Broadway's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, Topdog/Underdog, which ended its limited run on Aug. 11, has recouped its investment of $1.5 million.
Topdog's performance at the box office was variable. Audiences during previews were small. But a strong critical reception at the April 7 opening was followed by the news that the drama had won the Pulitzer Prize. The double dose of good tidings sent sales soaring. Also, producers Carole Shorenstein Hays told Variety that "capacity audiences in the final week were good enough to put us over the top."
In spite of the financial woes bred by a recession and the aftermath of Sept. 11, the 2001-02 Broadway season produced a fair amount of commercial successes. Among the shows which earned back their investments were Elaine Stritch at Liberty, Mamma Mia!, Metamorphoses, Dance of Death, The Graduate and Private Lives.
The limited-run Topdog was originally to end July 28 at the Ambassador Theatre, but business warranted an extension through Aug. 11. There was talk that the show might continue to Labor Day, but a further extension did not materialize. A national tour is in the works for 2003, with San Francisco announced as a destination, but no further details, dates or cast have been announced. In the darkly comic work, Jeffrey Wright and rapper Mos Def star as the warring siblings. The brothers were named Lincoln and Booth by their father as a joke. Lincoln (played by Wright) spends his days as a white face impersonator of the 16th president, while Booth (Mos Def) shoplifts suits and expensive champagne. The brothers are haunted by the past and their obsession with the street con-game, three card monte. The two strive for a family unity they have never had, but end up battling to the death.
The production originated in 2001 at The Public Theater, where Wolfe is producer, with Wright and Don Cheadle. The latter actor was not available for Broadway, and Mos Def stepped into the Broadway limelight, earning him awards.
The producers are Carole Shorenstein Hays, Waxman Williams Entertainment, Bob Boyett, Freddy DeMann, Susan Dietz/Ina Meibach, Scott E. Nederlander and Ira Pittelman, in association with Hits Magazine, Kelpie Arts, and Rick Steiner/Frederic H. Mayerson.