Broadway in Indy 2011-2012 season short on excitement

March 13, 2011
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Okay, so there's not a lot of touring Broadway shows out there right now. But, for the 2010/2011 seasons, Cincinnati is at least getting "Billy Elliot," "The Addams Family" and the new bi-lingual version of "West Side Story." Even Durham, N.C., is getting "Memphis," "The Addams Family," "Come Fly Away," and the new "Bring It On" musical.

Meanwhile, Indianapolis will be seeing (drumroll please) ... a non-Equity "Beauty and the Beast," another non-Equity "Fiddler on the Roof," "Million Dollar Quartet" and a remounting of "Les Miserables."

Is that a collective yawn I hear? I've got nothing against any of the shows; it's just that this seems like a major step backwards from recent seasons that included "Jersey Boys," "The Color Purple," "Mary Poppins," and more. There's not one original musical in the mix that hasn't already played here in some form. It's hard to imagine that "Beauty and the Beast" is going to bring something new to the table that we haven't seen in previous tours—or in Civic's lavish production, for that matter. I thought we'd at least see "West Side Story" (which also will be playing Appleton, Wis., and Rochester, N.Y.).

Your thoughts?

  • Art vs. Sport
    Is Indy supporting the arts? Did the past musicals make money. Maybe it is not worth it to bring a big Broadway show in this sports town.
  • Too Many?

    I for one have not seen any of the four which you listed for next years season. Perhaps you are a little burnt out since it is your job and you have seen each and every show? Maybe you should take some time off? :)
  • needing a rest
    Thank you for your concern about my mental health.
    I'm fine, actually, and I'll go into each individual show with an open heart and mind. However, I wish more for Indianapolis then a touring season that includes three out of four shows that have already been frequent visitors and/or have been seen here in numerous local productions.
    Thanks for reading,
  • Yawn
    There is nothing wrong with any of these shows individually, but as a collective whole - yawn. Guess if I want new challenging works I will be supporting our local theatre's and going elsewhere for touring shows. Next to Normal plays St. Louis in April.
  • Detroit season
    Detroit season includes "Shrek," "A Christmas Story," and "Come Fly Away."
  • Head to Cincy
    I tend to see more touring shows in Cincinnati where I grew up and still have family. Saw "Young Frankenstein" there in November, seeing "Shrek" in April. Wonder if that town supports these shows more, or if the theater is better? For whatever reason, they always seem to have better seasons (or at least get the good shows first by up to a year or more) and since I am able to travel I do.
  • I agree
    I am wondering like the first post if Indianapolis just isn't supporting the touring shows. This new season only has what? four shows? That's down from the current season and it had some stinkers but we were able to see more shows coming thru. How does the selection happen? That might be a good news angle to explain to us? Is it a theatre availablity or cost factor?
  • Touring with a star
    Are there any touring shows with a major star? Years ago Indy had Starlite Musicals that had a major star in the lead. I came across an Avalon theater that did non-musicals with a major star. Maybe Indy should stop trying get a big name musical and look for a musical or play with a big name.
  • hee hee
    I wish "Spider-Man" would come to Indy.

    (Okay, I couldn't even type that with a straight face.)

    I do wish that "The Addams Family" and "Billy Elliot" would come to Indy because I am curious about the first and my father saw the second in Chicago and raved about it. However, I am not going to lose sleep if they don't get here for a while.

    I have never seen even a high school production of "Beauty and the Beast" and I have only seen Actors' Theatre of Indiana's funny spoof of "Les Mis" so I am looking forward to those two famous shows as part of my on-going theatre education.

    I feel as if I have seen "Fiddler on the Roof" a million times...but I like it. Zesty songs and an ending that can be counted on to provoke a good, cleansing weep.

    I don't know anything about "Million Dollar Quartet." I am reserving judgment on that one but, like Lou, will go with an open heart and mind.

    Hope Baugh
    Indy Theatre Habit
  • Disappointed
    I too am disappointed in the season line-up. As a season ticket holder I expect to get at least one bigger show -- ie Shrek, Billy Eliot, etc. and feel we are being gipped with this lineup. I'll be curious to see what the price is for season tickets this year -- I'd expect it to be much cheaper and if not it may curb our decision on whether to renew.
  • Other cities
    I've been a subscriber for the past 10 years and this upcoming season appears to be the least intriguing by far. Lou, you are right on the money, each is a good show, heck a great show, but it is hard to drop so much money on shows that have been here recently when there are so many great new shows out there.

