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N.Y. festival downplays biz buzz

Expectations for event's participants are high

The New York Musical Theater Festival, which last week began its fifth annual outing, now has on its list of alums a Broadway show, another aiming for the Rialto this spring and several that have been produced Off Broadway.

But such success also has prompted unrealistically inflated ambitions among some participants.

“People have come in with the expectation their show would transfer Off Broadway,” says Isaac Robert Hurwitz, exec director and producer of the fest that spawned current Broadway fixture “[title of show]” and the Rialto-aimed “Nerds:// A Musical Software Satire.”

Hurwitz says nearly 40 of the org’s 130 alums have gone on to future play, among them “Altar Boyz” and “The Great American Trailer Park Musical.” But such gratification, if it comes, usually doesn’t come instantly. “[title of show],” for one, debuted at the fest in 2004, but did not bow on Broadway until this summer.

“That four-year trajectory is probably much more realistic,” Hurwitz says.

This year’s fest, which runs through Oct. 5, has been reined in slightly, with a slate of 28 shows (vs. the 34 that played last year’s edition), in part to allow fest producers to give more attention to individual offerings and in part to make the three-week event less overwhelming for theatergoers (who numbered 40,000 last year).

Early buzz-magnets this year include sci-fi comedy “Bedbugs!!!” and “Wood,” the modern-day “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” that quickly sold out its initial run of six perfs and added another.

 

Student rush is going virtual.

Collegetix — a teaming of Gotham-area universities, the Shubert Org (owner and operator of Telecharge.com) and Situation Marketing — offers online access to student-priced ducats at Columbia U., NYU and Baruch, with more schools to join.

Gregory Mosher, the former a.d. of Lincoln Center Theater who now runs the Columbia Arts Initiative, was one of the instigators of the program, whose aim is to make obtaining lower-price student tickets more convenient than the traditional method of standing in line at the box office hoping to make it in.

“Students can’t say, ‘Gee, I’m going to go cool my heels in Times Square for four hours and only maybe get a ticket,’ ” Mosher says.

A trial run in the spring sold more than 1,900 Rialto tickets to Columbia students. The Shubert Org conservatively estimates that this season, the multischool program will sell up to 8,000 tickets.

Seats, which can be purchased in advance, tend to be priced between $20 and $40, with 11 productions (including “August: Osage County,” “Mamma Mia!” and “Monty Python’s Spamalot”) currently participating.

In order to make tickets available for students only (and not adults scoping for deals), the program is accessible only through the internal intranet of each university, and one student I.D. must be shown for each ticket picked up at the box office.

No one’s making a bundle of cash off the endeavor, but participants are hoping the payoff comes in terms of audience enhancement.

“Today’s 19-year-old student is, in the blink of an eye, going to be a 25-year-old doing pretty well in life,” Mosher says.

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