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That’s Gross! The Battle of the Messiahs

Welcome to our newest column, That’s Gross!, a weekly analysis of one aspect of the Broadway Grosses. As always, the numbers below are provided by the The Broadway League. This week, we looked at…

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the slew of religious shows running on Broadway. From shows that deal with the reinterpretation of the gospel (Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar), to those that tackle faith and morality in a religious setting (The Book of Mormon, Sister Act, Leap of Faith), it seems that the man upstairs is totally hot right now.

But how is “He” doing at the box office?

Over at The Book of Mormon, super. We’re pretty sure it’s easier to get into heaven than it is to get a ticket to that show. As we discussed last week, Sister Act’s struggling a bit – though still surviving. Leap of Faith just finished its first week of previews, so it’s too soon to really judge.

And then there’s the Jesus shows: Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar. On the surface, they have a ton in common. Both tackle a similar subject matter (the life, teachings, and death of Jesus Christ). Both come from the same time period (the 1970s). Both were written by big-name Broadway composers (Stephen Schwartz and Andrew Lloyd Webber, respectively). And both, seemingly, have a similar audience. If you’re looking to see a show, you might hit up Sister Act or Leap of Faith if you liked either of those movies. You’re going to go to The Book of Mormon because you’ve heard the buzz (and if you’re a millionaire). But if you’re seeing Godspell or Jesus Christ Superstar, you’re interested in Jesus.

So now that we’ve just come off of the biggest religious weekend of the year (with both Passover and Easter hitting at the same time), we thought it would be a good idea to crunch the numbers and check in on how Broadway’s JC’s are holding up. Is the onslaught of religious shows translating into ticket sales for the man himself? In the battle of the messiahs, who’s reigning supreme?

To be fair, we didn’t just look at Easter weekend — the weekend of Jesus’s death and resurrection. We also looked at the week of Jesus’s Broadway birth. That is, the week both shows started previews. (Both Godspell and Superstar started previews on a Thursday, so they each had roughly the same number of performances in their first week, so it’s a solid comparison.) Here’s how they did:

Opening Week:

Easter Week:

Just in terms of percentage of seats sold, Jesus Christ Superstar is wiping the floor with Godspell. Superstar didn’t get the best reviews, but the show still fared better with the critics than Godspell did, which is possibly having an impact. That could be one factor. Plus, we all know how popular Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber is with the tourists.

From their first week of previews to now, both shows saw drops in capacity. Godspell has gone from 79.4% to $69.3%; Superstar from 92.3% to 81.1%. That’s about a 10% drop for both shows. He may have died for our sins, but at least 10% of us across the board didn’t turn out this week to see it happen.

Does this mean the market’s turning away from faith shows? Obviously not. But it should put some pressure on Corbin Bleu to make some miracles happen.

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