Everyman has record-setting seven weeks with `Five Years'

Run of little-known musical by Jason Robert Brown was extended a week

October 25, 2005|By J. WYNN ROUSUCK | J. WYNN ROUSUCK,SUN THEATER CRITIC

The Last Five Years proved to be the best seven weeks in Everyman Theatre's history.

The small-scale musical, which ended its extended run Sunday, broke the theater's records for the number of tickets sold and box office receipts.

Written and composed by Jason Robert Brown, The Last Five Years sold 7,339 tickets and made $142,901, according to Margaret Sentenn Bell, Everyman's marketing director. The previous record was set two seasons ago by David Auburn's Proof, which sold 6,976 tickets and brought in $119,832. In addition, the originally scheduled six-week run of The Last Five Years was extended one week.

Vincent M. Lancisi, Everyman's artistic director, said he found the production's success especially gratifying because, unlike Proof, which had the cachet of a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award, The Last Five Years -- a two-person off-Broadway musical about the relationship between a novelist and an actress -- opened with relatively little name recognition. "This is a show that over 90 percent of our audience, if we can judge by the surveys we did in previews, had never heard of," he said.

And yet, its popularity reached well beyond Everyman's usual regional audience. "This show actually sold tickets for Everyman from some of the farthest and most exotic destinations ever -- like four tickets in one day from Denver, like a lot of tickets from the Midwest, and even one ticket from a woman in Japan who came to America to see the show," he said.

Opening the season with a hit also boosted subscriptions, which are now at 4,074, or 66 percent of capacity -- an all-time high for the 16-year-old theater. "We're victims of our own success. We figured out, three years from now, we'll be fully subscribed. For a theater whose mission is to reach out to everyone, we must move," said Lancisi, explaining that the combination of a strong subscription base and the importance of keeping some single tickets available have made more spacious quarters imperative.

Ideally, a new venue will include a rehearsal hall, something lacking at Everyman, which typically rehearses one or two weeks off-site, usually at Emmanuel Episcopal Church on Cathedral Street. Adding seven performances to the run of The Last Five Years meant that the theater's next show, Someone Who'll Watch Over Me, had an additional week of rehearsals away from home.

Furthermore, Lancisi said, Everyman is being squeezed into an even smaller space because of the expansion of Sofi's Crepes, next door. Speaking from temporary office quarters in the ladies' dressing room, Lancisi quipped, "Fortunately, the next play has a cast of three men."

On a more serious note, he said he was "deeply disappointed" that the city did not accept the Everyman's proposal for the nearby site of the former Chesapeake Restaurant, at the south end of the area designated as the Station North arts and entertainment district. (Last month, the Baltimore Development Corp. awarded the site to a developer who plans to build condos, townhouses, shops and offices.)

"That was the only place in the arts and entertainment district that our board identified as being viable for us," Lancisi said. "So now we are actively seeking, throughout the region, different possibilities ... including beyond the Beltway."

j.wynn.rousuck@baltsun.com

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