Summer Lovin’, Had Me A Show!

Like a fashion blogger who noticed something the hipsters have been wearing on the streets of Williamsburg, I think I’ve spotted a trend.

Most tours these days last about a year.  And when I say a year, I mean a school year . . . about 30 weeks or so, booked from September to May. (Most presenting houses across the country take the summer off . . . because so do their patrons.)  While tours can and should make money within that 30 week period (or they shouldn’t go out in the first place), the real money is made if the tour makes it to a second year.  It’s getting more and more rare, but when it happens, it’s super sweet.

The problem with making it to a second year, is that it is as expensive as something the hipsters have been wearing to remount a tour after taking that summer off.  You gotta store the set, you usually lose a bunch of cast members (hello rehearsals), you gotta keep renting the gear (or return it and then pay to have it repackaged), and so on.  All while making no money.

But what if there was a place where you could run for a few weeks in the summer as you tread water waiting to go back out on the road?  What if that place was filled with tourists?  What if it didn’t matter if you made lots of money – you’d be happy just to break even, because it allowed you to keep your cast together and pay your bills?

Well, what if that place was the Broad-way?!

National Tours playing Broadway houses was pretty commonplace back in the day.  Empty NY theaters were terrific way stations for shows waiting for their second year.  These short runs helped bridge the gap between year one and year two, and made a lot of shows more economically viable.

And then they stopped.  Broadway got more expensive, and it became too risky.

But something is shifting . . .

Last summer, Hair grew back on Broadway at the empty St. James.  And this year, Fela! stomped in for a summer run in the midst of their World Tour.  And the St. James is home once again to a tour making its way around the world . . . Bring It On (which will be here longer than just the summer).

So, it looks like what was old might be new again, as these shows look to NY runs for economic reasons, as well as to remind the taste-maker audiences in NY (and the critics) that they are alive and kicking.

I bet you’re going to see more of this when the weather gets warmer every year.

You know what else is part of this trend?

All of the shows mentioned above have been in Jujamcyn theaters.

Coincidence?  I think not.

Smart?  I think so.


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  • Lisa V. says:

    Bring it On went on a national tour before it ever hit Broadway. Do you think that will become more common as we get more and more musicals with built-in brand recognition?

  • A Contrarian says:

    It makes sense. And it’s good for “The Theatre” as well as for theater owners. But it only works if the original production has closed, but I suppose that’s usually the case.

    Why hasn’t it been done more often in recent years? Why should SO many houses be dark for the summer months? Were there a lot of summertime flops? I remember that “Mame” revival that closed quickly after touring for a while.

  • Tracy Jordan says:

    Broadway is not the only option; of course our organization is called Dallas SUMMER Musicals and we have for 72 years presented a summer season. However, Las Vegas is also an option- as Liaison for LV, I sat on the AEA committee that developed the Casino Contract and the years since have seen several long runs of Broadway shows including Phantom, Mamma Mia, Chicago, Avenue Q, Lion King
    and The Producers.

  • A Contrarian says:

    Hal Prince brought the tour of West Side Story back for a Broadway run at “reduced” prices. Perhaps the $100/ticket audience has been exhausted but what about the $50/ticket audience? Seems like this would fall into the “audience development” discussion. Has anything like WSS been done since? (I know about returns, I’m asking specifically about prices).

  • A Contrarian says:

    Meant to add another thought: Why don’t shows move around anymore? Why not start at the Majestic, move to the Royale, and end up at the Golden?

  • Cathie says:

    I hope that the “Producers” of Godspell keep this in mind when they tour. So many people have told me that they are sorry that they missed the 2011 – 2012 B’way run, and would definitely hit it if it came back for the summer!

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