It's very tempting to just chuck "fair use" concerns and just copy & paste Michael Riedel's entire "Spring Awakening" column today because it's so damn funny. And actually quite revealing of just how irretrievably "old" Broadway has become.
One would think after the mega reviews, the Spring Awakening team would just be bathing in it, no? In short, no.
But note also the desperate cluelessness in this--quite literally--producing-by-committee approach over just how to make contact with this alien youth demographic:
What do you get when 35 producers start brainstorming about how to sell their critically acclaimed new musical? In the case of "Spring Awakening," you get some marketing ideas that are either downright bizarre or just plain idiotic.
Here are some of the proposals that have been kicked around at "Spring Awakening" production meetings:
* Because the show features a lot of teenage sex, let's work out a sponsorship deal with a condom maker. We'll slap a "Spring Awakening" logo on the condoms and pass them out for free at the theater....
But one production source, inspired by the level of marketing know-how on "Spring Awakening," privately suggests that all the producers run around Times Square wearing sandwich boards that read: "I'm one of the 35 producers of 'Spring Awakening.' Please come see my show!"
College newspapers? Who reads those??? Of course, there's an obvious youth-oriented 21st century alternative. But that would involve using the "internets."
* Let's give a bunch of free tickets to the staff at Ruby Foo's in Times Square. A lot of young people hang out there, and the waiters will talk up the show.
* Since the show appeals to audiences in their 20s and 30s, let's not quote old fogey critics from the big newspapers. Let's only quote student critics from college newspapers.
Never mind that Charles Isherwood in The Times wrote, "Broadway may never be the same!" Or that The Post's Clive Barnes cheered: "A must-see, groundbreaking jolt of genius!" Far more influential is John Labera, of the Hofstra Chronicle, who wrote: "It is difficult to stop talking about 'Spring Awakening.' One minute you'll be crying your eyes out. The next minute you'll be rolling in the aisles."
And don't forget Connecticut College's daily, which proclaimed the show, "The best musical of the 21st century!" (Hey, there are only 94 more years to go).
No wind of "bloggers nights" or any such outreach on this one so far. For their sake, I at least hope they have a MySpace page.
But back to the sex. One would have thought the provocative "feeling up" poster image (viewable here) would be enticing this target audience. And maybe it is. But apparently that doesn't matter.
I guess that "traditional audience" did start coming out after the reviews. The Playbill box office firgures report a surge (sort of) from 40% capacity to 60% in the week after opening. (The O'Neill Theatre is a 1,000-seat house, by the way.) But, obviously, that's still not enough to see them through to profit. And if they're hanging on for Tonys (six months from now) that means a long hard slog, financially.
The new ad features cast members jumping up and down. The idea is to project the show's "kinetic energy and excitement," a source says. Previous ads emphasized the musical's sexual themes. But the producers have decided that sex turns off older theatergoers, who must be lured to "Spring Awakening" if the show's going to have a shot.
"Look, we'd love to get the 'Rent' audience right away," says a production insider. "But it takes time. For now, we're surviving on the traditional audience."
Again, these are not at all meant to impugn the integrity of "Spring Awakening" as a show. On the contrary, the data supports an argument that it's, if anything, too good (i.e. original, relevant) for Broadway and that the Broadway industry has become so ossified in its "traditional audience" ways that it seems like economic suicide for an artitiscally ambitious show to play there.
Without a major movie star, at least.