Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Wild Ride from Broadway to Beale: The Show

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, our most
requested show, is finally on tour again!
We all love that special kind of excitement that comes when you're sitting in your favorite Orpheum seat, the orchestra starts up, the curtain begins to rise, and you know you're in for a great night of entertainment.  But have you ever wondered what's going on behind the scenes?  Where are these people from?  Where are they going?  How in the world did they get here?!

Well, the obvious answer to that last question is by bus or by plane.  But periodically, we're going to dig a little deeper to give you an insider's look into the many steps a show takes to go from Broadway to opening night at the Orpheum.  For this entry, we'll take a look at your favorite part: the show.

If you caught The Tony's a couple of weeks ago, you might of thought that those fabulous performances were meant to let everyone know why these musicals were so deserving of their nominations.  Maybe, but that's not the only reason.  Broadway is a commercial enterprise, and those jaw-dropping performances help to entice audiences to buy a ticket and keep the shows firmly established on Broadway - it's much more economically sound to keep a production on Broadway than it is to start a production on Broadway.  But more importantly for venues like The Orpheum, those performances gave people a taste of what they can expect to see when the show hits their city.


FIRST DATE can now be licensed by theatres worldwide,
but you might not see it at touring venues just yet.
Most popular, award-winning Broadway musicals will usually give it a go on the road.  Others will do some serious soul-searching before touring: producers can take the musical on tour and hope for profits, or they can cut any Broadway losses they may have and move on to the next big thing. 

For example, Main and Beale explored a show called First Date late last year.  The show closed a little early and sadly didn't get much Tony buzz.  It's unlikely that this adorable exploration of first-date pitfalls and pleasures will be seen on the Broadway touring circuit.  But you might have an opportunity to enjoy this delightful show at your nearby regional and community theatres.  Of course, there's also a chance that an independent producer could license the material and launch a tour on his or her own.

Once the decision has been made to take a show on tour, the next challenge is to book it!  A show will buddy-up with a booking agent, and the agent will begin the long, confusing, and challenging mission of putting together a tour. 

It's not as simple as calling up a theatre and saying, "Have I got the show for you!"  Booking agents have to consider the tour route ("I don't think I can move a full-scale production from Seattle on Sunday and be ready for opening night in Memphis on Tuesday."), the theatre's schedule and availability ("I already have something scheduled for that week.  Do you have any openings in November?"), and they have to balance this among the 200+ venues that might be interested in booking the show ("Let me call San Diego and see if they can push back their engagement so we can fit you in.  I'll get right back to you!").

It's a seemingly impossible puzzle, but somehow they get it done, and the tour is officially on!  Now that the show is "sold" to venues, the producers have to deliver the product.  The creative team has to think through how to translate the production from Broadway to the road.  The show has to be flexible since some venues might have smaller stages or, in some cases, fewer amenities than others.  They have to figure out how to build a set that is comparable to Broadway but that can be taken down and re-built week after week.  They have a laundry list of people to hire: cast members, company managers, stage managers, orchestra members, stage hands, wardrobe supervisors and more.  Finally, this dream team begins the rehearsal process in its "launch city," fine tuning the show in every possible way. 

MEMPHIS The Musical's 1st National Tour
launched from The Orpheum Theatre. Now MEMPHIS
is headed to London!
We are very proud of the fact that Memphis The Musical launched it's first national tour from the Orpheum Theatre.  The cast and crew spent weeks getting the everything just right.  Then, the show played in its namesake city for several weeks before going on to visit 55 cities!

It's no secret that the show is the most important part of any tour.  Of course, any show needs a lot of support to maintain that beautiful production that audiences cheer for every night, and we'll tell you more about that next time when we discuss our largely invisible but all-important partner: the theatrical agent. 


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