge at (212) 239-6200.