Vultures circle Holmes' debut on Broadway

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The Independent US

It feels, as they might say in the Church of Scientology, like distinctly bad Karma. Two months before the curtains go up, an extremely large vulture is beginning to circle over Katie Holmes' Broadway debut.

One of New York's most influential theatre critics, Michael Riedel, predicted yesterday that Mrs Tom Cruise's run in the Arthur Miller play All My Sons will be a resounding flop, because its leading lady is failing to put the expected number of bums on seats.

Advance sales for the show, which opens in mid-September, have failed to reach the $1m mark (£504,000), he announced. That's roughly a third of the expected volume for a Hollywood star's Broadway run, and – embarrassingly – less than a quarter of the $4m that Cruise's ex-wife Nicole Kidman achieved with the play The Blue Room.

More worryingly, claimed Riedel, most of the tickets that Holmes has managed to sell were snapped up months ago by speculative booking agents. With a glut of unsold seats now on the market, top price berths are still fetching the relatively-paltry sum of just over $100. "Ticket brokers and group sales agents, who at one point thought Holmes would be this season's Julia Roberts – who pretty much sold out Three Days of Rain in one day of rain – say interest in the Holmes show is nil," he wrote, quoting a broker complaining: "I bought 1,000 tickets to the show; I still have them."

Riedel is theatre critic of the New York Post. He is famed for his ability to skewer Broadway openings with unflattering reviews or lukewarm comments that appear under his byline.

Although he describes Holmes, who first achieved fame as Joey Potter in the teen-drama series Dawson's Creek, as "a nice little actress", several factors may conspire against the success of All My Sons, in which she will play Ann Deever, the future daughter-in-law of a disgraced Second World War businessman.

America's troubled economy has hit audiences for Broadway productions, particularly those charging rates of over $100 a seat. It also doesn't help, Riedel said, that Cruise's popularity has fallen from its 1990s peak, when he was the world's biggest star.

"These days, Tom is still trying to live down his couch dance on Oprah. Holmes, meanwhile, is in the public eye only because she's Mrs Tom Cruise."

A hit Broadway run is often used by Hollywood stars to remind American audiences and film producers of their acting abilities, particularly after a career break. But All My Sons may not have been the cleverest choice for Holmes, who has been off work since 2005 when she met Cruise. Their baby, Suri, was born in 2006.

Despite being one of America's favourite modern plays, the role being taken by Holmes will require her to wear dowdy frocks. When Kidman appeared in David Hare's play The Blue Room, she appeared in the nude.

"Kidman was not, it must be remembered, a big star in her own right back then," added Riedel. "But because she was (1) very good in the play and (2) naked (for about a minute), she set the town on fire. Scalpers were getting $700 for seats in the balcony – even after critics gave the production lukewarm reviews."

Julia Roberts, for her part, sold out the entire run of Three Days of Rain in a matter of hours before its 2006 run, with tickets changing hands for four-figure sums. A spokesman for Eric Falkenstein, the producer of All My Sons, said: "We don't discuss advance ticket sales."