re: How to make Sondheim shows big hits...
Posted by: Chazwaza 03:26 pm EST 02/06/24
In reply to: How to make Sondheim shows big hits... - Zelgo 02:21 pm EST 02/06/24

I think you've got this wrong with your first point. Number 2 is dead on, but not 1. The 3 productions you're using as examples are some of the least good and least distinguished or inspired and often poorly directed (or just not especially well-directed) productions I've ever seen, of all of these shows.

The key seems to be... 1st and almost entirely is CASTING. And I think having known big stars from other mediums is the biggest part of that and the other big part is social media and the access fans have to marketing, info and actors online.
2nd key to this is decades of a show being performed and recorded and discovered by multiple generations (and in 2 of these 3 cases, made into a hit feature film with huge movie stars).

This Sweeney is the worst conceived and directed major production I think I've ever seen, and that includes the two filmed staged concert productions (with LuPone/Hearn and Emma Thompson). It is saved by an incredible text and score, and an incredible cast (some of whom I found misdirected, along with the production, but still did great work even if it's not how I think they'd do it best under better direction). The production doesn't ruin the show, but it is very weak compared to other productions and definitely is not working with the most inspired or even competent direction. Its success is a testament to the brilliance of the musical, the strength and popularity of this casts' stars, and 40 years of Sweeney being in the zeitgeist and regular rotation (not to mention, besides the hollywood film, the filmed Lansbury original, the 2 filmed staged concerts, there was also a raved about popular revival in 2007, and the hit and fairly long-running off-broadway revival at Barrow St not long ago).

This last revival of Into the Woods was... let's very very real here... a staged concert. And I've seen staged concerts with more sets and even more staging. And it was still quite misdirected in many ways. It worked for the same reasons I've said about Sweeney... absolutely incredible score and book, which has become a standard for generations, performed everywhere and in every school for decades, a film of the broadway original that is a staple for musicals fans, a hit Hollywood movie with big stars, many cast albums and many revivals on NYC and beyond (including the filmed London Regents revival). And the other MAJOR factor was the cast (not all my favorite but I can't deny how much the audiences ate them up).
It was a competent production, never inspired, and sometimes bafflingly misdirected, but nothing to mess the show up.

And this Merrily... I know I'm in a small camp here, but it's the same. And I think the production itself is pretty lackluster. The cast and material are why it's popular now, in addition to decades of lore and cast albums and productions all over the place to help it find its audiences.

I'd say that ALL Sondheim original productions and most of their revivals have been as good or better than these 3. I don't think the production/direction of the Roundabout Follies for example is any lesser than what we get in this Merrily, and certainly not this Sweeney or this ITW.

Also, let's not get crazy... these are not "big hits" yet.
-That ITW ran for 6 months, a total of 223 performances with 37 different casts. The 1st broadway revival ran 297. The original ran 808.

-This Sweeney has not even run a year yet, and the stars who helped it sell so well are gone now. We'll see how Sutton and Aaron do, and what happens after that. But it hasn't even run as long as the original. Hell, as of today it hasn't even run as long yet as the LuPone/Cerveris revival.

-And this Merrily is a hit mostly in the ticket demand and price level... which is, I'm gonna surmise, almost entirely due to Groff and Radcliffe. The original flop production played 60 performances and surely had many days of half-sold houses or less. This revival has nearly sold out 156 performances. A huge difference... but it's not as if they've been getting top dollar for even 9 months yet. Not even 6 yet. I'm sure when it wins Best Revival it'll get an even bigger boost. But I'm just saying let's wait and see how long it can sustain this.

My point really is just that I do not think these productions are the reason. I think it's entirely the shows, the casts, and the benefit of time ... and with ITW (and maybe Merrily), perhaps, the cheaper operating costs OF these particular stagings.
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Previous: re: How to make Sondheim shows big hits... - jjbkvm 03:54 pm EST 02/06/24
Next: Excellent points, with you on all 3 productions - Pashacar 07:29 pm EST 02/06/24
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