Families ‘R’ Us on Broadway Next Season

There’s been a lot of buzz about the number of shows featuring religious subject matter appearing on Broadway in the last 12-18 months.  With Sister Act, Mormon, Godspell, JCS, and Leap of Faith, you could definitely draw a conclusion that faith was certainly a theatrical “trending topic.”  (Although, IMHO, it was a scheduling fluke.)

However, there is another wave of similar material about to hit the shores of the Great White Way and this one is carrying a whole bunch of kiddies.

And IMHO, this is not a fluke.

The recent announcement that Newsies was converting their limited run to an open-ended one was about as surprising as . . . well as Newsies converting their limited run to an open-ended one.

Newsies joins the slate of family shows on Broadway which already include:

The Lion King
Mary Poppins

That’s four shows (three from the Mouse) that heavily depend on the “families of four” market, or the under 12 set.  (And I might even toss in Peter and the Starcatcher for good measure.)

That seems manageable, right?

Well, surfs up, mateys, here comes the wave.

Next season we’ll add three, count ’em, three young ladies that are hoping to capture a lot of the young lady market, doubling the amount of family fare.

We’ve got Matilda.

And Annie.

And Cinderella.

Wowza.  I mean that’s a lot of pre-pubescent angst coming our way.

And I have a a feeling that angst is going to translate to some Producer angst as well, because I’m not sure there are that many families going to that many shows.

Especially on weeknights.

It’s going to be quite a kiddie-fight next season.  Lets hope it doesn’t send too many Producers home in tears.


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  • Aaron Settle says:

    I thought I would point out that even though Spider-Man isn’t produced by Disney, the character is owned by Disney. So Disney owns the rights to all of the characters staring in the family shows you mention (including Peter and the Starcatcher)

  • Sierra says:

    As a child who grew up outside the city but wanting to see shows, I’d be surprised to see many families from out of town coming in on weeknights. Unless there’s some sort of school holiday, it’s impossible. I wouldn’t get home until 1-2AM and then to get through an entire day of school? No way. Also, without student rush available to them or lottery that would cover all four tickets, that is a LOT of money for a family of four to pay.

  • Then we get cannibalism. Eventually the shows with limited family appeal will get eaten by those with more adult interest. That’s partially why duds like Shrek, The Little Mermaid, and Tarzan couldn’t survive.

    Newsies, Spidey, and The Lion King will survive. Mary Poppins is a very good show that has had a nice run. Annie is a great show for kids and adults but a kiddie reputation.

    Next fall, the biggest party on Broadway may be a Donner Party.

  • Kristi R-C says:

    GREAT! I just got a new job running/calling spot lights for the North American tour of Mamma Mia. I’m often located in or near the cheap seats of the theater and on almost all of those occasions I’ve had the chance to talk with a kid who’s seeing their first Broadway show. Ken, if you haven’t sat by them recently, I urge you to do so. They are FULL of questions about how things are done and what other shows there are to see.

    This is a chance for smart producers to sell a family package e.g., “one adult tix free for every two kids purchased (or vice versa)” or “Family pack admits two adults and two kids for $250” and build the theatergoing audience.

    The death knell of Broadway continues to rumored, but so long as there are family friedly shows to see, parents will bring their kids to see them. We know from the League’s Kid’s Advisory Board that most kids see their first Broadway show when some adult brings them to one. Were I producing one of the family friendly shows, I’d keep the box office open after the bows and offer discounted tix to my second show when sold the same day the patron sees my first show. Or sell a tix that provides admittance to both shows in the same weekend/day. (Think Disney Park Hopper, Broadway style!)

  • Esther says:

    One of the great things about Peter and the Starcatcher was seeing so many kids in the audience. I sat next to a young boy who was probably about 10. He told me he’d read the book and he was clearly enthralled throughout the play. Now I wish I’d thought to ask him if it was his first Broadway show!

  • David says:

    I just got back from London and saw Matilda while I was there. WOW! What an amazing show. But one that, I fear, will need to reach beyond the kiddie market to fare well with an American audience even before its thrown into the ring with all that kiddie competition. I really hope that it finds an audience in the teen and college crowd (those who can pay for their own ticket and may be nostalgic for their fleeting childhood) that can sustain it. It’s a really beautiful, fun and deserving show.

  • Damian Bazadona says:

    I think we are about to see a very exciting and telling moment for Broadway. Our attendance has remained pretty much statistically flat over the last ten years. I think the show titles coming in this new season are going to open up Broadway to a whole new range of audiences. There is no evidence I’ve seen that say’s we are even close to a saturation point for great, live, family-friendly entertainment.

    All of these shows referenced (both currently running and coming) have very smart, seasoned producing teams along side universal titles that people of all ages can connect to.

    Personally, I see this as a recipe for the single biggest uptick in business for both New York and the touring market that we have seen in quite some time. It will also likely be the single biggest uptick in new audiences as well which is a great thing for all of us.

    Maybe this can be a topic at our next Tedx. 🙂 Keep up the great work.

  • A.J. says:

    In response to Broadway Mouth’s comment… didn’t Tarzan, Little Mermaid, Shrek get mixed reviews, or they didn’t get the reception that Lion King or Newsies received. That, and the fact that not all Disney animated musicals need to be adapted for the stage or Disney should be more selective their screen to stage shows. If Disney continues to adapt animated movies then they should be developed with the right innovative creative team

    I would like to see some diversity on Broadway if there is going to be a glut of family themed shows because the thing that all three musicals have in common is that they have a young girl in the lead/traditionally cast with a Caucasian actress.

    How about bringing the production of the Debbie Allen helmed Twist (which played the Pasadena Playhouse and Alliance Theater) to Broadway, because at least it has a male child (of color) in the lead and the show is multiracially cast. Debbie Allen’s direction and choreography is a beast!

    While we’re at it, how about bringing Debbie Allen’s production of Pollyanna which aired to TV many years ago to the Broadway for a limited run during the Holidays like the musical versions of Elf or A Christmas Story. Granted Polly aired on TV when Black themed shows weren’t banished from network TV to the hinterlands of basic cable. Polly was such a hit for NBC that they aired a sequel also directed by Debbie Allen and starring her sister Phylicia and Keshia Pulliam from Cosby,…

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Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

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