Theater Tix: Signs of Patriotism

The spangles, confetti and spiky high heels are being dusted off at “The Rocky Horror Show” for a Halloween Eve reopening. “Bat Boy” resumes flying this week. And “Mamma Mia!” premieres Oct. 18, with Broadway expecting the London hit musical to provide a considerable boost to its total weekly box-office gross.

Cautious optimism seems to be the word, as Broadway gross receipts climbed slightly last week, according to figures released Tuesday by the League of American Theatres and Producers.

Individual productions varied. Some big musicals such as “42nd Street” and “Beauty and the Beast” slumped a bit, but others, such as “Les Miserables” and “The Phantom of the Opera” rose. Overall, the total weekly gross inched up 3 percent to more than $10.8 million, with the help of two additional shows that started preview performances.

“The Producers” and “The Lion King” were their customary sell-outs, but “Mamma Mia!” did well, too, playing to over 90 percent capacity in previews as it prepares for its Oct. 18 opening. Also hovering at or near the 90 percent mark were such plays as “Proof” and “The Tale of the Allergist's Wife.”

“The Rocky Horror Show” reopens Oct. 30 at Broadway's Circle in the Square for a 10-week run ending Jan. 6. The campy musical spoof closed Sept. 23 after business dropped following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, but producer Jordan Roth vowed to bring it back.

“The last week of performances was really quite miraculous,” Roth said Tuesday. “It was so clear that every one in that theater - the audience, the actors, the staff — really needed to be there. `Rocky' is the ultimate communal experience. You get to come to come together and connect in a way that is unique.”

Terrence Mann returns as the show's star, the bisexual Frank 'N' Furter, but Roth has some new casting surprises in store, too. Heavy metal hunk Sebastian Bach will play Frank's supercharged turncoat-assistant Riff Raff, and a rotating series of celebrity narrators follows Dick Cavett, who will open and close the 10-week encore engagement. Among the folks scheduled to succeed Cavett: Robin Leach, Jerry Springer, Sally Jesse Raphael, Penn and Teller, New York Post columnist Cindy Adams and Dave Holmes of MTV fame.

“This is only happening because everyone involved is supporting it,” Roth said, adding that the reopening was made possible by a combination of institutional support from the unions and the individual support of each company member, who will be working on renegotiated contracts.

“Every person who will return to work wants to be there, has elected to be there and has made a personal contribution and sacrifice to allow this to happen,” he said.

“Bat Boy,” the off-Broadway musical about a pointy-eared creature with human feelings, also has resurrected itself. It starts a five-performance week Thursday at the Union Square Theatre. It, too, had folded prematurely after the terrorist attacks.

“We have had a surge of support from our fans and our cast so we decided to put the show back on sale and see what kind of reaction we got,” producer Robyn Goodman said. “We also have a special voucher offer, so theatergoers could buy tickets for relief workers. And we are having 50 Red Cross workers at the first show Thursday.”

Theatergoers purchase tickets for $35 from the “Bat Boy” Web site, www.batboy-themusical.com, and the theater then distributes them to rescue and recovery workers. Another plan allows theatergoers to take their ticket stubs from one play to the box-office of other off-Broadway shows and purchase a ticket for half-price.

“Bat Boy” is beginning small, with five performances a week instead of the customary eight. “Once we get the show rolling, it will give us a chance to build momentum,” the producer said.

It's a tactic Goodman used on another off-Broadway musical, she is producing, “tick, tick...Boom!” That show will jump Oct. 23 from five performances to six performances a week. It also has a new leading man, Joey McIntyre, formerly of New Kids on the Block, who goes into the production this week.

“Off-Broadway is doing better, although it is not quite back to where it once was,” Goodman added.

So is Broadway, which has stepped up its advertising campaign to get people into theaters. Besides a public service announcement filmed in Times Square, Broadway performers in such shows as “The Full Monty,” “Contact,” “Rent” and “The Music Man” have filmed spots. These individual public service announcements boosting New York theater will be shown on the cable network Bravo beginning Nov. 5.

“I think people are buying theater tickets as a patriotic duty,” Goodman said. “Every time the mayor or someone like Rosie O'Donnell says, `Listen. Get back to your lives. Buy a ticket to the theater,' it really helps our business.”

Written By MICHAEL KUCHWARA © MMI Viacom Internet Services Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report