Theater Maven Michael Riedel Shares Inside Info, Celeb Anecdotes and Broadway Predictions at September Meeting

by Aileen Jacobson

Michael Riedel, who has long written about theater for the New York Post and other publications, spoke to us at our September 22 Zoom meeting just as Broadway was starting to open up again after a long Covid-induced hiatus. The presentation, attended by more than 50 people (and available here was snappy, spirited and fun.

Riedel had recently visited the new musical “Six,” a pop-rock romp about the six wives of Henry VIII, and gave it a thumbs-up. It’s the kind of fresh new show that should do well, he predicted. However, older shows like “Phantom of the Opera” and “Chicago,” that were relying on tourists—no longer here in great numbers—may not last long, after the initial excitement of Broadway’s reawakening dies down. In fact, a person in the know had shared with him, he said, that only 14 of the 35 plays and musicals that are to make up the new season may survive.

Off-Broadway, Riedel added, may make a strong come-back because its more reasonably priced and often adventurous offerings are likely to appeal to young people, the ones who are out and about as though there is no pandemic in the downtown area where lives.

Board member and past president Tony Guida, who moderated the event, said he had researched some ticket prices for “Hamilton” and thought they seemed healthy–$399 each for tickets on the coming Friday and $700 for seats around Thanksgiving. Those are bargains, Riedel replied. Before the pandemic, tickets were going for $1,000 each. And ticket agents, who buy many seats and offer them for resale, may have to start dropping prices for this and other shows, or try to return them.

Anecdotes he imparted included Elaine Stritch often running out to the box office “in her panties” before the curtain rose on “A Delicate Balance” to see how well sales were going, much to the chagrin of her co-star George Grizzard. He had written about that in his latest book, “Singular Sensation: The Triumph of Broadway,” published November 2020. It focused on Broadway’s post-9/11 recovery. This one probably won’t be as swift, he said. People wanted to gather together almost immediately after that trauma. These days, of course, close proximity is not what many people are seeking.

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