    I will still probably renew, but will take advantage of one of the less known perks of being a series subsriber. I will trade my Indy tickets to see shows in other cities like Cincy and Columbus
    Unfortunately, I think having a season like this will be a self-fulfilling prophecy of not supporting the traveling broadway shows. Good shows get good support and vice versa. This was very apparent at 9-5 which had the smallest Saturday evening audience I had ever seen.
  • Yup!
    I am anxious to see the restaged Les Mis and the first-time Million Dollar Quartet. But I do wish this city would stop using the Super Bowl as a crutch. Please?
  • Seen it, seen it, seen it, seen it
    Beauty - saw it once, that was enough thanks. Fiddler and Les Miz, seen and loved, but would prefer to see something new, thanks! MDQ - loved it in NYC and had given up on it ever coming here, so got tickets in Chicago next month so we could take Dad (who won't step foot in NYC). Wish I'd known it was coming here so I could save the hotel and gas money.

    Why can't we get shows like Fela, Memphis, Billy Elliot, Hair, Young Frankenstein, Burn the Floor and Next to Normal? Maybe it is, as some have suggested, that we don't have enough audience support. Grease tickets are on sale for deep discounts on Groupon today and they had to use Groupon to sell Mary Poppins too. Although I have to believe that Indianapolis would buy more season tickets if Broadway Across America could bring in the better shows.
  • Truly a sad series
    At least we have a lot of interesting local theater as Lou mentioned in his print column this week.

    Lou, could you interview the head of Broadway in Indianapolis to find out why don't get shows like "Spring Awakening", "Memphis", "Next to Normal", "In the Heights" and "Billy Elliot"? I mean really, "Fiddler on the Roof" and Les Miz again? All that's missing is another tired tour of "The Sound of Music".
  • $$$
    I should ammend my earlier comment. I am very excited about Million Dollar Quartet. That hasn't come to Indy, at least not from the Broadway series.

    Here is the head scratcher. I looked up the renewal cost. This season, with 4 shows (2 non-equity) is $750 for a pair of seats on Saturday night. Last year, same seats for 5 shows was $592. Two years ago, same seats for what I think was 5 shows, $644. Thats a pretty tough pill to swallow with 3 of the shows being repeats.

    Lou, could you expand on your comment about non-Equity. I am familar with the term and is what I expect when I see a show at TOTs or only a partial equity cast at Phoenix, but would expect all of the Broadway tours to have a full equity cast. My translation is that this is a much less experienced cast than an equity production.
  • Equity
    Basically, there are three kinds of shows that come to town as part of the Broadway series.
    Most are shows that recently or are still in the midst of Broadway runs. Once in a while, there's a show heading for Broadway (More often in Chicago, which saw 'The Producers,' 'Aida' and many others pre-NY). And there are shows that are tour-only (such as the lamentable 'Happy Days.')
    Each of these can work under Equity or non-Equity contracts. Yes, the non-Equity shows tend to have less experienced casts. They aren't necessarily of lesser quality, but they don't draw from the same talent pool that populates Broadway shows--hence some people's objection to them being included in something called a "Broadway Series."
    Usually, a Broadway hit musical will lead to an Equity tour. When this has run its course (i.e. It stops being profitable), it will lead to a non-Equity tour, usually playing shorter runs.
    The positive about the non-Equity tours is that they allow shows that would have ended their travels to continue and play markets that might otherwise not have seen them (for instance, the "Spring Awakening" tour that played IU Auditorium a few weeks back for one night.)
    Does that help?
    P.S. Non-Equity tours are far less likely to have a "name" in the cast, since most name actors can't appear in non-union shows.
    • well said, Lou
      Agree that non Equity does not necessarily mean not as good. BUT - please don't call it a "Broadway tour" (and charge full price) when the actors aren't as experienced or paid as much as Union members. I don't want to pay 30+ dollars for community theater and don't want to pay $60+ for non-Union tours.
    • Dear Broadway Across America,
      While the Broadway tour promoters like Broadway across America and JAM Theatricals certainly like to have one or two really safe shows in their season to make some money, having all of these low-budget, non-equity remounts will lose them business eventually as people realize that the show quality is going downhill and the ticket prices are not. And we certainly know that they are never going to bring in any groundbreaking work that is meaningful in any way.

