In the movies, marketing people have no problem coming up with rave quotes from crix who dine out on the studios’ largesse every weekend. It’s called “press-junket whoredom.”
Legit critics aren’t so easily bought, which means Broadway ad writers need to be very creative. At present, none are more creative than the folks at work promoting “Little Women.”
The new tuner’s ad tells us that Chris Bohjalian of the New York Times believes, “‘Little Women’ is packing in the tweens….” Actually, Bohjalian’s op-ed piece says “three Broadway shows are packing” them in. (In fact, only “Wicked” sells out; “Hairspray” does around 80% cap.)
“Little Women” also gets ahead of itself with Michael Sommers, who predicts the show is “likely to be a mother-and-daughter must-see.” In the ad rewrite, the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger’s critic doesn’t equivocate, saying, “‘Little Women’ is a must-see for mothers and daughters!” A sophisticated writer, Sommers eschews usage of the exclamation point.
After Ben Brantley‘s pans of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Little Women,” it is clear the Times critic finds Sutton Foster thoroughly resistible as a performer. The “LW” ad takes his most recent putdown — “Sutton Foster glows with a fever that practically scorches” — and omits the context of “heavy doses of Ritalin” and an “energy less infectious than exhausting.”
The quote from David Rooney‘s Variety review claims “touching, inviting anthemic power ballads about making one’s mark in life!” (Again, the ubiquitous exclamation point is theirs, not his.) Left out is Rooney’s assertion that Jo March “seems a tailor-made figure to captain” such music. He goes on to detail the show’s failure to reach that potential.
The word “touching” arrives eight graphs later in Rooney’s review, referring to the only song he praises, “Some Things Are Meant to Be.”
Overdosing on exclamation points, the “LW” ad people have yet to discover ellipses. They quote Time Out’s David Cole on Foster: “She’s a dynamo whipping from broad comedy to touching drama!” In between “dynamo” and “whipping,” Cole actually explains much about Foster in his review. He describes “Millie” and “Little Women” as being “nearly beneath her” and asserts “the show comes alive only when she’s on stage ….”
No singing, please
There’s a bestselling CD called “Opera Without Singing,” which includes overtures and interludes but no arias.
The current TV ads and theatrical trailers for “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera” could be called “Musicals Without Singing.” The movies’ principals (Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum and Patrick Wilson) are not shown singing.
“Initially, we did have spots that showed people singing,” says Warners’ prexy of domestic marketing, Dawn Taubin. Somehow, these ads did not make it to my TV set or the dozen movie theaters I attended between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“We have a dual target: fans of the stage musical and regular moviegoers, who don’t go to the theater,” Taubin says. “We discovered that not everyone knows the story of ‘Phantom.’ ”
Tellingly, spots and trailers for the “Chicago” movie also largely eschewed images of singing actors.
Do surveys show that the moviegoing public turns off to tuners? “Musicals don’t get thrown in (the surveys), because there aren’t that many movie musicals,” says Taubin.
Unlike “Chicago,” “Phantom” might not help to increase that population at the cineplex. By the end of January, the $70 million “Phantom” had grossed $38.9 million, with the month’s final week taking in only $5.8 million in wide release.
The movie can, however, be credited with goosing the Broadway show’s receipts. The 2005 winter discount-sales jumped almost 100% over 2004.
What goes around…
- Francesca Zambello has signed with the William Morris Agency. The director is expected to make her Broadway debut with Disney tuner “The Little Mermaid.”
- Mike Nichols is checking out the competition. The “Spamalot” director and his wife, Diane Sawyer, were seen at the Jan. 31 gypsy dress rehearsal for “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” The new tuner put in its first preview that night.
- Welcome to Met Opera prices on Broadway. Last week, ticketbuyers in search of March tix to several long-running tuners found that center orchestra seats were not available at $100 a head. Those new, “special” $200 tix were. Just like the Met, Broadway’s side orchestra seats are cheaper, relatively speaking.