The Broadway series: What’s next?

December 13, 2007
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A decent enough production of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” is being presented this week at Clowes Memorial  Hall as part of the Broadway in Indianapolis series (my review will appear in the upcoming IBJ) and lobby speculation at Tuesday’s opening had to do with what’s going to be on next season’s lineup.

So what do you want to see on stage at Clowes and the Murat next season?

FYI: Here are some of the shows that are currently on the road or soon to tour that have yet to play Indy. Which shows would make you consider subscribing? Wish past shows would you like to see again? And where the heck are the non-musicals?

“Avenue Q”

“The Color Purple”

“The Drowsy Chaperone”

“Jersey Boys”

“The Pajama Game”

“Ring of Fire”

“Spring Awakening”

“Sweeney Todd”

“Whistle Down the Wind”

“Wicked”

What are your thoughts on this or recent Broadway in Indianapolis seasons?

Does it matter to you whether or not these are Equity or non-Equity tours (in other words, union companies or not—“DRS” is non-Equity)?

And would Indianapolis subscription audiences be okay with the content of “Avenue Q” or “Spring Awakening”?

Let’s talk.
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  • Just saw Wicked in Chicago and was moved to tears by the Act I conclusion. Would love to see it again on one of our Indy stages. Would also enjoy Jersey Boys and Color Purple.

    Martin Short had a one man show we missed in Chicago and I would dearly love to see it if he were touring. Also, Mandy Patinkin is touring again and would very much like to see/hear him in person.

    Missed Spamalot last time it was here - would like to see it.

    Don't know that I would commit to a full season ticket - would depend on the shows included.

    I don't believe it would bother me if these were not Equity shows - as I'm sure the caliber and heart would be similar.

    I'm looking forward to 12 Angry Men - that will be on the Broadway series this year for us - and it's a non-musical. But I will also be happy when it stops touring so the rights are available again so we can produce it at the community level.
  • Yes, yes, bring on Avenue Q and Spring Awakening! (Of course, I am a weirdo who likes unorthodox things, so my taste is perhaps not indicative. I would rather eat fiberglass insulation and wash it down with a bottle of Clorox than sit through Annie.)

    There's a fine production of Wicked just a few hours north in Chicago, so that might be slight overkill, though I'm sure it would win an audience.

    Non-musicals, though . . . do those sell as touring productions in Indy? I have no idea.

    Union tours would be preferable, but I'm somewhat agnostic on that matter.
  • Great question, Lou! Part of the issue with the Indy Broadway series is that Indianapolis subscription audiences aren't large enough, or faithful enough, to pull the big name shows - which is why we get them about 2 years after the larger, first-tier cities like Cincinnati (which had DRS last season). (Cincy's season this year was My Fair Lady, Camelot, The Drowsy Chaperone, Sweeney Todd, The Color Purple, and Wicked.) Indianapolis is historically (from the years when I was a box office supervisor at a large Indy hall) a very low pre-sale/subscription town. Because of that, the tour promoters don't get their money up front and have to take a chance on single ticket sales. In other cities, like Cincinnati, subscriptions account for huge portions of ticket sales, and the money is available to the promoters at the beginning of the season. Therefore, these sites get better shows - especially if they can host for 2 weeks, like Cincy, instead of a single week, like Indy, and keep the theater reasonably full. (In case you can't tell, I've been a subscriber in Cincy, even though I live in Indy, for several years - the good thing is that shows can be swapped, for subscribers, between cities, so I can see the duplicates in Indy, and keep the first-run shows in Cincy, only a two-hour drive away, and get the best of both worlds.) I think what has to happen in Indy is that people have to realize that the subscriber base has to show its faith in the series, and then it can be rewarded with better shows. Rather than saying what we want to see....we need to show our interest in general and then the better selection of shows will follow. But are we far-sighted enough for that? I don't know. (Avenue Q, by the way, is playing in Louisville this spring - I've already swapped to see that, too!)
  • I worked as an usher and house manager at Clowes from 1995-2002, and the major problem with the Broadway series is that Indianapolis audiences really do not want to be challenged beyond the mainstream. The only thing that seemed to routinely sell out were Andrew Lloyd Webber productions and Rent, even when we had a non-equity (crappy) version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in the middle of summer - sold out. As for non-musicals, my most vivid example of this was when we had Master Class in town with Faye Dunaway, of all people. Yes, she was awful to work with, but she is a pretty big name. We had to give away tickets to the show. Frankly, it was one of the most transcendent moments I had in Clowes. It was just outstanding.

