In another landmark, paid attendance for Broadway in 2005 reached 11.98 million, the highest such number in 20 years, and a 5.7 percent increase from 11.33 million in 2004. Theatre seats were 80.4 percent filled, the League also reported, calling the figure the highest level since 1997. Thirty nine shows opened in the 2004 season. Playing weeks numbered 1,517, the highest in the past decade.
The League had only to wait a week before trumpeting another slew of record-breaking numbers. The trade organization declared the seven-day period ending Jan. 1, 2006, to be the highest grossing week on Broadway. Ever. A cool $25.2 million was the figure that The Street took in during that final week of 2005. The gross is up 14.3 percent from the same period last season. And Broadway enjoyed the second highest audience capacity percentage in recorded history, at 93.9 percent.
Out of 28 shows playing, the League reported, 20 houses were filled to more than 90 percent capacity, with nine of those theatres packing them in to the tune of 100 percent or more, including standing room.
Among the factors assisting these monumental numbers were the extraordinary circumstance of four new popular musicals opening last season—Spamalot, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and The Light in the Piazza—as well as such steady performers as The Lion King, Wicked and Hairspray, and popular new musicals like Jersey Boys and The Color Purple. Plays also thrived, with Doubt, Twelve Angry Men and The Pillowman proving popular. (Plays alone brought in a record-breaking $136,245,789 and 2.11 million in paid attendance in 2005.) Doing their part as well were sold out phenomena such as Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays, the Denzel Washington Julius Caesar, and the Nathan Lane-Matthew Broderick The Odd Couple.
A tough act for Broadway to follow, but it's got 359 more days to try. ***
Matt Cavenaugh, Sara Gettelfinger, Sarah Hyland, John McMartin, Michael Potts, Bob Stillman and Audrey Twitchell joined previously announced Christine Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson in what will surely be one of the most interesting new musicals of 2006: Grey Gardens.
Playwrights Horizons will present the work by librettist Doug Wright, composer Scott Frankel and lyricist Michael Korie on Feb. 10. Michael Greif directs and Jeff Calhoun handles the musical staging. The show is based on the singularly disturbing 1975 documentary, "Grey Gardens," which takes a long, hard, weird look at a fallen-from-high-society Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter, "Little" Edie, who just happen to be relatives of Jacqueline Bouvier, but seem more connected to the many cats that live in their dilapidated Long Island mansion. Ebersole and Wilson play the deranged duo, who would probably have gotten along famously with the equally strange German transvestite and Nazi- and Communist-era survivor, Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, the subject of I Am My Own Wife, Wright's previous work.