Its Rialto production may have shuttered in January, but pretty soon “Hairspray” will take to the high seas.
The show’s producers and licensers have struck an exclusive deal to run the tuner — in an essentially full-length, 90-minute version similar to the trimmed Vegas incarnation — on Royal Caribbean’s giant new cruise ship Oasis of the Seas, setting sail in December.
It’s not often you hear of a complete Broadway musical heading out on the water. Disney cruiselines run short, theme park-produced offerings that avoid overlapping with the company’s Broadway brands, and most maritime musical theater outings are limited to showtune revues.
“For years, shows on ships had the reputation of maybe being an add-on or an afterthought,” acknowledges Peter Compton, Royal Caribbean’s VP of entertainment.
Looking for something different for Oasis of the Seas — a massive boat with 16 decks and a 5,400-guest capacity — Royal Caribbean surveyed past customers about a list of potential legit offerings, and “Hairspray” scored big, thanks to its Broadway profile and the recent movie version.
The Royal Caribbean deal, a three-year exclusive with an option for a fourth year, doesn’t affect any landlubber editions of “Hairspray,” including the NETworks tour currently on the road. “I’m a big believer in the idea that the more it’s out there, the more interest there is in seeing it,” says “Hairspray” producer Margo Lion.
And the nautical version won’t be a scrappy let’s-put-on-a-show affair crammed into one corner of the poop deck. The new cruise ship’s Opal Theater has 1,350 seats and as much tech and automation capability as any Broadway venue, according to cruiseline execs.
Performers in the show — auditioning soon in Gotham, Los Angeles, Chi and London, where “Hairspray” is still playing in the West End — get a six-month contract, room and board and, of course, all those stops at the ship’s Caribbean destinations.
“For actors, your take-home here is pretty good,” Compton says.
‘Monkey’ swings West
The producers of “Monkey: Journey to the West” are prepping for the show’s real-life westward expansion, meeting this week in Gotham to lay out plans for the musical-animation spectacle to come Stateside.
“Monkey,” a hefty live-performance hybrid created by musician Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett of the band Gorillaz, has already played the U.K. and Paris, attracting an unusual mix of band fans, traditional theatergoers, families and Asian auds familiar with the 16th-century Chinese folk tale of the Monkey King.
Fantastical storyline centers on the titular Monkey, who, after irking Buddha, gets a chance at redemption via a quest to India to retrieve religious texts. Show is staged by Chinese-born, Gotham-based director Chen Shi-Zheng (“The Orphan of Zhao”) as a combo of opera, theater, acrobatics and animation.
With 40 performers and a dozen musicians, the large-scale endeavor will be capitalized at approximately $2 million, according to producer Matthew Gale, with total costs dependent on the deals worked out for the proposed 30-week tour.
Gale, who produces with Virginia Buckley and U.S. partner William B. Conner Jr. of arts presenter CAPA, aims to start the tour in the U.S. with American technicians and musicians before taking the show to Asian markets such as China or Japan.
“Monkey” will likely stop at nine or 10 venues (of around 2,000 seats each) over its U.S. stint, beginning in fall 2010 and running through the following spring. It might materialize earlier in Gotham, Gale says, and while he wouldn’t give specifics, a limited run on the Main Stem is definitely on the table.
“The show works best in a musical theater house, like a Broadway venue,” Gale says.