Fun on a Friday: does this remind you of anything?

For today’s blog, I thought we’d stay on the DeLoreon we took a ride on yesterday and take a glance at the New York Times review of Merlin in 1983 from the legendary Butcher of Broadway, Frank Rich.

See if this review sounds familiar, even though it was written so long ago . . .

”Merlin,” it must be noted, has not yet officially opened. In contrast to most Broadway musicals, which tend to preview for a month or less in New York before an official premiere, this one is now in its eighth week of previews. Three ”opening” dates have been announced for the show – the third of which was last night – and then canceled. The fourth, most recently announced opening date is Feb. 13, and should changes made in ”Merlin” by then justify a substantial reappraisal, it will be provided here.

This report is based on Thursday night’s preview. While the producers of ”Merlin” may consider the musical not yet ready to be seen by critics, they have allowed in more than 60,000 paying customers since Dec. 10 at the full, $40-top ticket scale. Open or not, ”Merlin” is already, after ”Cats,” the second-longest running musical of the season.

It was as if Mr. Rich had Mr. Merlin’s crystal ball.

Special thanks to PP reader and fellow People Of Godspell-er, Adam, for passing this along.

 

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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.

(Got a comment?  I love ’em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)

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Fun on a Friday: See Spider-Man for free.

On Wednesday, I spoke about the importance of the contrarian view.

Well, you can’t get much more contrarian that this.

Enter Justin Moran, who earlier this month issued a challenge to himself and to commercial theater in general when he announced that he would be producing his own version of a Spider-Man musical . . . with a budget of zero dollars.

In the YouTube video below, Justin announced that over a 30 day period, he (and whomever he could drum up for some support – including this talented lad) would write, cast, compose, rehearse and open his Spider-Man . . . before the official opening of the $65 million dollar monster on 42nd St.

He’s vowing to beat ’em on budget and beat ’em on time.

And get this, there won’t be any premium prices for his seats.

Everyone gets in for free.

Although with only one performance at The People’s Improv Theater (which seats about 17.4 very tiny people), the tickets could actually be harder to get than tickets to the actual Spider-Man!

Will he succeed?  Will he get a cease & desist?  Will it be any good?

Who knows.

But I do know this . . . it sounds like a lot of fun.

For more info, visit The Spidey Project.

Oh, and Justin, if you read this . . . and are looking for some rehearsal space, we’re happy to donate some time to your cause.  Anyone who challenges themselves and the system is a winner in our book.  Send me an email.

 

 

 

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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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Do audiences care if a Broadway show is in previews? Survey says . . .

Oh Spidey . . . you just can’t keep your name out of the papers.

And, based on the 1.8 million bucks you did over Christmas week, I bet you’re starting not to care.

The latest bit of publicity about the uber-musical hit the wires late last week when Bill de Blasio, a NYC public advocate, sent a letter to the Department of Consumer Affairs stating that Spidey was in violation of the law, due to its extended preview period, and their alleged failure to disclose this information to ticket buyers.

While part of me believes Mr. de Blasio is looking to catch a ride on the Spider-Man publicity train in order to further his own political ambitions, this is not the first time this argument has been made (anyone remember Nick and Nora?).

This bit of news started an internal debate between the two sides of my mind.  Do we have to do more to distinguish between opening and previews?  Should we charge less?  And then came the big question . . . do consumers really care?

I formulated my own opinion (surprise, surprise) and then realized that if I really wanted to find out if consumers cared, I needed to talk to consumers!

So, I sent my trusty weekend intern Jason out into the cold to chat with folks in the TKTS line and find out!

We asked 100 US residents if knowing that a show was in previews made them more inclined to see it, less inclined to see it, or if it made no difference at all.

Ready to see the results?

Not so fast.  Before I reveal to you what they thought . . . what do you THINK they thought?  Come on, imagine this is The Price is Right and you have to guess before you see how much that box of Wheaties actually costs.

What percentage was more inclined?  Less inclined?  And what percentage didn’t give a flying superhero.

Here are the results:

12% were MORE inclined to see a show in previews.
18% were LESS inclined to see a show in previews.
70% didn’t care either way.

Surprising? Not to me.

Now, as with any survey, you have to take into account the group sampled (and the size of that group).  A TKTS audience may be only in town for a short period of time, and have a totally different criteria for making that choice.  A NYC resident theatergoer may want to wait until a show is fully cooked before taking a bite.  Admittedly this was a down-and-dirty survey.

But it still says something.

The audience just wants in.

However, the bigger challenge for the Producer is that if your show is a bit “rare” during previews, you should be more concerned about what the audience is saying on the way out of the theater.  Because if they don’t care that the show is in previews, then they’re not going to cut you any slack for it either.  For them, it’s just there . . . so you better be prepared to give them the goods.

We love talking to the folks on line at the TKTS booth.  Wanna see what we’ve asked them in the past?

– Read the results of our survey of WHO is actually standing in that line here.

– Read the results of our “When I say Broadway, you say . . . ” survey here.

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