Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I Never Knew Its Name: The Dilemma of Promoting a Broadway Show

As one who aspires to write musicals that may not have instant name recognition (or, more accurately, one who aspires to write great musicals but just happens to have a few in the works that don’t have name recognition), the dilemma of the hour is making your work known outside the New York City area.

The truth is that I don’t live in New York, but I have a keen interest in Broadway (can you tell?). I check Playbill,, Broadway World, TheaterMania, and All That Chat on a nearly daily basis, and yet, there always manages to be new musicals opening that I don’t seem to know much about until Tony time.

Part of the problem is that with off-Broadway thrown into the mix, it’s not always easy to tell what is what. Is a show called Adding Machine a musical or a straight play? Is Passing Strange the latest Tom Stoppard play? I honestly didn’t know what Passing Strange was until the day it opened.

There are three factors that steer me into knowing the new musicals (be they off-Broadway or Broadway). One is, like everyone else, name recognition. Years before it opened, I knew Legally Blonde was coming to town, so as the show neared opening, I was ready for it. It’s not hard to catch that there is a new musical adaptation of a title like Legally Blonde, Little Women, or Young Frankenstein.

Second is advertising and promotion. Those interviews on really help keep me afloat with what is what. A flashy photo or a write-up allows me to know what’s going on, particularly when casting is appealing.

That leads me to third, the talent draws me in. I was up on Next to Normal, despite its un-musical name and off-Broadway status because of the presence of two mega-favorites, Brian d’Arcy James and Alice Ripley. Similarly, like with Legally Blonde, I had been anticipating Curtains because of Kander and Ebb’s music. This in itself, however, is not a strong enough appeal on its own because, clearly, most people flying into the city for a weekend aren’t going to know those names.

Considering research indicates that more and more of Broadway is being driven by the tourist dollar, it is an important question, a crucial one—how do you vie for tourists so that your original show has a chance (before it wins the Tony), without bastardizing yourself with gimmicky casting. Winning the Tony Award is a good step; however, a producer can’t bank on it. If I actively follow Broadway and am not aware of shows, how can those shows attract audiences outside of New York?

the Broadway Mouth
April 16, 2008

1 comment:

Fausto said...

I just happened upon your blog from linking on one of your comments on All That Chat. May I suggest checking the audition listings on the Equity website and at Backstage online (although they are limited if you don't have membership). But equity lists all equity shows - which would be anything on-, 0ff-, off-off, as well as many readings, workshops and all the regionals. You'll find audition notices for shows months before there are any details about them on any of the "fan" sites and they'll have very specific breakdowns about cast size, character descriptions, if it's a musical the voice range and more. Even if a role is precast (sometimes listing who it is). A good resource if you want to know what's coming up in the next couple of months as Broadway usually auditions at least 6 months, sometimes up to a year, before a first production.