Fun on a Friday: Obama’s directing a musical.

What’s more difficult . . . directing a musical?  Or being the President of the United States?

Leave it to The Onion to put Barack Obama in the Director’s chair of a new production of Guys & Dolls.

(And does this mean Jack O’Brien gets a shot at the oval office?)

Happy weekend, all!

 

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I’m a celebrity, so see this show.

A few weeks ago, our President urged citizens to buy cars.  American cars.

And guess what?

The day after the speech, Chrysler sold more cars.

The endorsement is an age-old advertising trick that takes advantage of the Cialdini-styled social proof in all of us.  Put a well respected politician, athlete, or doctor, etc. right next to a product, and let the influence take over.  Tiger Woods appears in ads for Accenture.  Jared, the miracle dieter, sold Subway sandwiches.  And Bob Dole pitched for Viagra.

It works.  Don’t you want to be like Mike?  Just wear these sneakers!  Want skin like Scarlett’s?  Use this make-up.

Want to #$@ like Bob Dole?  (Ok, I just threw up in my mouth.)

If endorsements work so well, why haven’t we seen more of them in the theater?

Could an email blast from Stephen Sondheim help sell a struggling new show by an up and coming composer?  Could a TV commercial with Kristin Chenoweth sell a musical comedy?

What about Nathan Lane and Faith Prince selling the new Guys and Dolls revival?

Would the expense of the endorsement be worth it?  Could we afford it?

There’s only one way to find out.  And it wouldn’t even have to be the President for me to pay for it.

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What’s the difference between Best Musical and Best Revival of a Musical?

This question came in over the weekend, after a reader noticed my tweet about going to see the new Broadway revival of West Side Story.

Obviously, the person who asked knew the basic difference between the two awards categories, but she was more interested in how revivals were judged.

It’s a great question – considering that shows like West Side or Hair or Guys and Dolls may have been seen countless times by the voters of The Tonys, Drama Desks, Outer Critics, etc.  These shows have been on Broadway, on tour, in dinner theaters, in high schools, on cruise ships, etc.  Many of the voters have probably performed in these shows at one point in their life!  (When I was working on the Rosie O’Donnell revival of Grease, I mentioned to Author and Greased-Lightning Zillionaire Jim Jacobs, that I once played Kenickie in summer stock. His response?  “Ken, I don’t think I’ve met anyone who hasn’t done Grease.”)

With such familiarity and such an emotional (or lack thereof) connection, how do voters (and reviewers, for that matter) distinguish one revival from another?

This question reminded me of the end of the season awards banquets my high school baseball team used to have.  Every year when the season was through, we got together in the high school cafeteria. After some bad pasta and some bad speeches, the coaches gave away two awards:

Most Valuable Player . . . And Most Improved Player.

And that’s what a great revival is to me; the most improved.  It’s a take on the material that makes it seem even better or more relevant now than it ever was.

The trouble is that it takes a lot of sweat to be an MIP, in baseball and on Broadway.

And if you’re not ready to go “sweatin’ with the oldies,”well, then stay away from producing revivals.

Because, without an MIP mentality, you’ll just end up being another one of the millions of Kenickies out there.

 

Got an idea for a show? Here’s the first thing you should do.

Buy the domain name.

That’s right . . . I don’t care whether it’s a new play you’ve written or an old play that you want to revive.  Before you breathe a word of it to anybody, go to a site like www.GoDaddy.com and snatch up the domain for less than the cost of an extra value meal . . . and sit on it.

Maybe the show won’t happen, or maybe it’ll take five years, but I guarantee you the cost of the domain today will be less than the cost of the domain tomorrow.

Because if you don’t grab it, someone else will.

There’s a bunch of very savvy businessmen and women out there who have made a bunch o’ bucks buying and trading domains like they were derivatives, and benefiting Broadway from producers who fail to buy up their rightful domains before their new musical or new play leaks to the press.  I’m sure these ‘cybersquatters’ read Playbill.com more religiously than I do, just waiting for the announcement of a new reading or the rights of a project being sold (go on . . . visit www.InTheHeightsMovie.com . . . do you think that’s Universal Pictures sitting on that domain)?

The truth of the matter is . . . it may be illegal for these cybersquatters to sit on something that is rightfully yours.  The infamous “Simpson Movie Suit” between Fox and a squatter who bought TheSimpsonsMovie.com set a precedent that individuals having no legitimate business interest in the domain name could not keep it from those that did.

The problem with the law?  It moves very slowly.

So here’s what usually happens:

  • Producer decides too late that they want a domain.
  • Producer finds it’s already gone.
  • Producer contacts squatter to try and obtain it.
  • Squatter wants cash.
  • Producer’s show opens in a few months and has no time (or money) for a lawyer to take the case to the World Intellectual Property Organization, so Producer does one of two things: 
    • Producer pays (anywhere from $100 – $1,000 and some tickets)
    • Producer chooses inferior domain and the “right” domain stays in possession of someone else.  And that squatter is not happy.  And they decided to, oh, I don’t know, point the site to the negative NY Times review of the show.  Check out www.GuysAndDollsOnBroadway.com.

Either way you pay . . . in cash or by the loss in marketing value from not having the prime domain.  Web addresses are exactly like street addresses.  And different streets have different values.  Your show is like your home. I don’t care how beautiful it is . . . you also want it on the right street in the right neighborhood, don’t you?  That means it needs the right domain.

So go get your domain.  Frankly, I’ll even let you stop reading this blog right now to go buy it.  Go. I’ll be here when you get back.

. . .

Good, feel better?

Now what do you do if you find out it’s already gone?

Look for alternatives, or start the process of trying to get it back.  If you’ve got time and a lawyer on your show on retainer already, make that lawyer work to get it back.

If you don’t, and you simply must, must, must, have that domain like it’s a new kidney and you don’t have any time, then try to cut a deal.  The good news is that most of the guys I know who deal in these domains are pretty reasonable (I can say that because, unfortunately the web design and marketing arm of Davenport Theatrical has had to acquire a few premium domains over the years from shows so big you wouldn’t believe).  The Squatters know that legally they may not have ground, so they’ll cut a decent deal making things easier for everyone. And remember, they’re dealing in perishable inventory. Once a show starts marketing an alternative domain like Guys and Dolls did, the other names lose value.  Sure, the squatter on the G&D domain mentioned above may feel good about sending traffic to the Times review, but that’s not making him any money.  In fact, he’s losing . . .

But remember, every time you settle, you actually encourage the squatter to repeat the process since it was a successful venture for him/her.

The simpler answer is to snatch up your name faster than you can saw w-w-w.  Cuz if you don’t, you’ll be, well, to bastardize a Loesser lyric:  “under the thumb of some little . . . squatter.”

In fact, one of my peers out there didn’t grab the domain for the show that he’s planning on bringing to Broadway in the next 2 years.

Don’t worry, Mr(s). X.  I bought it for you. 🙂

And no, no, before anyone gets any ideas . . . don’t worry.  I have no desire to sell it for a profit.  That’s not what I’m about.  I’ll be happy to hand it over.

I just didn’t want it sitting on someone else’s servers where they could ransom it for cash.

Because God knows, Broadway shows don’t need yet another unnecessary expense line on their budgets.

Oh, and while you’re buying your show’s domain, buy your actual name at the same time.

Otherwise, this could happen to you.

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