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.com, 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 Broadway.com 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