Today’s Theatrica tour of New York mainly comprised of industry based activities that proved valuable for the students on the tour.
Three sessions were held at the Manhattan Theatre Club, a theatrical space with a series of rehearsal rooms available for hire to small and moderate sized professional Broadway productions.
First up was an acting workshop focusing mainly on improvisation for the Avila College and Firbank Grammar girls, while the Centrestage performing arts school undertook script work with …. can you believe it …. Stephanie Block, the current lead who plays the role of Elphaba in the Broadway production of Wicked! The Avila and Firbank girls joined her a little later for a group question and answer session about her role in the production.
For those of us who may have been living under a rock in Australia recently, Wicked is pretty much the biggest musical in the world. You will not be able to escape its presence any longer as it open in Melbourne in July, making Australia only the 5th country in the world to stage a production of Wicked. It currently has four productions (all different companies and casts) in America – one on Broadway, one in Chicago and two touring companies – while it is also showing in the UK, Japan and Germany.
It was an honour to be in the same room as the woman performing the hottest role on Broadway. Her script session was using actual scenes from Wicked and her question and answer session proved very popular with the tour participants. What a blast!
Next up was a talk by one of the two company managers for the Broadway production of Wicked. I got a little enthusiastic and asked a few questions about Wicked’s commercial success and here’s the fun facts I was presented with:
- Wicked opened in October 2003 and has literally played to full houses each performance since
- Wicked cost $14 million USD to mount
- Wicked’s weekly running costs are around $800,000 USD
- Last week Wicked hit a magic figure, grossing $1.5 million USD at the box office for the first time
- With about $700,000 USD remaining after running costs each week to be divided among those receiving royalties and returns to the investors, our company manager confirmed for the me the producers who initially raised the money for the production have seen their investment returned “many times over” in the past four and a half years
- there are 120 people backstage each night for Wicked
Our final session at the Manhattan Theatre Club was with a representative from The Drama League in New York City, a not for profit company that supports Broadway productions and its workers. The Drama League, among other things, each year distributes the oldest theatrical awards in America’s history (they’ve been going since 1935).
This was a great talk where we were given the inside tips on what productions were actually duds on Broadway and which ones were the best at the moment. Some of this sessions fun facts were:
- the average wage for an actor on Broadway is about $1,600 a week at the moment
- lead roles may pay $2,000 – $4,000 a week, depending on the star quality of the actor
- one unnamed actor in recent years was receiving about $2,000 a week in a lead role on a Broadway show, then got nominated for a Tony Award and saw the weekly salary jump to $9,000 and when the actor won the Tony Award, the salary instantly rose to $16,000 a week
- Julia Roberts and Nathan Lane are the only stars in a Broadway play to receive over $50,000 a week
- Nathan Lane negotiated $100,000 a week to return to the musical The Producers, successfully got it, and the show still returned a profit
Our Drama League representative said the best play currently on Broadway is August: Osage County and the best musical, Spring Awakening. Thankfully, we are seeing both these shows over the next few days!
In the evening we all made our way a few blocks to the Gershwin Theatre to see Wicked. It was a great production enjoyed by everyone, despite being tired due to a busy schedule. Let’s just say the souvenir stalls were doing a roaring trade from us Australians! To have seen Wicked on Broadway will be the highlight of the whole tour for some, so tonight was special, indeed.