Do Celebrity Headliners Really Bring in the Big Bucks on Broadway?

Do Celebrity Headliners Really Bring in the Big Bucks on Broadway?
With theater producerStephen C. Byrd's recent announcement that actor Blair Underwood is to make hisBroadway debut in a 2012 production of the Tennessee Williams classic,  "AStreetcar Named Desire," and several Hollywood celebrities, including BillyCrudup, Ellen Barkin, and Frances McDormand currently starring in Broadwayproductions, it seems like it's a sure bet a celebrity name will add cachet toa show. "The whole interest in stars is really about a producer trying to raisethe money, because it's easier to raise money with a star," casting directorBernard Telsey recently told the New York Times. But will a famous lead actually amp up the chances of success for a production?ARTINFO takes a look at a few of the ups and downs of celebrities starring onBroadway.

The early ending of John Guare's revival of"House of Blue Leaves" proves that star power is not always a winning formula.Despite having Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ben Stiller, and Edie Falco — who gotnominated for a Tony for her performance — in the cast, the play's run willend on June 25 — a few weeks short of its original closing date of July7.

2010 proved to be a successful year for Hollywood making it big on the Great White Way, not only financially, but also critically: Scarlett Johansson picked upthe Tony for Best Performance by a Featured Actress for the Broadway revival ofArthur Miller's "ViewFrom the Bridge," while Denzel Washington won for Best Performance by a LeadingActor for "Fences." But not everybody agreed. Broadway actor Hunter Fosterwaged a Facebook campaign against Johansson titled, "Give The Tonys Back ToBroadway."

The double impact of X-men actor Hugh Jackmanand James Bond leading man Daniel Craig starring the 2009 production of "ASteady Rain" won the play the highest ever weekly gross ($1,167,954) of anon-musical Broadway production in 2009. "700 Sundays," which previouslyheld the title, also starred a celebrity, actor Billy Crystal.

"Entourage" actor Jeremy Piven's abruptdeparture after only one week from the David Mamet comedy "Speed-the-Plow" in2008 due to claims of mercury poisoning resulted in an arbitration between theshow's producers and Piven for breach of contract. Actors' Equity Associationruled in favor of Piven, deciding the actor did not break his contract.  

But the absence of a celebrity doesn't alwaysmean that a show will fail financially or critically. "The Book of Mormon" wonthe 2011 Tony for Best Musical - without the help of any famous faces. Butthen again, having Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of "South Park,"behind the musical, probably helped.