Youth-driven MTV and tradition-bound Broadway may seem like strange bedfellows.
But the television showcase MTV is about to give “American Idiot” is almost sure to boost the profile of Green Day’s Broadway tuner, particularly among young auds that are a core demo for the show.
MTV will air a behind-the-scenes special about “American Idiot,” “Green Day Rocks Broadway,” beginning April 16, just ahead of the previewing production’s April 20 opening night at the St. James Theater.
“Just to be able to tell all those people about the show, and to let them see a little of it in advance — there’s no known downside,” said Ira Pittelman, who is a lead producer of “American Idiot” with Tom Hulce, also his partner on “Spring Awakening.”
It’s not the first time the network has trained its cameras on a Main Stem production. In 2007 MTV aired a complete performance of the tuner “Legally Blonde,” and in 2008 ran a reality casting skein in search of a new thesp to play the lead character in “Blonde.”
Judging by the effect MTV had on the road incarnation of “Blonde,” the channel’s interest in “Idiot” seems likely to help the new tuner draw crowds — both in the short term and over time.
While the advantages for Broadway are clear, the matchup is also a natural for MTV since any programming related to a popular band like Green Day will serve its endemic audience.
Interstitial promos on the network tubthump not just for the behind-the-scenes special but also for the stage production itself. The the net also has launched a sweepstakes that will send 300 winners to the April 22 perf of the show.
Like “Blonde,” “American Idiot” shares a clear overlap with the youth-oriented target demo of MTV. Besides, the network has closely followed Green Day since the band hit it big in the 1990s. (Earlier this month MTV aired the world preem of the newest video from the band, “Last of the American Girls.”)
Amy Doyle, exec VP of music and talent at MTV, said the net is always interested in a stage offering that could appeal to its viewers with a youthful slant and an edgy twist. “We obviously would never do something like this with ‘Mamma Mia!’ or ‘Cats,'” she said.
The potential benefits for the legit B.O. of “American Idiot” won’t necessarily be analogous to those felt at “Legally Blonde,” given the differing styles and content of the programs featuring the stage productions.
Still, it seems likely that an MTV-powered boost in national profile — a least with the young theatergoers that are a key component of the aud for “Idiot” — could fuel B.O. gains.
“Blonde” came into Gotham on a tide of strong buzz but didn’t connect with critics after its April 2007 opening. The production closed in October 2008 in the wake of long stretches of soft sales — but has since found success on a scaled-down national tour and, more recently, in a strong-selling, well-reviewed West End incarnation.
According to “Blonde” producer Hal Luftig, the MTV effect has been felt most on the road, where ticket sales have been given momentum by auds already acquainted with the musical thanks to the broadcast.
“For people who couldn’t get to us on Broadway, the MTV broadcast allowed us to get to them,” Luftig said. “As we roll the show out on the road now, ticketbuyers feel comfortable with us and they already know that they’ll like what they’ll be seeing.”
The MTV showcase is just one of the potential benefits to be reaped from the “American Idiot” musical’s connection to Green Day. Tuner previously got a stint on the Grammys, when the cast performed with the band during the awards ceremony. And the soon-to-be-released vidgame Green Day: Rock Band also will focus press attention on the band and its work.
The “punk-opera” version of 2004 album “American Idiot” lands on Broadway following a successful tryout at Berkeley Rep last fall. Music is credited to the band, with lyrics by Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong and a book co-written by Armstrong and director Michael Mayer.