    Anyway, I think the biggest question going forward is the effect of the proposed theaters at Venu (likely to happen) and Legends SODO (iffy). Both of these theaters are bigger than Clowes and the Murat. Will the Murat actually put in comfortable seats to compete? :)
  • Another great question - amusingly, when the Murat was renovated in the 90s, these seats were put in (the older ones were bigger and more comfortable) for that exact reason - to compete. The original seating of the Murat was several hundred seats less than Clowes Hall, and they wanted to be competitive with Clowes. Without rebuilding, which they couldn't do to a historic building, the 18 seats were the only option. (Clowes is either 21 or 22 - I don't remember anymore.) These tiny seats make the halls comparable in size, but unfortunately, they're awful to sit in. I agree that Indy audiences don't usually want to be challenged, but I still maintain that it's a problem with the single-ticket versus season mentality too - With a season ticket, you take a chance on the full season, and you may like some shows more than others, but you're automatically stretched (you've paid, so you're going).....and in the end, you stretch the audience's taste. It's better for the producers, too, because they can fill a less popular show more easily if there are more subscribers. Then, they can take more chances, and bring in more cutting-edge, up-to-date shows. In a city which leans toward single-ticket sales - the shows all stand on their own, and it gets dangerous to plan any non-mainstream stuff. Until we learn that buying the season improves the selection in the long run, we'll be stuck with Annie and Joseph for the 46th time!
  • Union or Non? Well, it seems that if they insist on calling it a Broadway tour, they should use Equity casts. Does that guarantee a good show? No, but it is truth in advertising. If I pay that much $$ for a ticket, I want to know that the Producers are actually paying the performers a decent wage. When an audience pays for a Broadway series that is actually not paying an Equity wage, there is no incentive for the Producers to keep up their standards or for them to pay a fair wage!
  • OK, I wanted to wait until I saw SCOUNDRELS to comment on this blog. (though I really did not have to I knew what to expect). Cut down flattened but nice versions of the Broadway sets and costumes, a reasonable light package and kids doing the show. I looked like a good college production with professors doing the “adult” roles. A distinct lack of seasoning in the performers left the show more like a rubber chicken catered affair than “R Bistro”. The Broadway series should be benchmarking theatre in town. And when the ACT Christmas show and a small independent production of ASSASSINS blows something billed as a Broadway National Tour out of the water there are problems. Principle actors delivering laugh lines flat front and waiting for laughs that never come as if “you stupid Indiana hicks don’t know what’s funny”, dishonest relationships between actors, totally unbelievable performances simply because of the “green-ness” of the cast. All this can be traced down to the fact they beat the bushes to find a bunch on non-union square pegs to fit in the round holes left by a very specific cast. I mean come on… the poster still looks like John Lithgow!!! The more non-AEA tours there are… the cheaper they are to present…the cheaper they are to present… the more Broadway across America will use… they more they will produce… the more union jobs will be lost…
    As I was making my donation to my favorite charity, I said to the kid holding the Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS bucket at the end of the show, “You should really consider joining AEA” “Oh I am!” They all want to be AEA, I am really unsure why. At the rate they are going, the national tour contract will be totally dead in 10 years if that long.
  • As far as the list of shows is concerned, we should have had WICKED long before next year??!? Think of all the teen age girls that have the CD and all that have already drup their parents to Chicago and NY from Indy to see it?? Now who has heads of straw?

    Following is the list of union vs non tours from the AEA website...

    Tour List

    Current List of Equity, Non-Equity Tours

    Upcoming & Current Equity Tours

    25th ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE

    AVENUE Q

    CAMELOT

    COLOR PURPLE

    Disney's HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL

    DROWSY CHAPERONE

    JERSEY BOYS (2 Tours)

    THE LION KING (two tours)

    MAMMA MIA

    MY FAIR LADY

    PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

    SPAMALOT

    SWEENEY TODD

    TWELVE ANGRY MEN

    WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND

    WICKED

    Non-Equity Tours
    One Week or Greater:

    RENT

    WEDDING SINGER

    Non-Equity Tours
    One-Night/ Split Week

    ANNIE

    ANYTHING GOES

    BEEHIVE

    CATS

    DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS

    DORA THE EXPLORER

    GO DIEGO GO LIVE: GREAT JAGUAR RESCUE

    HAIRSPRAY

    JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

    JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING...

    LITTLE WOMEN

    MAN OF LA MANCHA

    MOVIN' OUT

    THE PRODUCERS

    RING OF FIRE

    URBAN COWBOY

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