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.

If you’re environmentally concious, this post may make you puke.

http://www.theproducersperspective.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/my_weblog/6a00e54ef2e21b8833010536b4ab42970b.jpgTake a look at this picture I snapped over at New World Stages today.  In that mongo bin are unused Playbills from only 2 shows that closed last weekend.  And they were Off-Broadway shows, so their houses were small.  Imagine the size of the bins at the Shubert!

I wrote about the other environment eater, the “stuffer”, a few months ago, but as far as paper is concerned, nothing compares to the Playbill problem.

And closing shows are only one small part of the issue.  Unused Playbills are tossed frequently on running shows, since the Playbills are updated every week because of the amount of cast and staff changes, etc. (The New World playbills were recycled, FYI, and I assume the other theaters do the same).  It’s hard to gauge inventory requirements, so over-supplying becomes a necessity to make sure the Producers are happy, because we can’t not have a program for a customer (It’s actually an AEA requirement).

You know what would really make me happy?  Saving trees and saving bucks (Producers pay for Playbill, even though we have no choice but to use them.  It’s in our theater agreements.  We couldn’t make our own program and sell our own advertising even if we wanted to. Yet another possible revenue stream stripped away . . . after all, it is our customers in those seats, reading that Playbill, isn’t it?)

Playbill and the League are on the case, so look for some changes in the next 12 months.  What could they be?  Let’s give them some ideas.  Here are a few of mine:

  • Could we allow customers to leave their Playbills for the next patron (we could put a sleeve on the back of the seat in front of the customer, and the Playbill could be like an airline magazine.  Take it if you want, leave it if you don’t.)
  • Could we charge $1 for the Playbills and use the money to plant trees to offset the paper we’re burning through (in the same way that trucking companies like Clark Transfer dedicate monies to offsetting carbon emissions)
  • What about removing the casting information from the Playbills altogether so they don’t have to be reprinted as often, and using new inserts each week or each day (London doesn’t even have Playbills).
  • Issue one Playbill for every two people or have the ushers add “share your playbills” messages to their “be seated” speeches.

I bet you’ve got even better ideas.  Let’s hear ’em.

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