By Barbara & Scott Siegel
So far, Amazing Grace has withstood the slings and arrows of the critics. Shows with rave reviews, even from the NY Times – Side Show & Honeymoon in Vegas, to name just two – bit the dust not long after opening. But so far, no closing notice. The question is, can Amazing Grace outdistance its reviews and make it strictly on word of mouth? And that’s assuming that the word of mouth is favorable.
The general rule is that if a show can last twelve weeks beyond when it’s reviewed, the reviews no longer matter and that’s when marketing and word-of-mouth will kick in as the show’s main selling tools. In the interim, Amazing Grace has the advantage of opening during the Summer. (Ironically, Hamilton is already such a massive hit that getting tickets to it over the Summer are nigh impossible, so that leaves the field of new Broadway musicals pretty wide open to Amazing Grace.)
The show’s disadvantage is that it isn’t star driven. Its leads are unknown outside of the theater community but for those who know their work, no one is surprised that they give stunning performances. Even if the book is heavy-handed and lumbering, and the songs largely unmemorable, the performers give some of their scenes and songs a fleeting sense of grandeur by virtue of their sheer talent. Kudos, especially, to Josh Young, Tom Hewitt, Erin Mackey, and Chuck Cooper.
It will be fascinating to see if this show has the legs to get through the Summer and run, at least, through the Christmas season. Right now, the show’s grosses are low but it is widely believed there are deep pockets behind this venture. While the show might still lose a fortune, it will be encouraging to others if it can survive a blistering attack from the critical elite and still run. We shall see…
Make no mistake about this advice: see Jan Maxwell in the PTP/NYC production of Scenes from an Execution. The play is resonant, smart, and richly complicated with themes about the role of the artist versus the state. The entire cast is excellent with some truly outstanding performances by David Barlow, Alex Draper, and Bill Army. But Jan Maxwell, reprising her performance in this play from seven years ago, provides a master class in virtuosity.