Can the revival of Hello, Dolly! survive the departure of its signature star? Bette Midler took her final bow at the Schubert Theatre on Sunday evening, as did co-stars David Hyde Pierce and Taylor Trensch. Bernadette Peters will take over the title role when the production resumes on January 20, with Victor Garber taking over for Hyde Pierce as Horaze Vandergelder and Charlie Stemp replacing Trensch as Barnaby Tucker.
According to an article highlighting the changes in the cast in Playbill, Midler’s turn on Broadway helped Hello, Dolly! break a number of records, including setting the mark for the highest pre-show advance in Broadway history and setting highest-grossing weeks in any Schubert Organization house over ten times.
The production was the standard-bearer for Broadway’s hottest trend at the moment – relying on a famous name to headline the marquee and draw the crowds. Midler was perhaps the biggest name to grace the stage, but similar castings like seeing Jason Mraz in “Waitress” or Josh Groban in “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812” or even Amy Schumer in the Steve Martin-penned play Meteor Shower dominated the headlines this year.
In terms of theatrical productions, Hello, Dolly! was second only to the Hamilton juggernaut in sales for 2017, according to analysis of the secondary marketplace. So, it makes sense to use the tactic. But it will be interesting to see how things turn out now that Midler is departing – her first vacation in July saw the production plummet in sales to the tune of nearly a million dollars. Another vacation saw a $1.5 million drop. Bernadette Peters is a Broadway veteran, but has nowhere near the kind of general name recognition that Midler does.
Sales have already been sluggish thus far in 2018 across the Great White Way, which traditionally sees a major drop following the holiday season. The end of Midler’s run will likely only exacerbate that trend even further.