You gotta spend money to make money, right?
I consider myself very lucky to have worked on the last Gypsy revival starring the beautiful Bernadette Peters. It was directed by the cool Sam Mendes, and produced by the gentlemanly Robert Fox (Boy From Oz, Pillowman, The Hours, Atonement). It was a first class revival, with first class people, and I loved it.
Unfortunately, it closed after a year and a half. We got great notices and people loved the show, but for whatever reason, we failed to become a must-see (Nine won the Tony that year).
A few years later, here comes Arthur Laurents and Patti Lupone in another revival about the celebrated stripper, and people are buying so many tickets you’d think the show hadn’t been revived four times, had two movies and been seen in every dinner theater around the country . . . twice.
After seeing Gypsy so many times during my tenure, I thought I would have been bored watching the new production. But I was wasn’t. It’s a great production of a great show with great performances.
Here’s what’s I noticed: The set was smaller in this production. The ensemble didn’t have as many costumes. There definitely weren’t as many vari-lites in the air. And, what the . . . they didn’t even use a real dog or a real lamb!
And yet this production is set to out-perform ours. Doesn’t seem fair, does it?
There are probably a zillion reasons why (please feel free to comment your thoughts), including many that we couldn’t control. But having two productions of the same show done in different styles this close to each other is a great test case.
It once again proves that a show’s success isn’t based on whether or not you build custom made boots or you get them off the rack, or whether you get the super-premium lighting package or just the basics. Or even whether or not Momma Rose had a real dog in the first scene.
Do you think those are the sort of things people talk about when leaving your theater?
Should we have done anything different on the previous production? Nope. It was a stunning stylistic choice and unfortunately it just wasn’t as successful as we had hoped.
But it does demonstrate that spending more doesn’t always make you more. In fact, you can afford to spend less, if you’re confident you’re giving them more elsewhere.
This also works in the reverse.
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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.