I once had someone look at a work I wrote and said, “I don’t think there is a market for this sort of thing anymore. Even if you found someone to produce it, who would see it?”
The sad part is, I knew that from the moment I started writing the play. My reasoning was that if the show was funny enough, the characters endearing enough, the plot executed well enough, then its quality would rise above marketability. That is, the quality of the show would give advertising folks enough to work with to promote the show to find an audience.
Hollywood has become an industry obsessed with marketability, and its movies show it. You have an idea, and you boil it down to a tag line, “This” meets “That,” complete with a target audience and popular appeal.
Sometimes in the malls near my home, there will be people at booths asking me to preview movie previews to give my perspective. The last one was for the Jason Biggs and Isla Fisher comedy Wedding Daze. I was asked plenty of questions focused on the appeal of the actors, images I remembered, my perceptions, the likelihood I would see the movie. Who knows how many thousands of people around the country saw that same preview and gave similar feedback. And yet, the movie still hasn’t made it to theaters. I later read about it in Entertainment Weekly, and it has apparently been sitting on studio shelves for a few years.
All that work on marketability, and no one even cares.
Broadway has taken on the same perspective. A year ago, there was all this talk about the 90-minute musical, looking for a show with a unique hook, something to set the show apart. Maybe I’m still new to this whole Broadway thing, but getting good reviews might be the best place to start. We recently lost two shows I was really wanting to see—A Tale of Two Cities and 13—one was traditional, one was unique, both got weak reviews, and neither lasted to Tony season.
The best works, the ones that last, in the end, have something far better than marketability, uniqueness, or “it” factor. They have great stories, and in the case of musicals, great stories that are told through great music.
the Broadway Mouth
November 29, 2008