‘Life’ banks on big-ticket blurbs

Pricey 'triple truck' ad an attempt to keep tuner alive

NEW YORK — “In My Life” may not yet be attracting auds, but it’s certainly got the industry talking. A huge spread covering three full pages of the New York Times’ Arts & Leisure section last week had all the wags atwitter.

A color ad that size, a rare thing called a “triple truck,” will set you back around $400,000. Which is more than double the $126,713 that “Life,” the $7.2 million musical by auteur Joseph Brooks (“You Light Up My Life”), grossed last week.

(The last show to pull out that kind of advertising ammo was “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” which had already racked up an $18 million advance when the ad ran post-opening.)

The triple truck, along with big ads in Newsday and other area papers, are part of a costly marketing push — more than $1.5 million — that’s trying to keep “Life” alive, attempting to outspend the weak salesand the same kind of critical clubbing that sent Suzanne Somers packing. (Her panned autobio, “The Blonde in the Thunderbird,” closed a week after it opened in July.)

The print campaign engages in the more or less standard practice of culling critical quotes that could kinda sorta maybe sound positive out of context, such as Ben Brantley’s dismissive observation that “beneath the swirling madcap flourishes lies a small pink candy heart,” which showed up in an earlier ad.

More unusually, chunks of copy paint “Life” as an underdog “to root for,” and Brooks as a New Yorker who is “truly one of us.” The show is, according to the ad, “The People’s Choice.”

Never mind that last week it played to 32% capacity. At this point, it’s impossible to get “In My Life” out of your face. Radio commercials play snippets of the title song, while theatergoers laud the tuner in TV ads.

It all amounts to an expensive and unprecedented attempt to take back the reins from the critics and naysayers.

“It’s an interesting experiment,” says one producer who’s watching closely. “I wouldn’t want to do it on my dime, but I’m happy to see if it works.”

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