The Clinton name just doesn’t sell tickets like it used to do. Bill and Hillary Clinton tried to do a nationwide “Evening with the Clintons” tour (and Canada) promoting themselves as wise sages in the Democrat Party. After taking their act to some Clinton-friendly cities, even the most loyal of supporters grew tired of them. The tour ended with tickets going for as low as $2.00. Now it is being reported that the Broadway play Hillary and Clinton is closing a month early due to poor ticket sales.
The play first premiered in 2016 in Chicago, so it’s been around for a while now. It opened on Broadway on April 18, 2019, after one month of previews. The play tells a story based on Hillary’s 2008 presidential race. Its current home is at the John Golden Theatre on West 45th Street in NYC, if you are curious. You will have to act quickly because the calendar graphic on the website for purchasing tickets only goes through a matinee performance on Sunday, June 23, its final performance. It was “significantly” rewritten after Hillary’s defeat in 2016. The stars are Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow.
In the case of “Hillary and Clinton,” Hnath was inspired to write the play while watching C-SPAN during the 2008 presidential primaries. The show is set during that time, in what the creatives refer to as an “alternate universe.”
But the play nonetheless carries plenty of resonance for the current tempestuous state of the nation. That’s by design. The playwright says he significantly rewrote “Hillary and Clinton” following its first productions in 2016, with the aim of getting at what he sees as the central tension in contemporary politics.
“Hillary’s loss in 2016 was inarguably more profound than when she lost the primary in 2008, and it raised a big question of ‘How did we get here?’” Hnath says. “There was a chance to think about the real problem, the divide between acting on emotion and acting on reason. There’s a line now in the play that’s something like ‘Voting is never not emotional.’ I think that’s true, and I think it’s unavoidable, but I also think it’s very dangerous.”
The numbers aren’t good. It costs a pretty penny to produce a Broadway play and this one hasn’t been recouping the expenses. Ticket sales are “underwhelming”.
The early closing date for Hillary and Clinton is due to underwhelming ticket sales. The play, which cost $4.2 million to produce, began performances in March and drew mixed-to-positive reviews, but has struggled to fill seats, reaching only 36 percent of its gross potential in the last two weeks. Its cumulative box office stands at $4.7 million.
The play was scheduled to run through July 21. When it closes the total performances will tally up to 37 previews and 77 regular performances at the John Golden Theatre. The play isn’t really about the Clintons, you see, it is set in an alternate universe and the characters are named Bill and Hillary Clinton. Are you confused? Yeah, this may be part of the problem. The description actually sounds rather depressing, though it is billed as a comedy.
Hillary and Clinton takes place in a New Hampshire hotel room in 2008, imagining interactions between Hillary and Bill Clinton as she struggles with her campaign during the 2008 presidential election, with her chief opponent, Barack Obama, gaining steam. Hillary and Clinton is not based on the real Clintons, but instead characters with the same names in an alternate reality.
Hillary and Clinton was nominated for one Tony Award in 2019 – for Laurie Metcalf’s performance of Hillary. Metcalf lost.
The two lead actors offered positive opinions about the production.
For Lithgow, the play reveals the humanity behind the talking heads. “There are scenes where we angrily, angrily argue certain political points, and those scenes are so charged with our own personal feelings for each other,” he says. “It’s fascinating stuff.”
“Hillary and Clinton” also finds itself in conversation with all the events that have happened since the 2008 primaries. “There are a few lines at the end of the play that are haunting to me, because we’ve seen the 10 years that these characters have not seen yet,” Metcalf says. “It makes them seem vulnerable, because we know what they don’t know.”
It must be particularly hard on the real Clintons that this production tanked so early. Neither has commented on it since the play’s run on Broadway began. Broadway leans liberal and Broadway producers raised money for Hillary’s during her 2016 presidential race. In this case, though, the old adage that the show must go on doesn’t ring true. Even theater-goers are taking a pass on this one.