Monday, June 23, 2008

2007-2008 Season, Part 1: The Trend

Well, another Tonys ceremony has come and gone, leaving a string of bodies in its wake, most notably A Catered Affair and Cry-Baby, and rumors of a number of others.

In looking over the talk of the past year, I guess it’s time to think back and reflect on a few ideas that surfaced.

Long plays are in after all.

During one of the pre-Tonys daytime performances, Cheyenne Jackson was still touting that Xanadu was only 90 minutes, a key selling point the producers used during the shows early press period. Not too long after the opening, this was followed up by producer Ken Davenport sharing his thoughts on short shows at his Producer's Perspective blog, as well as in an article on Bloomberg.

One of the big winners of the season has, as everyone already knows, been the 3+ hour August: Osage County, which has recently increased ticket prices, a trend not followed by the producers of Xanadu, who will not be funding a new summer home anytime soon, unlike the producers of August: Osage County.

What’s most important about a show is not its length but its quality and popular appeal. If Kiss Me, Kate had been 90 minutes, I doubt it would have survived its original season, and if The Drowsy Chaperone has been two minutes longer, its conceit would have really run dry.

Xanadu had the makings of a hit—a recognizable title, bankable Broadway stars, some pre-opening backstage drama, strong reviews, and familiar songs. I doubt its lack of smash hit status is closely related to its length, but clearly its 90-minute running time was not a selling point for most New York theatergoers.

In Hollywood, it’s common standard for insiders and analysts to pick everything to pieces in hopes of being the first to identify a trend, leaving the less-inspired among the producers to be chasing after scripts just like a past hit like the man with a shovel at the circus (i.e. Gladiator spawned Troy, King Arthur, Alexander). I can’t count how many times I’ve read about family films being the new trend in the past fifteen years, just as we are now hearing about how chick flicks are the new In thing just because Sex and the City was a hit (not keeping in mind the box office gross for chick flicks Fool’s Gold, 27 Dresses, and a host of others this past year). I hope to God Broadway doesn’t start the same thing!

the Broadway Mouth
June 23, 2008

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