Producers of the struggling A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical are hoping for better attendance by breaking with a long-held Broadway tradition: Beginning next month, the musical will play four weekly matinees rather than the usual three while cutting the number of evening performances to four from the traditional five.
Beginning Sept. 6, the Wednesday evening performance will be no more, with a matinee added on Thursdays to take its place. The number of weekly performances will remain the traditional eight.
In a lengthy statement on social media, producer Ken Davenport explained that he believes the 2020-21 Covid pandemic shutdown interrupted and changed audience habits and preferences. “If you are in the habit of doing something every day, getting up at 5 AM, going to the gym, etc, you’re likely to keep doing it,” Davenport writes. “If you skip a day . . . even one day . . . you’ll have a harder time getting back into your routine. If you skip 2-3 years? Boy oh boy is it going to be hard to get going again.”
He continues, “It’s physics. An object in motion tends to stay in motion. An object on the couch tends to stay on the couch.”
Davenport goes on to assert that Broadway’s standard eight-performance week – matinees on Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday, evening performances on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday – was “set for a different audience in a different decade.” With more people working from home (and fewer New Yorkers commuting five days a week to offices in Manhattan), potential ticket-buyers “aren’t planning in advance. And my research shows…they are looking for more matinees.”
The jukebox Diamond bio-musical opened in December to mixed critical reviews and was later snubbed by the Tony Awards, but with such beloved classics as “Sweet Caroline,” “Cherry Cherry,” “I Am…I Said,” “Holly Holy” and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” among many others, the show initially drew good-sized audiences (many singing along with the hits).
Even so, attendance has dwindled in recent months, with the most recently available box office figures (for the week ending August 20) indicating attendance at the Broadhurst Theatre at only 58% of capacity. The gross for the week was $721,527, about half of the musical’s top weekly gross of $1,447,503 last December.
The musical, directed by Michael Mayer with a book by Anthony McCarten, features the popular Broadway actor Will Swenson as the superstar singer-composer Diamond.
Whether the schedule change boosts sales for A Beautiful Noise is anyone’s guess, though Davenport believes a Thursday matinee can only help. “I’m betting that even if those performances don’t sell out,” he writes, “they will do better than the Wednesday evening performance they replaced.”