Let’s start from the beginning *twinkly, pearly flashback music*…Barrington Stage Company mounted a production of On the Town last summer that I’ve heard great things about from anyone I know who saw it. Not so much that On the Town is this underrated gem of musical theater, but that John Rando's direction and the cast - featuring the awesome Jay Armstrong Johnson and Alysha Umphress, alongside talents like Tony Yazbeck, Elizabeth Stanley and Nancy Opel - all brought life to this theatre classic.
So, on any random day, do I crave a Broadway revival of On the Town? Not particularly. Am I upset that Broadway is bringing it back? Nah, I’m totes cool with it.
Am I perplexed that the producers of On The Town think their show could fill the 1900+ seat
I’m no Broadway businessman or producer...and I never claimed to be. I’m just a nerd whom looks forward to things like the weekly box office grosses and is fascinated with the process of putting on a Broadway show. You know, from the details of the show itself to the art used on the flyers they distribute in Times Square and everything in-between. Like what Smash was supposed to be about, but failed spectacularly (an understatement).
So, producers of On The Town? What magical formula do you have in your possession that encouraged you to stage your show in, not just a theater this large, but the second largest in all of Broadway? The Gershwin Theatre, home to Wicked, has 1900+ seats. Are you seriously telling me that your production will be booming with sales a la Wicked? Hell, Cinderella, playing in the 1750 seat Broadway Theatre, only averaged 77.84% of seats sold weekly in all of 2013. Cinderella. You know, a story/show that everyone and their grandmother has heard of in some form or another and a production that went on to get above-average reviews and nine Tony nominations. If everyone were to ask ten of their closest (non-theatre) friends, you would be lucky if even four of them have even heard of On the Town, let alone would buy tickets to a Broadway revival of it.
So, this show's elusive, magical formula…does it consist of high-grade meth or crack? Because that is the only explanation I can think of.
I hope On the Town proves me wrong and the show grosses millions upon millions. But there are reasons why Broadway shows fail all the time and starting a show’s run with this type of ambitious, bordering on delusional, platform is a textbook example. Maybe On the Town can be produced for cheap and can survive at under 50% gross potential. Maybe it will get rave reviews and word-of-mouth and publicity and Tony nominations galore
But if I am throwing a flag on the play (lol, where did this football joke come from?) mere hours after the first announcement hit the news o’sphere, then the show really has its work cut out for them and I need the business plan leaked to the New York Times. The sad part is...in a theater of half of its seating capacity (and a lower investment/budget as a result), On the Town really could triumph. The producers, as far as I can see, choose the wrong theater and are essentially, sabotaging themselves months before they even have their first rehearsal.
Go home, On the Town, you’re drunk. Come back post-hangover, when you can make slightly more understandable choices.
Photo Credit: Kevin Sprague