4 Things that Broadway and The Royal Wedding have in common.

Oh the royals, the royals, everybody is talking about the royals.  Regardless of how stained with scandal the crown has been over the past decade, the wedding of Prince William and the future Princess Kate is still one of the most anticipated events of the last twenty years.  Since Billy sprouted whiskers, everyone has been wondering when he’d take a bride.

And the time has finally come.

As I’ve been watching the preparations, I couldn’t help but notice how the big day and Broadway have a blimey lot in common!

Here are four similarities:

1.  Everyone loves an underdog.

Kate’s a modern day Cinderella; a commoner plucked from obscurity who will soon wear a crown.  It’s the fantasy of just about every girl in the world (or at least the ones in my office), which is why it makes for such a wonderful story.  Broadway loves when the hard-working, unheard-of hero gets his or her due, whether that’s Annie or Jean Valjean or the kids on the Chorus Line.  Why?  Because if it can happen to them, maybe, just maybe, it can happen to us, too.  (The ladies in my office have already turned their sights to Harry.)

2. Everyone loves a spectacle.

The dress, the church, the flowers . . . or in other words . . . the costumes, the sets, the props!  Theatergoers and wedding guests alike have got a thing for the biggest and most beautiful.  As Spider-Man has proven, if you build it BIG, they will come.

3.  Not everyone can get in.

It’s got limited seating and, therefore, is exclusive, which makes it that much more exciting.  Just tonight I walked by the Book of Mormon and watched as 50 people in the cancellation line got turned away.  Just watching them wait . . . made me want to see it again.

4.  Everyone will want a t-shirt.

People like to commemorate memorable experiences, whether it’s a show or a wedding, with . . . stuff.  It reminds them of the fun they had, and it shows off that fun to their friends.  Take a look at some of the . . . stuff . . . you can get to celebrate the wedding.  Now take a look at some of the stuff you can get to celebrate Wicked.

Historical events are theatrical realism. What draws people to them is the same thing that draws people to the theater.  We’d do well to create shows that have some of the same elements as these unforgettable moments in our history.

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My Top 5 Moments from Last Night’s Tony Telecast

Just like last year, here are five of my favorite things from last night’s Tony telecast.

1.  Sometimes the best speech is none at all.

Marian Seldes shocked (and scared) the crowd in the most classy way possible, by not saying one word after walking on stage to accept her Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement.  It was a little odd, and a little awesome, all rolled into one legend.

2.  Neil Patrick who?

Sean Hayes tore up the stage as Annie, Spiderman, and as a straight guy making Kristin Chenoweth weak in the knees with that tongue-down of an opener. He was as good of a host as we could have asked for.  You’ve been raked through the ridiculous mud over the past couple of months, Sean.  But your gracious talents have made you even sexier to all sexes because of it.

3.  The straight play mashup.

You gotta give the Tonys some credit.  Every year they try a new way to include the straight plays in the telecast.  This year, it was a pair of starry performers from each play describing the plot to the audience (and if those descriptions were getting awards, then Next Fall would have won hands down), as well as remix mashup of straight play b-roll from all of the plays on Broadway this season.  If you didn’t see it, imagine a 17-year-old club kid who also loves straight plays making a three minute tribute to post to his YouTube account.  Was it successful?  I don’t know, but the effort deserves some applause.

4.  Watching a Tony Award audience try to clap in rhythm to Green Day.

Having Green Day on the show was like striking Radio City with a lightning bolt. Has there ever been that much pyro on a Tony Awards telecast?  It was awesome, and hopefully it got the younger crowds at home to tune in.  The older crowd that was in the audience at RCMH however, seemed to have a little trouble finding their punk-groove (did you see Michael Douglas trying to get into it with that head bob?).  The issue of this audience not naturally being in tune with this type of music was made much more obvious later, when American Idiot failed to win the Tony.  But thank you Green Day for bringing your passion and your popularity to our stage.

5.  The Tony for good sports goes to . . 

Bebe and Nathan.  No last names required.  They didn’t need to co-present. They didn’t need to poke fun at themselves.  They didn’t even need to be anywhere near the building.  But they did it all, and once again proved why they are the stars that they are.  This business is going to take us all on a ride.  You’ll be up one second, and down the next.  You’ll have your face on a billboard, and then you’ll be fighting for a bio in a program.  But maintaining a level head about it all is what makes people fall even more in love with what we do.

Other fave moments from the show included the LED wall (less sets, less expenses), Catherine Zeta’s acceptance speech, the Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele Glee-fest, and Daniel Radcliffe presenting with the 2-foot-taller Katie Holmes.

Overall, I’m giving the telecast a B+.  An A- would have been easy, if it weren’t for the many sound f-ups.  I mean, you found a way to bleep out “MIND F***” from American Idiot‘s performance, but you can’t get the mic to work for others?

What were your favorite moments from this year’s Tony Awards?

And stay tuned for the announcement of our Producer’s Perspective Tony Pool winner tomorrow!  Someone is getting an iPad!

10 Things I learned about London

About a year ago, I blogged about three of the biggest differences I noticed about the London theater experience. Since I was there for a bit more time this visit, I was able to notice a few more things about the London theater experience that I thought were worth sharing.

