Hey, legiters — you know there’s a Broadway vidgame out there?
Capitalizing on the well-documented success of music and dance interactive offerings like “Rock Band” and “Dance Dance Revolution,” the Wii game “Dance on Broadway” enlists players to shimmy and strut to a selection of 20 show tunes.
Using the Wii’s motion-sensing remote to track movements, “Dance” may be the first Broadway-centric videogame in history — unless, with “American Idiot” now playing the Great White Way, you count the recently released “Green Day: Rock Band.”
Although legiters are always interested in expanding the reach of Rialto fare, several industry types were surprised when they were alerted recently to the June release of “Dance.” That even goes for the producers of some of the shows featured in the game. (But don’t go looking for a backstage scandal there: All the arrangements for song rights seem to be in place, with deals more likely to be made with a music publisher than a producer’s office.)
While old-school legit and newfangled tech may not initially seem the likeliest of bedfellows, there’s a logic to the pairing. As the vidgame industry increasingly expands its reach into demos beyond hard-core gamers, more and more developers are targeting young, tech-savvy women.
And the tween, teen and twentysomething females who are fans of games centered on live performance and dance (such as the Wii’s “Just Dance,” also from Ubisoft) are exactly the consumers who will become the prime Broadway audience. According to data gathered over the 2008-09 Main Stem season, 66% of Rialto auds were female, with the typical decision-making ticketbuyer pegged as a 43-year-old woman.
“Our target audience is women between 25 and 35, which is kind of a crossover between the primary Broadway audience and the primary Wii audience,” says game producer Jeff Lindsey of Longtail Studios.
Aiming to open up the game’s appeal to a wide range of ages, the 20 songs in “Dance on Broadway” are drawn from a purposefully broad selection of eras. Shows range from “42nd Street” to “Hair” to “The Lion King.” (There’s also the title track from “Fame,” which has technically never played the Rialto, but nevermind.)
Some of the song choices may surprise musical theater fans. The title song from “Cabaret”? That’s a natural. But “Money, Money,” from the same tuner? Less obvious.
According to the game makers, decisions about what songs to feature began by picking a selection of well-known tuner titles — there’s a little “Dreamgirls,” a little “Guys and Dolls” — and finding songs that had a consistent beat. In the game, each tune, capped at around four minutes, gets its own stage setting and a selection of show-appropriate costumed avatars to choose from. (Think milkmaid frocks for “The Sound of Music” and flapper chic for “Chicago.”)
Players won’t be hearing any original cast recordings or busting out any signature Fosse flourishes. Once the game’s creators scored the rights to the selected songs, they made their own recordings, in large part so they could tailor the tracks to meet the length and tempo requirements of the game mechanic. Original moves come from Brooklyn-based choreographer Chase Brock.
Whether “Dance” will be the first in a string of Broadway-themed vidgames will likely depend on how this initial outing fares at your local Gamestop. Since “Dance on Broadway” only hit stores June 15, that remains to be seen.