Should the critics have reviewed Spiderman?

I don’t know about what happened at your home, but as soon as that first review of Spider-Man hit the ‘web’ Monday night, my phone started ringing, my twitter started tweeting, and things I didn’t even know I owned started buzzing.

It was a social media cyclone.

And unfortunately for Spider-Man, that cyclone did some serious damage.

But the big question on everyone’s tweets was not how a $65 million dollar musical got such bad reviews, but should the critics have thrown their stones now, or should they have waited?

There has always been a gentleman’s agreement in the theater that reviewers don’t come until they are invited.  And that agreement has held up over the years, except for a few instances, mostly involving high profile out-of-town productions.

But not this time.

Why?

Well, come on Spider-Man, you’ve got super-human powers.  Surely, you had to see this coming.  You’ve been in previews longer than it takes an actual spider to spin a web.  Did you expect them to wait much longer?  Especially with rumors circulating that you were never going to open, and especially since the business you were doing didn’t seem to incentivize you to open any sooner.  When you’re doing 1.2+ million, who cares if you’re open or not, right?

Well, the critics do.

And Monday, they had enough.

And I can’t blame them.

I give them a lot of credit, actually.  Instead of just a free-for-all of reviews starting to come out randomly, they obviously got together and orchestrated this release together.  It was a calculated strike (which is the kind that does the most damage).  And the reviews came the day after the show was last supposed to open, which is a logical, rational, and defensible date to use.

So, good for them.

If I was a Producer, I might not like it, but I had to expect it (and evident by the typical post-opening radio spots and other media that ran this morning, these Producers did expect it).

All that said, you know what the real question I was asking after I read the reviews?

It wasn’t how a $65 million dollar musical could get such bad reviews.

It wasn’t whether or not they should have been reviewed it or not.

It was, “Will the reviews matter?”

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PLAY “WILL IT RECOUP?”  CLICK HERE!  PLAY TODAY!  WIN A KINDLE!

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Enter to win this Sunday’s Giveaway: 2 tickets to see Pippin star Ben Vereen! Click here!

The shortest distance between advertising and a purchase is a straight line.

I heard a great radio spot for Wicked on WPLJ the other day.  It had a Valentine’s Day theme, so it was fresh and timely.  It featured a climactic and dramatic piece of music that emphasized the story.  And it left me wanting more.  It was easy to see why someone would be inclined to buy tickets after hearing it.

But where would they buy tickets?

The call-to-action at the end of the commercial was something like this:

“For tickets, visit Ticketmaster.com!”

If I was a 1980s robot, this is where I’d say, “Beep-boo-bop-bleep.  Does not compute.  Does not compute.  Beep-boo-bleep!”

Why would we send someone to Ticketmaster, a Walmart style ticketing department store, when we could send them straight to WickedTheMusical.com?  I’ll tell you why. Because Ticketmaster makes us.

Does not compute!

Here’s the problem with the flow.

– Customer hears Wicked commercial.

– Customer goes to Ticketmaster.

– Customer then sees the home page of Ticketmaster, which looks like this and promotes everything from Katy Perry to the NBA to the Circus.  In other words, it has a lot of distractions, so your risk of losing the customer increases.

But it’s not over yet.

– Customer then has to search for Wicked by typing it into the search box or clicking around.  The risk of losing the customer increases yet again, and there is room for error, frustration, and bears oh my.

– If a customer does type in Wicked, this is what the search results show . . . and it’s like a scavenger hunt to find the date and CITY that you want (because I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the show is quite the hit).  You guessed it . . . risk increases again, and your conversion rate has now dropped by a pretty healty percent, I would imagine.

Now imagine this . . .

“Buy Tickets at WickedTheMusical.com”

– Customer goes to Wicked‘s main site, and Wicked is able to get the customer more on the hook with images, music (perhaps the same as is heard in the commercial) etc., instead of risk losing that lead to any of the other events on the TM home page.  More hooked, rather than less.  Sounds good to me.

– There is a simple and easy to read Buy Tickets button on the home page.  See for yourself.

– And when the customer clicks on Broadway, for example, this is what they see . . . a straight through shot to exactly what they want.

Less clicks, less confusion and most importantly, Wicked‘s conversion rates increase . . . because you’ve gotten the customer to the cash register faster, which we know is more important than ever in the 2010s, which I’ve termed The Era of Distraction.

Why does Ticketmaster want the customer to go through their site?  Got me . . .

– They are not losing any money, because Wicked still ports the customer through to their site, so the full  service fees remain intact.

– Ditto with the data.  They still capture it all.

– The conversation rates for the advertising should increase, which should actually earn them more money.

– And, their customer’s experience is cleaner.

I guess they lose a bit of branding?  But really?  Is that worth more than the above?  I don’t think so.  And besides, isn’t it time they start realized that it’s the shows people want to see, not the ticketing sites.

The best e-commerce solutions I’ve seen are when there doesn’t seem to be e-commerce at all.  It’s . . . well . . . seamless.  We seem to be doing the opposite and actually calling attention to the fact that the customer is spending money.

Does not compute.

We’re sending people around the bend to get our product. It’s like driving a mile out of the way to get a gallon of milk, when you’ve got a store right next door that sells it for the exact same price.

And not only does this not compute, but it makes me say, “What the bleep?”

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Enter to win this Sunday’s Giveaway: 2 tickets to see Pippin star Ben Vereen! Click here!

