3 More Things I Learned While in London.

If you follow me on twitter, you know that I spent the weekend in the UK, taking in some new shows and some bland food (seriously, I love London. I don’t have to feel guilty for eating fast food, because I know I’m not missing much).

As is usually the case whenever I visit Broadway’s Step Brother, aka The West End, I walked away with a few observations about our similarities and our differences.

Here’s what I discovered this trip:

1.  The ushers in the UK are all young.

The average age of the ushers, ticket takers, and bar staff at every theatre I went to had to be about 23.  And each one of them was bubbling over with excitement and passion for the show that I was about to see.  They weren’t showing me to my seat.  They were priming me for an experience.  I’ve always thought that these positions were ideal for students of the theater . . . and even more ideal for the audience.  NYU should start a work study program with Local 306 (the ushers union).

2.  What time is the show again?

It was a light theater going trip for me this time ’round. I only saw four shows in the three days I was there.  And not one of those shows was at 8 PM.  I saw shows at 7:15, 3, 9:30 and 7:30. And I almost went to a Friday at 5.  While I was constantly checking and re-checking the curtain times all weekend because I had no idea which show started when, the alternative start times allowed me to see more theater in a shorter time.  I still wonder if a Friday at 5, during key tourist times here in the States, would work.  I’m dying to try it.  And someday I will.  Or maybe you’ll beat me to it.

3.  Times Square looks more and more like Leicester Square every year.

Everyone knows that Bloomberg has had a man-crush on the Mayor of London for years.  So many of the changes we’ve seen here seem to be inspired by successful policies there.  The AirTrain and the Heathrow Express Train, Congestion Pricing to reduce traffic (which never passed here), and now, the pedestrian walkways where streets used to be.  Heck, they even have people selling tickets to comedy shows in Leicester Square!  I’m all for it.  Leicester Square is a pretty exciting and safe place to be, drawing more crowds than ever.  If we can continue to create a more conducive environment for visitors to spend time in Times Square, just steps away from our theaters and the TKTS booth, our metaphorical boats will all have to rise.  It’s what I call The Times Square Tide.

And here’s a bonus!

4.  They drive on the ‘wrong’ bloody side of the road.

At every major crosswalk, an instruction is written on the pavement:  LOOK RIGHT or LOOK LEFT.  Why?  I can only assume its because people like me, who naturally look in one direction before crossing the street, need to be retrained to look the exact opposite direction if they want to avoid getting run over by a truck.

What does that have to do with theater?

If you’ve got a show that is working in the US, you might naturally think that the next stop is the UK.  Well, just because the folks there speak the same language (sort-of), doesn’t mean that their taste in the theater is the same.  In fact, it may be the exact opposite.  They literally may come at things from a totally different direction.

So before you cross the pond, make sure you stop, and look RIGHT instead of left . . . so you’re not hit by any oncoming traffic just waiting for you to step out into the street.

Because health insurance may be free in London, but producer insurance is not.

To read some of my past observations about London theatergoing, click here and here.

Will Broadway ever have an album at the top of the pop charts again?

Last week, the cast album of Love Never Dies hit Number 10 on the UK National Charts.

Yep, a musical was right up there with Lady Gaga and Rihanna and Michael Buble (who I saw in concert last Saturday, and who is destined to croon on a Broadway stage at some point in his career – hopefully before his “buble” pops).

First the West End boosts their attendance by 7.6%, and now they put an album in the Top 10!

Over on this side of the pond, Broadway tunes, especially for new musicals with original music, never chart that high (the Hair revival recording got up to #63, but that was a revival.  I found one release that had Wicked at #187).  In fact, Billboard created a special chart for cast albums in 2006.  Why?  To quote Playbill.com, “The addition of the chart generates exposure for the genre which does not often chart on the Billboard 200.”

Sad face.

Now granted, the Love Never Dies recording has got to be one of the most anticipated cast recordings in decades, with a super phantastic brand, and a composer who might as well be Lady Gaga, he’s such a rock star to his fellow Brits.

But still, I couldn’t help but be a little jealous.

There was a time when Broadway tunes charted higher, or were covered by artists who could force them to the top of the charts.

Don’t believe me?

Take this 10 Question Quiz and test your knowledge of Broadway chart toppers (I got an 80%).

When you’re finished with the quiz, go back and look at the years of the hits in the questions.  Nothing past 1975.

We’ve lost our support from pop music.  It’s no wonder we’re losing audiences.

And it’s no wonder why the West End is gaining on us.

What can we do?  Lobby the music industry?  Ask our composers to write with the charts in mind?  Make one of our musical theater composers a rock star, too?

Let’s do it all and then some.

Because re-establishing Broadway’s place in the fabric of popular culture is one of the most powerful things we can do to grow our audience.

Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

Featured Program
The TheaterMakers Studio
Featured Product
Be A Broadway Star
Featured Webinar
Path to Production Webinar
Featured Book
Broadway Investing 101
All Upcoming Events

february, 2020

22febAll Day23The Inner Circle Weekend February