Last week, in one of the biggest surprise announcements of the year, Elton John and partner David Furnish announced that they were joining the Broadway producing team of Next Fall.
Before this announcement, many of us on the inside were wondering just how Next Fall, which lacks the marquee wattage of a Scarlett or a Denzel, would stand out in the year's busy Spring season.
Nabbing one of the biggest names in the entertainment industry is one way, that's for sure.
Celebrity producers have been around before, but ever since Oprah put her name above the title on The Color Purple (which put a lot of butts in the seats), putting the right producer on the right project has become a more sought-after way of gaining attention for our shows.
This fall, Fela! did it with Jay-Z and Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith (who have received a little critical drubbing for not stumping for the show like some of their counterparts). Yet it still got a lot more attention for that show than it could have gotten on its own.
Whoopi Goldberg, who was a producer on Thoroughly Modern Millie, is also a Producer on the London and Broadway Bound Sister Act, which couldn't make more sense.
Are these celebs investing actual dollars in the show? Or are they investing the value of their names and their appearance at parties? Only the show insiders know for sure, but I'd bet it's a little of both, depending on the project.
And whatever the case, as long as it's helping attract positive attention for your show and helping you break through the cluttered environment we work in, it's a win for all parties involved.
So when you're selling off places above your title, think about other names that might make sense for you and get you in a news cycle.
And it doesn't have to be the name of a person.
It was no secret that I was interested in moving the magnificent Our Town from Off-Broadway to Broadway last Fall. One of my ideas was to get a bunch of small New England towns to go above the title. Imagine . . . Sturbridge, Massachusetts, Brunswick, Maine and Stowe, Vermont present Our Town. We would have had whole towns behind us!
Got a musical about Ice Cream? You and Ben and Jerry present . . .
Got a play about Golf? You and Tiger Woods present . . .
Wait. Scratch that. Never mind.
There are more and more places on your production that you can turn into a marketing initiative than you can imagine. Sometimes they're just not out in the open.
The great Producers never stop looking for them.
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