With the first shows of the 2011 Broadway season about to open, it’s still anyone’s guess which shows will be successful and which ones...

With the first shows of the 2011 Broadway season about to open, it’s still anyone’s guess which shows will be successful and which ones will fail.

Although the outcome of this season remains to be seen, we can probably get an indication of what works (and what doesn’t) from last year’s Broadway crop, which ranged from record-breaking hits to giant failures. Read on for a roundup of Broadway’s 2010 hits and misses, followed by a quick peek at what the Great White Way has in store this season.

2010 HITS

“Fences”: Perhaps the biggest winner of the year was “Fences,” starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. The show garnered the most Tony nominations ever for a play revival and won three of those: Best Revival of a Play, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play, and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play. The critically-acclaimed production also broke box office records, becoming one of the rare plays that joined the million-dollar club of Broadway for grossing over $1 million in one week.

“Merchant of Venice”: This Broadway incarnation of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays was the hit of the fall 2010 season. Starring Al Pacino, the show was consistently the top grossing play. It even outperformed most musicals by ranking among the top overall productions every week. Expect to see a high tally of Tony nominations for this one.

“Red”: Another record-setting show, “Red” won an impressive six Tony Awards, including Best Play, Best Direction of a Play, and Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play. It also set box office records at the John Golden Theatre, grossing the highest weekly amount for a play at that playhouse.

“Driving Miss Daisy”: This star-studded show, featuring James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave, has become one of the best attended plays of the season, second only to “The Merchant of Venice.” The production has recently been extended through April 9, 2011, which will further boost the show’s chance of garnering Tony nominations.

“Elf”: Although it has received mixed reviews, the box office has proved that the newest holiday musical is a hit. With several weeks in a row of over $1 million gross, “Elf,” based on the classic 2003 musical starring Will Ferrell, could end up being the new holiday tradition for families around the country.

 
2010 MISSES

“Elling”: This play based on a Norwegian movie had good reviews during its London run, but it didn’t catch on in the United States. The show closed after only 22 previews and 9 regular performances, making it one of the shortest runs for a Broadway show all year. The average gross for the four weeks of performances averaged only $171,709 and the average ticket price was a meager $33.24.

“Looped”: A semi-biographical play about Tallulah Bankhead starring Valerie Harper, “Looped” opened to mixed and negative reviews and never recovered. Grosses were never more than 30 percent of the possible amount, and the show closed at a total loss to producers and investors. The production was shuttered after 27 previews and 25 regular performances.

“All About Me”: Michael Feinstein and Dame Edna Everage teamed up for this musical revue, but it was mostly panned by critics. The show closed after 27 previews and 20 regular performances, with attendance hovering around 50 percent for the duration. “All About Me” probably closed at a complete loss, though producers did not confirm how much the show cost to put up.

“Enron”: This irreverent new musical about the real-life Enron events lasted barely a month, including previews and regular performances. The show was shut out of the major categories at the Tony Awards and closed shortly after nominations were announced.

“The Miracle Worker”: A play that cost $2.6 million to mount, “The Miracle Worker” lasted only 21 previews and 38 regular performances, and closed at a total loss to investors. The show received mixed reviews and never really found its audience, although it did find protestors, who objected to the casting of a non-disabled actress as Helen Keller.

 
WHAT’S NEXT in 2011

This season has already seen the opening of one new Broadway production. “The Importance of Being Earnest,” starring and directed by Brian Bedford, opened January 13 and plays through March 6. The show earned positive reviews on opening night, starting the New Year off right for the Great White Way.

The next batch of production openings is still a couple months away — with dramas, musicals and solo shows in the mix. Here’s what you can expect to see lighting up the Broadway marquees in March 2011:

ProductionTheatreGenreOpeningClosing
“Good People”Samuel J. Friedman TheatreDramaMarch 3April 4
“That Championship Season”Bernard B. Jacobs TheatreDramaMarch 6May 29
“Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark”Foxwoods TheatreMusicalMarch 15open-ended
“Arcadia”Ethel Barrymore TheatreDramaMarch 17June 19
“Priscilla Queen of the Desert”Palace TheatreMusicalMarch 20open-ended
“Ghetto Klown”Lyceum TheatreSoloMarch 22May 15
“The Book of Mormon”Eugene O’Neill TheatreMusicalMarch 24open-ended
“How to Succeed in Business
Without Really Trying”
Al Hirschfeld TheatreMusicalMarch 27open-ended