Older audiences ain’t so old anymore.

Broadway Older Audience“Rock Musicals aren’t for an older audience.”

That’s what I heard from a few folks before our “grey haired matinees” of Gettin’ The Band Back Together at George Street. 

Sure, I was a little nervous as well . . . how would a seventy-something take to the tunes?  And the general “rock and roll” vibe?

And then I started to think about it.

A 75-year-old woman was born in . . . 1938.

So, that woman was sixteen in . . . 1954.

It just so happens that many folks say that the very first rock and roll record was “Rock Around the Clock,” which was released in 1954, the same year as “Earth Angel” and the Elvis cover, “That’s All Right, Mama.”

That’s right, that 75-year-old woman sitting in your audience . . . may just be more rock and roll than you!  She actually may feel more emotion, and more passion, for that driving beat, that electric guitar, because she was there at the birth of the sound.  She was screaming when Elvis shook those hips.  She was throwing undergarments on stage at The Beatles.

So don’t be scared that you won’t capture the imagination of an older audience with your rock musical.  I know we had them going nuts for us at George Street.

Older audiences may have grey hair, but if you look closer, you’ll see their roots are pure rock and roll.

Now if you’re working on a rap musical?  Well, you might want to wait a little bit longer before inviting the old folks home.

 

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Comments
  • jery says:

    This makes perfect sense and the picture is perfect!

  • Donald says:

    This is absolutely true! I have an aunt in her mid 70’s whose favorite musicians are Neil Young and Neil Diamond. Her favorite Broadway show of all-time is Jesus Christ Superstar. She would have been in her late 20’s or early 30’s when she first encountered it.

  • Nancy says:

    This 71 year old says You said a mouthful, Ken and it’s all true !!

  • Sue says:

    Ken, your age-ism continues to appall me. Please consider letting it go. Maybe what’s really happening is that you ain’t so young any more! Welcome to the club.

  • Janis says:

    Producing rock and roll musicals to attract people in their seventies (and under) seems a better method of filling seats than the recent trend of theaters trying to attract younger audiences with “updated” versions the great shows dumbed down with insensitive writing and frenetic performances, all to attract a younger audience with supposedly shorter attention spans.

    I am always disappointed by “updated” shows in which the beat of the show had been accelerated to the point of losing the poetry, and themes have been force fed to what they hoped would be an audience too young to perceive it otherwise.

    At the “updated” shows I have attended, there were plenty of empty seats and an excess of gray hair, but the youngest there seemed to be at least fifty. Instead of attracting younger audiences, the shows seemed to only turn away the audience they had, the people who had seen the shows before and returned for more of the magic only to be disappointed to discover that it had been stripped away to attract a younger audience that didn’t care enough to buy a ticket.

    We need new shows, not “updated” and dumbed down old shows.

  • Paula says:

    Ken,
    You are absolutely right, and people could
    sing or hum the music. “You hit the nail on the
    head.” Don’t we have a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
    I belong in that category, and I support your
    viewpoint. I’ve seen Rock of Ages 4 times and
    countless other shows. Rock on!

  • Alan L says:

    Ken, Count me as one of those “grey-haired oldies” or as they call us “baby-boomers”.
    I believe that a show can attract both the old and the young if the show has a viable message that reaches into the heart and soul of all generations.
    I personally listen to many genre of music and I am always amazed when I go to a concert of a “classic” rock band to see so many youngsters singing along to the songs of the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. It does this old heart good to know that my generation has made a least a small impression on those who will follow in our footsteps!

    I really need to get back to work on my own musical….

  • Roy O'Neil says:

    Hey Ken,

    How many folks under 35 were in your audience?

  • Zanne Hall says:

    When I go to the theatre, most of the heads in the audience are grey. People are living longer, healthier & have the money (saved) to spend. There needs to be more theatre education (field trips & the like) in our schools to grow future audiences but at the same time the seniors shouldn’t be shortchanged by theatrical “ageism.”

  • I read all your “stuff” avidly but this made me smile a big one– with that funny pic of the “old ” lady not so old!!

  • A.J. says:

    Well it’s funny that you mentioned rap musicals because I’m sure you’ve heard about the plans to produce a Broadway musical using the songs of Tupac Shakur within the next year so. Since the genesis of rap music dates back to the late 70s, that audience would be in their late 40s-early mid 50s and that’s an audience (African Americans and Latinos and others) who are the same ones that have made shows like John Legiuzamos one man shows must see events with an expendable income.

    • A.J. says:

      I meant to say, that Black/Latino audiences have made John Leguizamos shows must see events and they also have expendable incomes and spend big money on leisure activities.

  • Angel Mark says:

    Wow, this was actually an eye-opener. This absolutely just makes sense…

  • I do not have the slightest idea

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Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

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