A Broadway stint for concert outing “The Rascals: Once Upon a Dream,” just announced for a spring engagement at the Richard Rodgers Theater, reps the latest example of the increasingly nimble programming choices made on the Main Stem in recent seasons.
Quickie concert gigs are nothing new to the Rialto. But they’ve been unusually numerous on the boards this season, with “Once Upon a Dream,” a reunion of 1960s band the Rascals performing alongside a multimedia chronicle of the group’s history, following in the footsteps of fall offering “Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons on Broadway” and the current “Manilow on Broadway.”
Such titles come to the boards with advantages for both theater owners and producers. For Broadway landlords, a short concert run can help fill a vacancy at a venue between more traditional play or musical offerings. As illustrated by “Manilow on Broadway” — which sold so well it prompted the show to stretch its stay by two weeks — these outings can also prove successful enough to warrant an extension, yielding additional coin for all involved.
For producers, such productions usually exist in some prior form, which means far less capitalization is required to get it to the Rialto than for, say, a new musical developed from scratch with all the attendant costs for workshops and out-of-town tryouts. “Rascals,” for instance, bowed in December in Port Chester, N.Y., where the show extended its skedded run from three perfs to six due to aud demand.
The marketing and recoupment challenges inherent in a concert’s shorter run can be balanced by a music act’s pre-existing fan base — especially if it overlaps with the older-skewing crowds that are Broadway’s bread and butter. As evidenced by the baby-boomer appeal of all three of this season’s concert outings, it seems clear that a veteran band like the Rascals would be far more likely to land on the Main Stem than a younger act like Dizzee Rascal or Rascal Flatts.
These kinds of concerts share a lot of similarities with Broadway gigs for stand-ups, such Lewis Black’s “Running on Empty,” which played eight perfs in October, and “Kathy Griffin Wants a Tony,” which saw Griffin play 10 Rialto perfs last year. These, too, are lower-cost outings for material that usually has been honed in prior gigs.
To a degree, the uptick in concerts also falls in line with greater experimentation in Rialto programming overall. Most notably, the limited holiday engagement — largely unheard of 10 years ago — has become downright commonplace, with both “A Christmas Story” and “Elf” showing up on the Main Stem this season.
For concert outings, the appeal of potential Tony Awards isn’t usually a factor — neither “Valli” nor “Manilow” petitioned for kudo eligibility this season — but the prestige of Broadway can still be a draw for some artists, particularly if a stage stint, in a more intimate auditorium than many concert bookings, could pull in ticket buyers who might otherwise skip a concert at a more traditional live-music venue.
A lot of music acts book gigs relatively far in advance, which can raise obstacles in getting them into Broadway theaters, the availability of which is often determined on a shorter lead due to the vagaries of unexpected show closings. But as the sales tallies for both “Manilow” and “Valli” make clear, there are ample benefits to both sides if skeds click.
“Once Upon a Dream” trades on the boomer name recognition not only of the Rascals but also of Steven Van Zandt, the well-known music figure who is credited with writing the show as well as co-directing it with Marc Brickman (also the set, video and lighting designer). Original band members Felix Cavaliere, Eddie Brigati, Dino Danelli and Gene Cornish appear in the show, which lands at the Richard Rodgers a couple of weeks after the set-in-stone March 30 closing of Scarlett Johansson topliner “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
The 15-perf engagement of “Once Upon a Dream,” produced by Steven and Maureen Van Zandt and exec produced by Larry Magid and Base Entertainment, runs April 15-May 5, with an opening night set for April 18.