Another sign that Big Business is doubling down on Broadway.
Like Paul Revere on his favorite ride, I’ve been e-shouting that “Big Business is coming! Big Business is coming!” for a few years now.
When I started blogging back in ’07, movie companies had little, if any, presence on Broadway (one executive told me they’d rather just let Broadway Producers license their work – now all of the studios have theatrical departments), the thought of a major TV network producing a musical based on one of its cartoons was as crazy as the idea of Donald Trump running for president, and if you wanted a Broadway theater, you could get one without too much of a wait.
Ahh, how things have changed.
Broadway is big business now . . . with big entertainment brands swooping in to see how they can capitalize on the billions of dollars of tickets sold every year. I mean, really, did you ever think you’d see a “new” version of Harry Potter debut on the stage first? (I know, that’s not on Broadway . . . but you can bet your owl it will be).
So sure, lots of studio-sized shows have popped up on our stages or are on their way . . . but that’s not all that’s changing.
Just last week, a circus-sized show announced another move that demonstrated the new type of thinking that comes with big business on Broadway.
Paramour, the brand new Cirque du Soleil extravaganza that has taken up residence at the Lyric Theater, is going back into the rehearsal room to make significant changes to the show, and even shutting down for four performances to put those changes in.
Cost? Not public, but it has got to be a couple of mil, when you factor in the loss of revenue from the canceled performances.
Making changes to Broadway shows is not new . . . but it normally happens between the Broadway run and the National Tour. Or between the Tour and the release of stock and amateur script. But, and what Cirque is smartly asking is, “What good does that do the Broadway company?”
This is how big business thinks . . . when you’ve invested $25 million to create a product, what’s a few more million to upgrade that product, if you feel those upgrades can improve it? You’re already in deep, right? And if you see that your current product is doing at least ok, but could be doing better, shouldn’t you go for it? These companies run marathons not sprints. And they haven’t even reached their half-way point yet.
Well, most Broadway Producers just don’t have the cash to justify that kind of expenditure. Corporations such as Cirque or giant movie companies or TV networks, who are not only looking to build a Broadway success, but are also trying to expand a brand, can dip into their big boy balance sheets to pay for these kind of expenses, amortizing their expenses over their entire company. (Another reason why I wonder if we should be negotiating side by side.) But a move like Cirque’s makes me wonder if we’re being short-sighted?
Should all musicals that don’t get it quite right out of the box get a chance to make it better during their run? Could that improve word of mouth? Isn’t that what separates the theater from novels, paintings, film . . . once those are done, they’re done. But our art form lives and breathes each night, which allows for modification.
Our current economic system doesn’t allow for this search for perfection, unless you’re a Cirque sized company. But I wish it did. Because I’d expect it could make a lot of shows a lot better, which would make our audiences happier, and our industry stronger.
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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.