How is Tony Voter turnout?

During my years an Assistant Company Manager on shows like Ragtime, managing Tony Voters was my job.
It’s a pretty stress-filled process, as you can imagine.  You have to reserve hundreds of great seats with the box office (another reason it’s hard to get a good seat to a show), send out invitations, take the orders when the voters call/fax/email, change the orders when the voters call/fax/email again, place the orders, make sure certain voters aren’t sitting next to certain voters, etc.
And you have to answer the calls from the Producers who want to know how it’s going.  My former boss, the recently convicted Garth Drabinsky, used to call me daily. I’d have to give him the # of orders that I took that day, the total voter turnout, and the “mood” of the voters as well.
Obsessive?  Yes.  Justified.  You bet.  (Garth thought that if he could get more people to see Ragtime, he could defeat the hype and spectacle of The Lion King, playing across the street.)
There are only 805 Tony Voters out there, and despite popular belief, our voter turnout is not like the turnout in Malta.  I remember working on my first show and being shocked at the number of voters that failed to exercise their right to vote (never mind get free tickets).
So, I took an unofficial “back-alley” poll of a few of the Tony nominated shows from this past season.  The turnout for the shows that I polled ranged from as low as about 35% to as high as about 80%.  And yes, as you can imagine, the shows with the higher turnout did better on the big day.  Average for all of them in my poll?  About 60%.
60% of 805 is only 483 voters.
Garth was right to obsess about the turnout.  483 bodies casting votes isn’t a lot, when you thing about it. You add another 75 to that number, and you can have a much different result.
I guess that’s why Garth made me call all of the voters that hadn’t made a reservation 4 weeks after the invitations were out.
High turnout is essential for every show (especially the underdogs), but it’s also essential for our industry (and for our country).  Individual shows should do everything they can to encourage actual turnout (as opposed to Iran-type turnout), as should The League.
And maybe we should consider taking away voting rights for those that haven’t voted in several years.
It shouldn’t be a luxury. It should be a duty.

Advice from an Expert: Vol. IX. A Damn Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

I got a bunch o’ emails after my blog about my experience in the UK a few weeks ago.  One of them was from an actual expat American living and working in London.  Since he has such a unique perspective on what and why things are different in the land of fish and chips, I thought we might all learn from letting him have a post.  So here’s Jason Ferguson . . .

– – – – –

There is so much to say about the
differences in British and American theatre (such as how to spell theater!), but
for my first topic I will respond to a posting Ken did on the popularity of
jukebox musicals in the UK. His opinion was that jukebox musicals thrive in the
West End because of the influx of international tourists that speak different
languages coming from Europe (I should say ‘continental Europe’ but the Brits
don’t consider themselves European). I agree with Ken that this is an important
element to British theatre and the international language of pop music or
anything non-verbal (see Stomp) keeps shows running here that would die a
fast death in New York at the hand of Brantley and company. But there is another
factor less talked about and that I think it takes an American living here to
notice…PANTO!

I admit that on my arrival to London almost three years
ago I picked up a copy of the local trade rag, The Stage, and noticed article
after article about pantomimes. Castings, backstage profiles, interviews with
elder panto stars, and an entire feedback page filled with letters about this
strange theatrical art form. According to Wikipedia, ‘pantomime’ is:

a
musical-comedy theatrical production traditionally found in Great Britain,
Canada, Jamaica, Australia, South Africa, America, Japan, Ireland, Gibraltar and
Malta, and is usually performed during the Christmas and New Year
season.

I don’t know how America made that list; I grew up attending
theatre regularly in Florida, with the occassional NYC family trip, and I never
came across a panto! I encourage you to read the full Wikipedia article to fully
research this phenomenon. The closest you have come to a panto is probably going
with your Aunt Mavis to see Peter Pan. Or some could argue that Into
the Woods
is as much a play on pantomime as it is on children’s literature
(I have heard a couple Brits claim the show didn’t work well here because they
played it too ‘panto-like’).

In short, modern British pantomimes are
generally large expensive shows that play over the Christmas season in most
producing theatres and touring venues. They are usually titles like Peter
Pan, Dick Whittington, Snow White, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk
, etc.
The scripts can change from year-to-year, but usually include standard gimmicks.
For example, every time the villain walks out (and you won’t miss him as he will
be wearing black or some other villain-like clothing) the kids in the audience
will hiss. That’s right…hiss. Like when your more annoying nephew tries to act
like a snake to scare you. Another key element to panto are the celebrity
guests. Your average panto will feature between 3-6 celebrities in just that one
show. I don’t want to offend anyone that I know who perform in pantos, but let’s
just say the level of celebrity is not Jude Law. The big deal last year is that
Steve Guttenberg came over to perform in Cinderella at a theatre in
Bromley, England.

