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Filled seats a different kind of prize for “Fences” director Kenny Leon

1st of a series of blogs on Atlanta director Kenny Leon before the Tonys. Come back for more on Wednesday-Thursday, and see a profile of Leon in Living on Saturday.

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

New York — Kenny Leon’s Broadway revival of “Fences” is up for 10 nominations at Sunday night’s Tony Awards, having already won some pretty heavy metal in recent awards.

And though there’s a lot of anticipation about Tony prospects for Leon, who’s nominated for best director, and his play, nominated for best revival, there’s also excitement about how well the show is doing at the box office.

Like Hollywood studio executives, Broadway producers are most happy when theater seats are occupied, and sold-out houses have become increasingly frequent at the Cort Theatre for “Fences,” which stars Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, both nominated for acting Tonys.

Producers announced this week that “Fences” will recoup its $2.8 million investment after only eight weeks of performances, by the end of this week.
The drama’s limited 13-week run ends July 11, meaning nearly a month of additional shows to pur the production farther in the black.

The most Tony-nominated play revival ever, “Fences” goes into Sunday’s ceremony at Radio City Music Hall with a lot of momentum.

It has won the Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for best play revival. Washington and Davis won Outer Critics Circle acting awards, as well. Davis and Branford Marsalis (for his score) secured Drama Desk Awards, and the actress also won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Sustained Excellence.

Leon, of course, won the 2010 Julia Hansen Award for Excellence in Directing at a Drama League luncheon on May 21.

All of the honors already are generating interest and directing offers — for the stage, TV and film — to his agents at the William Morris Agency. But “Fences’” box office take may sing even louder to producers interested in being a part of Leon’s red-hot streak.

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