10 Questions for a Broadway Pro. Volume 3: A Tony Award-Winning Designer

David Gallo is one of the hippest guys around, and he’s one of the most in-demand designers in town, thanks to his terrific work on a ton of shows, from Drowsy Chaperone (Tony, Tony, Tony) to Xanadu to Memphis to Thoroughly Modern Millie (where I first worked with him).

In addition to his theatrical work in town, David does a lot of stuff all over the country and all over the world, proving that great theater doesn’t have anything to do with a street address . . . it’s about the people involved.

Enjoy these 10 Questions with David Gallo!

 

1. What is your title?

Designer

2. What show/shows are you currently working on?

Right now I am in Vienna doing a new company of the show Ich war noch niemals in New York.  It is a large-scale musical based on the work of the renowned pop star Udo Jurgens.  The show originally opened to acclaim in Hamburg and the producers have decided to extend that success to the rest of the continent.

I am also thrilled to be working on some new plays such as Stickfly by the remarkable young playwright Lydia Diamond.  We produced it at the Arena Stage in DC and the next venue will be at the Huntington Theater in Boston.  It was a great return to work with my old friend Kenny Leon as director.

Added to that I recently spent time with my favorite regional theater: the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park where I was thrilled to be a part of the theatrical debut of the bestselling author Walter Mosley.  His play The Fall of Heaven is something special and the work of director Marion McClinton is worth noting as well.

3. In one sentence, describe your job.

Claw your way into the mind of the playwright and director and give them what they desire (whether they like it or not).

4. What skills are necessary for a person in your position?

Be available to all sources.  Know inspiration is everywhere  What works…works.

5. What kind of training did you go through to get to your position?

Years of working on Theatre Row.  The theaters on West 42nd Street were my finishing school.  I was pleased to spend time working for many of the companies that produced there.

6. What was your first job in theater?

I made masks for a production of Pippin.  That was a great start.

7. Why do you think theater is important?

It just is…and it will always be.

Theater is the most basic form of human interaction.  We desire to see ourselves.  On stage and in the living moment.

8. What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?

Keeping things real.  Lots of media have been elbowing itself into the basic nature of true design but who can argue that what is seen before the audience is what really matters.

9. If you could change just one thing about the industry with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be?

I wish we had more time.

10. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do what you do?

Read, watch, learn, experience.  Ask others that have gone before you.  The future is yours.  Don’t concern yourself with pointless issues.
For more on David, including a look at some of his stuff, visit his website at www.DavidGallo.com.

Advice from an Expert: Vol. XI. The guy who placed the Subways are for Sleeping ad speaks!

Oh how I love the internet.  It gives you the chance to speak to so many people that you would otherwise never have the chance to, and learn from them.

Perfect example . . .

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about The Balloon Boy and his dad’s stupidity.  In the same blog I referenced the infamous David Merrick Subways are for Sleeping stunt.

Today I got an email from a gentleman who was the Production Director at The Blaine Thompson Company, a powerhouse ad agency who repped Broadway shows from 1938 – 1977 including the original productions of Gypsy, Pippin, Hair, A Chorus Line, and yes, Subways are for Sleeping.

This gentleman was directly involved with the Ad Heard ‘Round The World, and with Mr. Merrick himself, and was kind enough to share his story in an email to me.

I convinced him to put the story into a comment on the blog itself for all of you to enjoy.

Here it is.  A piece of theatrical history, brought to you by the power of the internet and by people willing to share their story (which is what theater is all about, isn’t it?).

Click here to and scroll down to read the comment from Ron.

It worked once. It’ll work again, right?

Lightning in a bottle is hard to capture once.

So, when people try to use the same bottle to catch another bolt, I always get nervous (this is one of the reasons I won’t be coming out with another interactive show anytime soon).

The popular fiction biz depends on trying to catch secondary bolts.  John Grisham writes a best selling legal thriller like The Firm and immediately his publishers put  him on a schedule of producing a novel a year to earn his paycheck, praying that his readers “subscribe” to his novels.  And all of the novels have similar settings, and similar structure.

But were any of his later books ever as good as The Firm?

That’s what made me nervous when I stepped into the Mark Taper Forum this past Sunday to see the Deaf West production of Pippin (a show that I’ve never been a huge fan of).

This production has the unique distinction of using “deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing actors as voice and American Sign Language are interwoven with music, dance, and joyous storytelling.”  (i.e. there were two Pippins).

Unique, right?  Absolutely . . . except that there was a revival of Big River on Broadway a few years ago brought to us by Deaf West and The Roundabout.  So, I walked in with an expectation of what I was about to see and hear . . . something I knew was special . . . but something that, well, I had already seen and heard.

Get this.  They exceeded my decent-sized expectations.

Maybe it’s because Pippin lends itself to a more theatrical treatment like this than Big River.

Maybe it’s because the newly redesigned Mark Taper Forum provided one of the most comfortable theatrical experiences I’ve ever had (the lobby, the seats, the restrooms, and even the ticketing-system were extraordinary).

Maybe it’s because I had been disappointed by the actors-as-musicians Company after seeing Sweeney Todd.

Or maybe it’s because the creative team led by Jeff Calhoun knew that they couldn’t just serve up what we’ve seen before, and they worked their asses off to prove that they weren’t trying to catch lightning in a bottle.

They were trying to create the lightning.

So if you want to do something similar to what you’ve done before, or what someone else has done before (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “I’ve got the next Blue Man Group!”  Or “I’ve got the next Mamma Mia!”), go for it.

But go for it twice as hard as you went after it the first time.

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