The musical “Show Boat” may be 85 years old, but it still has a lot of drawing power.
The chamber production that opened Nov. 15 at Asolo Repertory Theatre is now the theater’s highest grossing and best-selling show of all time, with three more weeks of performances through Dec. 29. (Read our review.)
“People have been sharing with their friends that this show is not missable,” said Producing Artistic Director Michael Donald Edwards. “Obviously it’s a famous title, but what has been surprising is what a good story it is and how musically and dramatically satisfying it is.”
Florida Studio Theatre also is enjoying success with “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” which has been extended and is expected to be seen by as as many as 16,000 people. (Read our review.)
Asolo Rep reported that as of mid-day Wednesday, the box office had sold 19,196 tickets for a total gross of $1,027,361. That tops the previous record holder “My Fair Lady,” which sold 17,657 tickets for $911,023 in 2011, and last year’s musical “1776,” which attracted 16,558 and a box office gross of $855,906. “Bonnie & Clyde” in 2010 sold 16,214 tickets with a gross of $738,096 for its pre-Broadway tryout.
There are eight more performances for “Show Boat” than “My Fair Lady” and average ticket prices have gone up by more than $5. The theater cut one production from the winter rep schedule to accommodate holiday week performances of “Show Boat.”
“I’ve heard from people that they have come back two, three or four times,” Edwards said. “They’re clearly getting something deeply satisfying.”
Asolo Rep Board President Bob Bartner said the music is a major attraction.
“I’ve seen it three times so far and when they break into ‘Make Believe,’ you can feel the audience rise in their seats,” he said.
Ted Chapin, head of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, which holds the rights to the show, attended a performance last weekend, and several New York producers have flown to Sarasota to see it, Bartner and Edwards said.
“I think they’ve come to see if it’s something they may be interested in doing. There’s no harm in mentioning there’s a real interest in this show and production having a future life,” Edwards said.
The Asolo Rep production of “Show Boat” had its start three years ago at the Goodspeed Opera House where director Rob Ruggiero and choreographer Noah Racey first presented their streamlined production with a cast of 25, far less than the 70 or more featured in the show’s 1927 Broadway debut.
The “Show Boat” cast performs in a special cabaret show “A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight” at 7 p.m. Sunday in the Cook Theatre at the FSU Center. (Read more about the cabaret show.)
At the halfway point of its run at FST, “Spamalot” has already sold 3,200 single tickets, compared to the 3,700 sold for the full run of last season’s hit “Smokey Joe’s Cafe.” That's in addition to the 11,500 subscribers who are seeing "Spamalot," which could reach a record 16,000 audience members by the time the extended run ends on Jan. 19. By the time it closes, “Spamalot” will have run for 10 weeks and 75 performances. As of Dec. 12, "Spamalot" had sold 14,750 tickets between single tickets and subscription seats.
“Sarasota knows a good show when they see it,” said Managing Director Rebecca Hopkins, adding the show has introduced “a whole new audience to the theater.
Subscribers who were unsure about the show have been won over, Hopkins said, and the production “had a strong advance on single tickets from people who were specifically excited about it.”
“SHOW BOAT” continues through Dec. 29 at Asolo Repertory THeatre, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. The cast performs in the “Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight” cabaret at 7 p.m. Sunday. 351-8000; asolorep.org. “SPAMALOT” runs through Jan. 19 at the Florida Studio Theatre Gompertz Theatre, 1247 First St., Sarasota. 366-9000; floridastudiotheatre.org