Tune your radio to a college rock station, and you just might hear a showtune.
The folks plugging the cast recording of Broadway tuner “Spring Awakening” — with young-skewing rock songs by indie-pop musician Duncan Sheik — are attempting to bridge the longstanding gap between the songs you hear on stage and the ones you hear on the radio.
“There’s a heavy push at college stations in the northeast, because that’s basically the audience,” says Brian Drutman, senior director of Decca Broadway, the label that’s putting out the “Awakening” cast recording.
“The music is getting radio play because the songs are very radio-friendly,” he continues. “They’re pop-rock, they’re two-to-three minutes, and they’re complete.”
The album hits stores Dec. 12, two days after the edgy tuner, about teens navigating the difficult terrain of adolescence, opens on the Rialto.
Sheik, who wrote the music with lyricist and book writer Steven Sater, made a conscious decision to make the record sound more rock than Rialto. Instead of gathering the cast and band for a single day of recording, as is usual for cast albums, Sheik and the album’s producers spread out the sessions and mixed the songs the way he would one of his pop albums.
“It sounds like an English alternative rock band,” Sheik says.
The folks at Decca hope the tunes are hip enough to pick up mainstream radio play on pop stations such as Gotham’s WPLJ and Z100.
The boost in visibility wouldn’t hurt. “Awakening” has garnered strong industry support since its hit run at the Atlantic last summer, but sales have been weak and the advance is low. For the week ending Dec. 3, the show grossed just $199,827.
Producers also are hoping to connect with young auds with ring tones and an online exclusive with iTunes.
The battle of ‘Urinetown’
As the wrangling over two regional productions of “Urinetown” continues, legiters are raising questions about what aftershocks the situation will have in the relationship between Broadway and the national theater community.
And the creatives who initiated the action worry their true intentions are getting lost in the fray.
On Nov. 13, the team responsible for the Broadway staging of “Urinetown,” including director John Rando and choreographer John Carrafa, publicly accused two regional incarnations of the show (in Chicago and Akron, Ohio) of plagiarizing their work.
Fallout has included a lawsuit filed by Akron’s Carousel Dinner Theater Nov. 22, along with public claims last week from the director of the original 1999 New York Intl. Fringe Fest production of “Urinetown” that the Broadway creatives did their own copying in staging the version that ended up on Broadway.
Since the initial accusations first emerged, concerns have been voiced in the Chicago Tribune and elsewhere about the effect the situation will have on future regional productions of New York fare.
Will the accusations — backed by the two unions that rep stage directors, choreographers and designers — ward away other creatives, fearing similar controversy, from producing new versions of Broadway shows?
Some in the regionals also sense New York condescension in the move. “What, can we only regurgitate what comes out of New York?” says Tom Mullen, one of the producers of “Urinetown” in Chi. “Do we have no talent?”
But that’s not the thinking behind the action, says Carrafa.
“We’re talking about specific, by-the-numbers copying,” he says. “What we’re up against is an industry-wide practice that’s been around for years” — a practice that sees staging ideas trickle down through the regionals as the theaters try to offer their auds a Broadway experience.
Carrafa emphasizes that for him, it’s about getting credit, not money. (He says they’re after only minor remuneration.) It’s also about setting a precedent.
“We hope to convince the licensing houses to make available either just the script, or the script with the Broadway production design,” says Barbara Hauptman, exec director of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers. “So if a regional wanted to do the Broadway version, they could license the production book with the direction, choreography, prop list, and design.”
It’s an issue that’s coming to the fore now, Carrafa says, in part because a new generation of small to mid-size tuners (“Urinetown,” “Avenue Q,” The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”) are making it to Broadway on smaller budgets, making them easier to replicate elsewhere.