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Archive for June, 2009

"Thriller"

"Thriller"

Much has been said about Michael Jackson in the last few days, and while I have been experiencing a conflicting assortment of emotions and opinions, expressing them here would not be on topic with this blog. Not to mention, what the heck do you care about how I feel about Michael Jackson?

So why bring up The King of Pop then?

Well, there may be a potential connection between Michael Jackson and The Road.

This is not a far-fetched marriage. Over the years, Broadway and The Road have looked to the music of dead superstars for theatrical material. One of the first musicals revolving around a world famous dead musician was Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, which opened in London in 1989 and has made several returns to the West End since. Buddy launched a National Tour in the U.S ten years ago that ran for a season and, to this day, the show appears on theater seasons around the country. On a smaller scale there has been Love, Janis, the celebration of the life and music of the late rock legend, Janis Joplin, Always…Patsy Cline, a play with music based on a true story surrounding a relationship in Patsy Cline’s life, and in 2006 on Broadway we had two musicals at once paying homage in one way or another to dead legends: the jukebox musical, All Shook Up, which stitched its’ book around the music of Elvis Presley, and the Johnny Cash songbook-inspired Ring of Fire. Both “Shook” and “Ring” went on to National Tours despite less than stellar reviews in New York. The latest dead musician legend theater piece possibly coming soon to a PAC near you will likely be Million Dollar Quartet, already a popular ticket in Chicago, and which includes the music of, not one, but four, count ’em FOUR dead mainstream music legends: Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins.

Which brings me back to MJ. As it turns out, in January of this year Rolling Stone wrote a feature about Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” possibly being Broadway Bound.

Talk about thinking ahead.

It’s hard to speculate on how well a Broadway musical adaptation of Thriller might have done had a production ever come to fruition while Michael Jackson was alive, but now, as we continue to witness how his death captivates the world, it does seem safe to speculate that even a marginally decent production has the potential to be a huge critic-proof hit with a very broad audience.

And for producer and presenter alike, that would indeed be a thriller…a thriller all the way to the bank.

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Tony Awards 2009 Final Dress Rehearsal

Tony Awards 2009 Final Dress Rehearsal

One of the perks of working in the theater industry is getting to do some pretty cool stuff sometimes. One of those recent perks for me was attending the final dress rehearsal of the 2009 Tony Awards(TM). You really haven’t lived until you’ve seen Liza singing live in that full throttle Liza way, but instead of being all glitzed out, wearing a track suit and looking like she just rolled out of bed.

I was shocked by the actual presence of Liza, and many other celebrities at the dress rehearsal, including Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, Ann Hathaway, James Gandolfini, and the list goes on, but what surprised me and delighted me nearly as much was when it was announced that several touring shows were going to be featured. I don’t recall this level of attention previously being given to national tours on the Tonys, but I thought it made a whole lot of sense. Broadway is certainly a major goal for many commercial shows, but it is by no means the end of the road, which these Tonys made very clear. Broadway needs people to not only come to New York to see theater, but to be excited by theater to the extent that they will buy subscriptions and single tickets to tours that come to their towns.

In essence, Broadway feeds The Road and The Road feeds Broadway. It’s a complicated, sometimes contentious, but ultimately symbiotic relationship. Theater around the country survives in large part because of the popular titles that make it to the Great White Way, and then go on tour. That said, Broadway producers owe a great deal to The Road for providing the possibility of a profitable life beyond Broadway.

Speaking of profitable life, I was quite surprised that of the dozen or so shows touring right now, it was Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia! and Legally Blonde that were the three productions selected for the high-profile Tony broadcast slots. These are three shows that have pretty solid tours, and so don’t need the exposure as much as other worthy shows currently out the on The Road that are struggling to connect more consistently with regional audiences. Week ending June 7 was evidence of that, with these three tours doing from $650,000 to over $1,200,000 in grosses.

Hopefully, this trend of highlighting national tours on the Tony Awards(TM) will continue, but shows needing more of a ticket sales boost will instead be the chosen ones.

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