So here they are, in no bloomin’ order!
1.  STANDING OVATIONS ARE HARDER TO COME BY.
It’s not as easy getting a British audience to their feet (If you’re curious, the quickest and biggest ovation I saw was for Priscilla).
2.  OLIVER IS THE UK ANNIE.
We may love Oliver here, but they LOVE IT, YEAH, YEAH, YEAH over there. You know how the Bald Eagle is the National Bird of the US?  Oliver is the National Musical of the UK.  (I also heard recently that the authors of Les Miz were inspired to write their epic after seeing Oliver.  Apparently, they wanted to write a French National Musical.)
3.  YOU CAN EAT AND DRINK ANYTHING IN THE THEATERS.
Take anything to your seat: ice cream, fancy pink drinks (Priscilla, again), even Coke brought in from outside (that was me).  Their theaters are older but they’re happy to clean up after you if it makes you happy.
4.  CASUAL SHAKESPEARE IS MORE FUN.
In this country, Shakespeare seems to equal stuffy.  At The Globe, it was fun, and probably more authentic.

Monitor

5.  SOMETIMES THE BRITS ARE SMARTER THAN WE ARE.
Look at this pic.  It looks like a standard cast board that you’d see in any theater, right?  Wrong.  It’s actually a video cast board. In several theaters, the cast board and the understudy boards are on video monitors. More aesthetically pleasing, easier to edit, and cheaper in the long run.  Why don’t all of our theaters have these?  I hate when we get beat.
6.  BLOOMBERG LOVES LONDON.
Our mayor failed to get London’s idea of congestion pricing passed, but he did manage to shut off traffic in Times Square.  Guess what other square doesn’t have traffic?  Leceister Square.  I wonder what Bloomie will bring from Britain next?  Multiple TKTS booths, I hope.
7.  YOU CAN BUY ADVANCE DISCOUNT TICKETS AT TKTS.
Yep, they take the money anyway they can get it in the UK. If you’re willing to offer a discount to your show for a future date, the TKTS booth will sell it for you.
Bar
8.  THE THEATERS ARE BIG.
Many of the larger theaters have room for large bar areas, where folks can sit, have a drink and socialize before their show.  It makes going to the theater more of an experience, to say the least.  At all of the shows I went to, the theaters let people in the building (but not to their seats), 1 hour before the show began.  I bet their bar revenues are bigger than ours.
9.  PRODUCERS OWN THEATERS AND ARE CELEBS.

Photo

Two of the largest theater owners in London are Cameron Macintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber, and you can feel their presence in their buildings.  And it helps that people actually know who they are (helped, no doubt, by their reality TV shows).  I also got a sense of a real attempt at keeping audience members within the theater chain.  Look at this picture of a wall of posters of shows. It was taken from inside the box office at, yes, Priscilla again, promoting all the shows playing at the Really Useful Group theaters.
10.  YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT TIME YOUR SHOW IS GOING TO START.
2 PM, 5 PM, 3 PM, 7:30, 8 PM, etc.  It’s confusing and curious.
And here’s a bonus 11th thing I learned this trip . . .
11.  YOU KNOW WHAT?  I LIKE LONDON.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been there a few times in the past few years, so I’m more comfortable finding my way around now. Maybe it’s the fact that they speak English, so I don’t feel like a tool because I’m uni-lingual.
Or maybe I like London because there just seems to be theater on every bloomin’ corner.

Airlines have change fees. Should we?

Somehow, I got to the Madrid airport a lot earlier than I expected to. “Just in time to take the earlier flight back to Newark,” said Ms. “You’re Lucky I Speak English” Continental Airlines employee.

Just in time, that is, if I was willing to pay the $50 change fee.

It wasn’t a tough choice.  Sit in the airport for 3 extra hours or pay $50 to get to my office 3 hours faster.  Since I consider my in-office hourly rate to be higher than $16.67/hour, I forked it over.

And Ms. Continental smiled so sweetly as she violently ran my credit card and racked up another $50 in sales for the day.  And for what?  For printing out a new ticket?  For the 2 minutes it took for her to switch my reservation?  The earlier flight wasn’t sold out, so moving me around wasn’t costing them anything.  In fact, since I was moving to an earlier flight, that gave them another seat to sell on a later flight, and gave them more time to sell it!  They got more cash and more profit potential!

Airlines have very strict no refund/no exchange policies, just like we do, but they’ve figured out how to use it to their advantage. (BTW, here’s a tip for you or your box office managers:  when customers do complain about not being able to get tickets refunded because their plans change, etc., my sales team reminds them that buying theater tickets is a lot like buying airline tickets, or cruise ship tickets, or any vacation ticket.  They tend to calm down a bit when they realize we’re not the only industry that doesn’t give cash back.)

So if airlines do it . . . should we?

If your cat had to be rushed to the VET because she ate your Annie action figure, and you’d rather see Shrek next week instead of ‘tomorrow’, would you pay $5/ticket to switch ’em?  I bet you would.

In fact . . . would you be more inclined to purchase tickets in advance to a show if you knew you could make a switch later on for a small fee?

I know I often buy airline tickets weeks in advance to lock in a deal, knowing that if my plans change, I’ll pay the fee and move the tickets as I need.
Would theater patrons do the same?

Of course the problem here is seat locations, and sold-out shows.  This isn’t a service everyone could offer, but it seems it could be designed in a way that could do two things:

  • Make the patron happy
  • Make the production more money

And shouldn’t those be the goals of every one of our initiatives?

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