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Theaters singing YouTube’s praises

Producers hope to bait audiences with videos

Seen the “In the Heights” takeoff of “High School Musical 2”? What about the latest episode of “The [title of show] Show”?

No? Check YouTube.

Creators of both tuners have posted original video content online as their shows gear up for new productions. And, while the creatives acknowledge these snippets don’t necessarily drive ticket sales, they’re still useful tools for boosting awareness.

After two successful Off Broadway runs, the creators of the four-person musical “[title of show]” are in the process of securing a future life for the tuner — but they don’t want to lose any PR momentum. “We wondered, ‘How can we still stay in the eyes of at least our fans, as well as the community?’ ” says co-creator Jeff Bowen.

The answer: “The [title of show] Show,” a comedic multi-episode chronicle of the Off Broadway hit’s journey toward a Broadway run. (That part’s not a joke: “[title of show]” is looking to book an out-of-town tryout this spring, prior to a Rialto engagement, ideally before the end of the season.)

Popular on Variety

Each 10-minute, fully edited video episode features the musical’s original thesps in scripted scenarios. The separate installments each take about 2½ weeks to produce at a very low cost.

“In the Heights” is also dark for the moment. The show, which bowed Off Broadway last season, is set to make the jump to the Rialto in February — and meanwhile it has its own YouTube presence to attract attention.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer-lyricist-star of “Heights” who makes like Zac Efron in the web spoof “Heights Cool Musical Too,” says his own clip got an unintended increase in hits due to the participation of Jonathan Groff, the popular Tony-nommed “Spring Awakening” thesp who has a growing fan base. “Google Jonathan’s name, and our video comes up,” Miranda says.

It may be impossible to prove just how much a YouTube short boosts ticket sales, if at all. But there’s always the chance it could turn into the next “Leave Britney Alone!”

“If it clicks, you’re able to bring in a whole new demographic to your show,” Bowen says.

Besides, such bits are a great way for creatives to procrastinate.

“I’m basically home with rewrites,” Miranda says. “The YouTubes are my diversion from that.”

“We like to get together and do stuff, and this is an excuse to hang out,” Bowen says of his “[title]” crew. “And we’re all obsessed with YouTube anyway.”

Apple of his i

Meanwhile, TV-watching legiters have been given a new reason to hit pause on their DVRs when fast-forwarding through commercials.

Yes, the talking head in that iPhone ad is indeed producer Ken Davenport, who shows off the selling points of the Apple gadget with a mobile visit to the website of his Off Broadway show “My First Time.”

Early-adopter Davenport says he was found by Apple as a real-life iPhone user, like the airline pilot and the blogging ballerina featured in other spots.

It doesn’t hurt that the ad for the shiny new object of desire also prominently features the web page of “My First Time,” the virginity-loss docuplay currently running at New World Stages and gearing up for productions in countries ranging from Mexico to Germany to Korea, among others. Even more than a YouTube spot, a major national ad campaign boosts a show’s profile.

“I can’t afford a TV commercial on public access, much less on national TV,” Davenport says. “What we struggle with Off Broadway is brand recognition. This raises the show’s profile and gets it out there.”

Davenport also has learned a little about his friends’ viewing habits. “My entire hometown of Sturbridge, Mass., called me the other night because the commercial was on Monday Night Football,” he says.

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