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Thursday, March 20, 2008

"Cat" Shows Broadway Power of Black Audience

“Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” starring James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad, Sean Combs (Diddy), Terrence Howard, Anika Noni Rose and directed by Debbie Allen sold $700,000 in tickets one week in March, a very profitable take for a nonmusical. Stephen C. Byrd, left, the first-time producer of “Cat,” estimates the audience to be between 70 percent and 80 percent African-American. Marketing and group-sales companies now see that the black audience can sustain a production. It has been largely assumed that an African-American audience would not support an African American play.

"A Raisin In The Sun" set the stage for "Cat"when it began setting house records and recouped its initial investment in nine weeks. “The Color Purple,” also helped (although musicals, with black or white casts, have an easier time attracting audiences than plays). Groups come from Chicago, Washington and elsewhere to make the show a hit. Unfortunately, middle-aged white women, the life blood for most productions, do not attend black cast plays. "Cat” is the third Broadway show in four years that has drawn a mostly black audience and huge business. In an industry where fewer than one in four shows recoup their investments, the success of "Cats" is a serious testament to the power of black audiences. (The New York Times)
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