So back to my point. Panto is huge in the UK. Almost
everyone has been to see a panto when they were a child. It is a Christmas
tradition. In America we have A Christmas Carol in various forms, but it
doesn’t come close to the holiday theatrical monopoly that panto holds over the
public. But while many on the snootier side of the theatre industry will roll
their eyes at the mention of panto, it is an important part of the theatrical
tradition here. It has brought children into the theatre in mass and, unlike in
America, if you were to stop the average person on the street in Ipswich (think
Peoria) and ask if they have been to the theatre in the last two years, the
chances are probably good they have. Now you don’t find that in
America!

In conclusion, pantomimes have a large effect on UK theatre
audiences and one of those is that very British thing called ‘class’. By opening
theatre up to everyone at an early age and to people of all socio-economic
backgrounds, the UK theatre is often able to attract a more populist audience to
shows. The discussion over how class background effects theatre is for a whole
other posting, but PC or not these are the facts. The Royal Court may always
fight hard to expose working and lower middle class audiences to the plays of
Wallace Shawn, but the producers of Dirty Dancing seem to have had a much
easier time. In the UK at least.

 

Jason Ferguson is a theatre general manager/tour booker/producer in London. He formerly worked for the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Manny Azenberg and Clear Channel before moving to London where he has been a consultant for general manager Arden Entertainment (Dirty Dancing, Old Vic’s Tunnel 228) and is currently working as an independent tour booker and producer through his company Jason Ferguson Ltd.

You can contact Jason at jason@fergusonlive.com.

Broadway Grosses w/e 6/28/09




New Page 1

Show Name GrossGross TotalAttn %Cap AvgPaidAdm
9 TO 5 $783,435 9,929 77.04% $78.90
ACCENT ON YOUTH $163,039 4,477 86.10% $36.42
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY $414,600 7,029 89.75% $58.98
AVENUE Q $335,712 5,366 84.27% $62.56
BILLY ELLIOT: THE MUSICAL $1,424,911 11,368 100.00% $125.34
BLITHE SPIRIT $597,662 8,026 67.83% $74.47
CHICAGO $619,808 7,604 88.01% $81.51
GOD OF CARNAGE $972,967 8,799 102.03% $110.58
HAIR $1,131,458 11,385 100.79% $99.38
IN THE HEIGHTS $866,769 9,939 91.02% $87.21
IRENA’S VOW $337,100 6,622 87.41% $50.91
JERSEY BOYS $1,151,195 9,896 101.23% $116.33
MAMMA MIA! $988,427 11,610 96.88% $85.14
MARY POPPINS $845,067 11,426 79.48% $73.96
MARY STUART $313,219 5,080 55.22% $61.66
NEXT TO NORMAL $480,535 6,039 97.78% $79.57
ROCK OF AGES $655,962 7,882 98.82% $83.22
SHREK THE MUSICAL $957,694 12,074 87.09% $79.32
SOUTH PACIFIC $888,140 8,255 99.12% $107.59
THE 39 STEPS $198,535 3,768 79.97% $52.69
THE LION KING $1,371,436 12,656 95.65% $108.36
THE LITTLE MERMAID $863,745 11,044 90.88% $78.21
THE NORMAN CONQUESTS $315,992 5,053 80.98% $62.54
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $935,392 12,284 95.08% $76.15
THE PHILANTHROPIST $296,284 5,736 96.89% $51.65
WAITING FOR GODOT $563,210 8,256 102.79% $68.22
WEST SIDE STORY $1,382,611 13,741 101.22% $100.62
WICKED $1,606,120 14,472 100.00% $110.98
Totals $21,461,020 $249,816 90.47% $80.80


An article about Social Media.

In case you didn’t get my tweet last week, here’s a link to an article I was asked to write for Mashable about Broadway and social media.

Special thanks to Mashable for having me. It’s always an honor to be asked to be a part of a community that is outside of our little theater world bubble.  Broadway is such an insular industry, but we’ve got more in common with other folks than we think.  And the uber-smart folks at Mash (Thanks Sharon, Adam and Pete) understand that.
Speaking of social media, Typepad, my blog host, has changed its setup in the last few weeks, which could use some ‘plaining:
If you want to share any of my blogs on social media (facebook, twitter, technorati, et. al), click on that blue “share” link with the green and white less-than sign next to it at the bottom of any of my posts.  A box will pop up with all of the social media options and you can share away (and thanks in advance for that).
And another nod of thanks to the Mashers.

Was there ever a more theatrical performer?

From his moonwalkin‘ tipping point to his mini-musical, Thriller (soon to be a full fledged musical), to his performance in The Wiz . . . I don’t think the world has ever seen such a man as Michael.

The tragedy of his death is only overshadowed by the tragedy of the last several years of his life, when he seemed so compelled to be that performer, on and off the stage.
The words “rest in peace” were made for Michael Jackson.
Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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