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`Spring Awakening' is financial hit

"Spring Awakening" is not only the big winner at the 2007 Tony Awards but also a financial hit.

The show, which won eight Tonys including best musical, recouped its $5 million (3.6 million EUR) production costs earlier this month, producer Ira Pittelman announced Tuesday.

The show was capitalized at $6 million (4.4 million EUR) and cost about $4.2 million (3 million EUR), according to Pittelman, but then lost more than $700,000 (512,295 EUR) during several weeks of previews before its Dec. 10 opening at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. "So we made back our $5 million," he said.

The show will open in London next year and is making deals with several countries.

"Spring Awakening," a pop musical adaptation by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater of Frank Wedekind's classic German drama, began life off-Broadway during the summer of 2006 at the Atlantic Theater Company. Set in provincial 19th-century Germany, it tells the story of a group of teenagers trying to come to terms with life and their own sexuality.

Although critics were enthusiastic and their notices were raves, the show's success on Broadway was not a sure bet because of its edgy material, Pittelman said.

Despite the Broadway preview losses, "we had a real event moment after our opening and those extraordinary reviews," the producer added.

Even then, Pittelman said, traditional theatergoers were reluctant to see the show, despite its growing popularity among younger audiences. It took the Tony nominations and then the awards themselves to push the musical to capacity business.

"Spring Awakening" now has an advance of between $3.5 million (2.5 million EUR) and $4 million (2.9 million EUR). The national tour begins in September 2008 at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco, and a London production, directed by Michael Mayer (the original director) opens in late fall 2008.

"We have pretty much closed deals for Japan, Korea, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Scandinavia," Pittelman said, "and we have serious interest from France, Spain, Israel and Australia."