      How about shows like "Next to Normal," "HAIR," or "Memphis?" I guess I'll just have to go to Chicago to see those!
    • Thanks Lou
      That explained things perfectly and it puts the tiers into perspective. I have gone to Chicago on multiple occasisons to see the preview shows. Your point on the non-equity is great, because shows like Spring Awakening should get to continue to tour so more people can be exposed to it.

      This does reduce my level of disappointment in the series (it is rare that I head to a show because of a performer), but would still like to understand how the ticket prices are going up for less shows.
    • Non-equity
      No one should go to a non-Equity show. If performers are any good and recognized as any good, they are members of Actors Equity. This is not a matter of union sentiments versus anti-union sentiments;it is simply a matter of wasting your money and time on a bunch of amateurs instead of the professionals that your dollar and time deserve. Any presenter who shows non-Equity shows does not deserve public support. Why let your city be known as settling for amateur junk when there is plenty of good stuff available?
      • Not exactly
        I think that's way too simplistic. One has to work to become an Equity performer, and non-Equity is one way to build credits. They aren't amateurs, at all. They're doing it for a living, which automatically makes them non-amateur.

        Meanwhile, as I say every year, Indy gets lesser options in the Broadway Series because it is not a subscription town, so they can't get the money up front. Towns like Cincinnati have bigger percentages of the seats taken by season subscribers which gives the company the use of the funds in advance, as opposed to single tickets, sold at the time of the show. Therefore, they can't guarantee their "take" on the show as easily, and hesitate to bring more expensive shows in case they can't make money on them. Until we improve our subscription base, we're going to be a 2nd tier tour city. Especially with our proximity to Chicago.
      • Subscribers!
        The simple truth is that Broadway tours certainly prefer to give first priority on the big shows to cities that have a history selling tickets â?? which is heavily influenced by the # of subscribers. If a theater has about 2,500 seats â?? then about 20,000 seats would be available over a normal 8 show week.
        Of Broadway Seriesâ?? in the Midwest over recent years, Indy has averaged about 5,000 season ticket subscribers, Louisville about 5,000, Columbus about 7,000, Cincinnati 16,000-18,000 and Cleveland 19,000-20,000 â?? with peak years in each being as much as 5,000-7,000/yr higher when smash shows like Phantom and Lion King first came out. Based on that above #s â?? itâ??s pretty easy to grade A, B, C, Dâ?¦
        So in sev eral of the above cities essentially 1 whole week is already a sellout just from subscribers â?? while the other cities noted would have to sell 3-4 times the subscriber tickets to fill the joint for one week (all subscription shows in the big subscriber markets generally play at least 2 weeks â?? sometimes 3 weeks or moreâ?¦)
        Based on the above, itâ??s almost certain that the Bway hits will play the A cities in their first year, B or C cities their second year â?? and maybe C, D cities their 3rd year. Some shows, like Wicked, actually played some cities like Pittsburgh twice before they ever reached places like Indy â?? while shows like Jersey Boys and even some lesser hits will play the A and B cities sometimes 2 years prior to hitting Indyâ?¦ Itâ??s all in the numbers.
        Mary Poppins was the Indy exception this past yearâ?¦ - a huge, beautiful tour â?? perhaps the best physical tour production Iâ??ve ever seen in 35 years of theater goingâ?¦ After leaving Chicago and starting its tourâ?? it took only about 14 months to hit Indy (some 1-2 years earlier than Indy would usually get a show like this). Originally scheduled for a 3 week run, it shortened its run to just two weeks a month or two prior to the opening night â?? the only time they have done this in their nearly 2 year tour â?? obviously due to weak ticket sales. Same show in cities like St. Louis and Cleveland was a big hit (not Wicked-sized, but big stillâ?¦) â?? with (in Cleveland) 72,000 tickets sold in the 3.5 week run - $4.4 million in ticket sales.
        On the flip side, Indianapolis is a huge convention town â?? drawing visitors from everywhere â?? probably more than St. Louis, Louisville, Columbus, Cleveland and Pittsburgh combined â?? helping your downtown thriveâ?¦ Again â?? ever city has its strengths..
        See the below articles for other citiesâ?? views of their Broadway Seriesâ?¦ Theyâ??re jealous of other cities, too:
      • Theatre size
        In addition to the number of subscribers, it may have to do to the fact that we do not have a midsize auditorium with 4-6,000 seats. Many shows, theatrical and musical pass us by because of this.

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