Could this be the new out-of-town tryout?

The costs of a musical out-of-town have risen ‘dramatically’ over the last decade.  Commercial tryouts can cost $5mm.

Non-profit enhancements can be $2mm-$3mm.

With that kind of price tag, it’s no wonder that a new Broadway musical costs $15mm . . . plus.

For the past few years, there have been more grumblings from my peers, wondering, “Is it worth it?”

Well, one thing we do know . . . making a hit musical is hard AND expensive, even without a tryout.  So, to open on Broadway without putting it up in front of a real, live, paying audience, may be penny-wise and you know what.

In fact, since 2000, only TWO Tony Award-winning Best musicals have not had a tryout of some sort (and one of those was Contact, an exception to the category . . . and the other was Book of Mormon).

And since Tony Award-winning best musicals have an 80% recoupment rate . . . we keep doing the tryouts.

Also, there haven’t been any other alternatives.

Enter pandemic.

Enter streaming.

Exit out-of-town tryout?

Instead of $2mm-$5mm . . . could a Producer stage the show at a much much cheaper theater, and shoot it for a streamed audience?

Sure, it wouldn’t be the same experience as an actual live presentation.

But there are other pros to this con.

It would be cheaper, we already said that one (but it deserves repeating).

You could also stream it to ticket buyers people in different areas of the country, with different demographics, instead of relying just on the opinion of a specific theater’s audience.

Data collection and surveying would be easier . . . and you could even incorporate during the show surveys.  (Like when I did this.)

And when you do it yourself, you also get all the data of the people who get a “ticket,” giving you a marketing foundation for your show’s future.

Coming out of the pandemic, every industry is looking at how to do business more efficiently.

The first thing on the chopping block for everyone is things that weren’t making much financial sense before the pandemic.

Which makes me believe the out-of-town tryout could be on its way out.

What do you think?

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Click here to listen to what Des McAnuff, pioneer of the enhancement model, thinks of them now.  Spoiler alert: he’s concerned, and just may have predicted what I wrote about above!

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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.