Big announcement this morning: “Hello, Dolly!” with Bette Midler has broken the all time sales record for all Shubert Theaters in history and in the future, and for years to come. With a staggering $40 million advance, and premium ticket prices that are obscene, ne, grotesque–$525 at least– this version of “Hello, Dolly!” has transcended theater. It’s a beast.
The new record? They made $2.1 million in seven performances. Not 8, which is the Broadway norm. Just 7. And Bette Midler’s getting at least $100,000 a week to make that happen. Not bad!
And so the question becomes: does “Hello, Dolly!” deserve a Tony Award? Or is money the reward for this boondoggle? In the world of the Oscars, a movie this big would be considered a “studio” film or blockbuster. Think “Avatar” or “The Dark Knight.” Those movies generally do not get Oscars. Sometimes they get nominations. And a really great performance, like Heath Ledger’s, may be cited. But Best Picture? Never. Those nods go to humbler endeavors.
For “Hello, Dolly!” to win the Tony for Best Revival of A Musical seems overkill at this point. Wouldn’t it be better to give the gold statue to Lincoln Center for “Falsettos”? Or to “Miss Saigon” just for the helicopter and chutzpah? Something about this “Hello, Dolly!” avarice is unseemly. And it encourages future bloated money grabs. Broadway was never supposed to be this overt in pure greed.
PS And what happens when Bette Midler leaves? Eventually, she will. My choice: Queen Latifah. No kidding. Stay tuned…