By Gordon Hughes
There is an amazing, sometimes controversial, movement occurring on the Great White Way. Right now there are more than 125 plays and musicals running on a variety of television screens. Some are traditional TV networks. Others are streaming on outlets such as Netflix and Apple. I mention those two networks because two of the shows, both musicals, which I am involved in are to premiere in the coming days and weeks in homes across the country. For example, Peter Pan ran on NBC and most recently Hamilton ran on Disney+.
Those are just two examples of what is occurring in the world of Broadway production. This is not really new, but due to Covid it has taken on an accelerated pace. Now I mentioned controversy, a large number of producers are reluctant to use television for their shows, because they see it as diluting seat sales. They see it as a threat to ticket sales.
Similar to the way motion picture studios and producers felt about putting their movies on television in the 1950’s. Just thinking out loud here, but how did that work out? Before I became involved in theatre production and investment in shows I spent my career in advertising and marketing so I have some measure of how marketing works. The adage of “did you ever buy something you didn’t know about?” comes to mind. So, that said, Covid created a real need to get Broadway jump-started. Streaming has now become a valuable tool for audience promotion Smart producers are using flat screens by whatever delivery system to do a number of things. First and foremost, of course, is creating revenue. Next is keeping cast and crew engaged and fresh. There are other benefits as well, but for my money it’s about marketing. Yes marketing to let people who love the theatre know what’s coming. Speaking of keeping cast and crew fresh and Covid free, some producers developed the “bubble.” What is the Broadway Bubble? Think of the NBA and their Covid lockdown. Now I am not going to go into detail here but picture herding cats, keeping lions and tigers on pedestals, or crowd control at a rock concert. Now think of locking up your actors, musicians, crew, and of course the director and producers for eight weeks of rehearsals and staging away from their families, loved ones, and no escape. Yikes! All mentioned must wear masks, be vaccinated and of course maintain social distancing. Well that is just what has been occurring on Broadway for the past few months as production has been moving forward following the Broadway Leagues’ protocols.
Well all the tears, sweat, laughter over this period have produced at least two remarkable musicals on streaming media. Diana, a New Musical premiers on Netflix October 1st. The Broadway hit Come From Away opened September 10th on Apple TV+.
Now here is where I usually say “see you at the Theatre.” Now I will say “see you on the flat screen.”