Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bursting Blockbusters!

The next Broadway show in our lineup, WICKED, is commonly called a “blockbuster.”  There aren't many blockbuster shows out there.  Only a small number of musicals can sell every seat from New York to Des Moines to Portland and down to San Antonio.  PHANTOM, JERSEY BOYS, and LES MISERABLES are some examples of the half dozen or so productions that do well on Broadway and “on the road,” touring the country and sometimes even internationally.  

These shows usually slow down after a few good years on Broadway and a trip or two around the touring hotspots, but every now and then a blockbuster takes on a life of its own.  WICKED is a perfect example.  This show, which just celebrated a decade on Broadway, prides itself on selling out every performance of the eight touring productions currently taking place all over the world.  It is one musical that every theatre, the Orpheum included, wants as often as it can book it – taking into consideration, of course, that we don't "burn out" our audience. 
Close on the heels of WICKED is another notable blockbuster:  Disney’s THE LION KING.  Both WICKED and THE LION KING are the godsends of any season ticket package.  

We are very fortunate to have WICKED as our next Broadway show and the first for the new year.  It will be here for three weeks.  It's hard to believe that in that time, our 2,450-seat theatre will amass almost 60,000 patrons coming from all over the Mid-South to see this spectacular show.  60,000 – that is the equivalent of filling the FedEx Forum three times.  Imagine three sellout nights at the Forum.  I think it would take a rare superstar to sell 60,000 seats in Memphis.  And WICKED is that rare superstar!  

Tickets are selling fast at the rate of over 600 per day, and the show doesn’t open until January 29th – more than five weeks from now.  When this musical has come and gone, I will start to look at when we can welcome WICKED back to the Orpheum a few years down the road.  And then I will start to wonder when THE LION KING will once again parade down the aisles of the South’s most beautiful Theatre.
Pat Halloran
Orpheum President and CEO

Thursday, December 12, 2013

SOUND OF MUSIC Sounds Pretty Good for Broadway

So, how did I like NBC’s live televised production of THE SOUND of MUSIC?  I thought it was very well done.  No, it did not capture the splendor of the hills of Austria, but - just like any play - the location was confined to a small space (specifically, a television studio), and I thought they captured the landscape well. 
Like most of us, I am a fan of this show.  It ranks amongst Broadway's best from the 1950’s through the 70’s.  Of course, that era brought us a lot of memorable musicals like THE KING AND I and MY FAIR LADY.  I can’t find much fault in almost any production of these Broadway classics.  They are some of my favorites from that era, and it's easy to enjoy them despite whatever shortcomings a modern production might offer.      
However, it is also easy to be little critical of stars who take on the task of replicating such well-known performances like Julie Andrews in THE SOUND OF MUSIC and Yul Brenner in THE KING AND I.  It is a herculean undertaking, and very seldom are the original stars outdone.  That said, Carrie Underwood was terrific but a wee short of Julie Andrews' iconic performance as Maria.
People ask me if televised productions, be they the replays of the original movies or, as in this case, a live production, hurt or help what the Orpheum does in presenting a season full of Broadway productions each year.  Do they diminish the possibility of someone buying our tickets after seeing the same title presented on "the box?"  Personally, I think not.  In my 33 years of selling tickets to our Broadway shows, I have come to realize that familiarity is very important, and projects like NBC's THE SOUND OF MUSIC help with that.  It's much more difficult to get people to invest their dollars in tickets to lesser known shows like DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS or even new Tony Award winning shows like ONCE - very few people know what ONCE is about.  
Yes, I liked SOUND OF MUSIC - and from NBC's ratings reports, it seems like millions of others did too.  And overall, that's great news for the Broadway industry.
Pat Halloran
Orpheum President and CEO 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Final Bows on Broadway

Things are crazy in New York!  Well I guess that goes without saying, but here I am referring more to things on Broadway.  It seems as though good shows are closing faster than usual. 
Shows like BIG FISH, FIRST DATE, ANNIE, SPIDERMAN and others have all announced that they will be closing within the next 4 weeks.  I really liked FIRST DATE and BIG FISH, and I am sorry to see their lights dimmed so early in their histories.  Most of us know from the news that SPIDERMAN has been struggling since day one, so it's closing isn't really a shock.  Still, there must be something trending here because while the Orpheum has presented some pretty fabulous shows in the past 16 months, the average attendance has dropped from what we experienced a few years ago.  I hope this is not a sign of things to come where attendance and interest in Broadway-style musical theatre begins to fall out favor with the masses. 

Of course, this may all be all about the economy.  While things like the stock market continue to improve and banks seem to have settled the chaotic practices that prompted the last economic downturn, it could be that people are just not sure what the future will bring.  Maybe people are simply more cautious in their spending.  I don’t have the answers, but something is effecting the Broadway fan base, and I'm curious to know what it is.

Pat Halloran
Orpheum President and CEO