Monday, February 05, 2007

Hear Me Out

It seems like I've known about the musical In the Heights since I started in the theater business (which I'm sure isn't true, but you get the point). It was always buzzed about as the show that would help usher in a new era in musical theater, making it cooler and more attractive to young audiences. Thus I've been following it and knew the show well before I entered 37 Arts to see the full production this past Friday. Even though this isn't an official site, I will not write my opinions of the show pre-opening, that is not fair. What I will write about is the size of the show.

When I sat through a festival presentation of But I'm a Cheerleader a couple of years ago, I was shocked at how much I liked it. I was never a fan of the movie, but the show, while it needed tightening, worked. But I sat there wondering where it could possibly play. A few days later, it began receiving positive reviews and yet I still knew its future possibilities were limited. Its cast size was too big to have a financially viable off-Broadway run and it wasn't on Broadway material.

So I was shocked that producers chose to mount In The Heights with a full ensemble. I knew the goal was to have that big a cast, but I just assumed, as the ensemble isn't that essential, someone would require a cast trimming pre-production. But, no. There are over 20 cast members in the Playbill. It must be the most expensive off-Broadway musical I've ever seen. Sure, the producers partially own the theater complex the show is based in, so they are probably saving in rent, but still, it has to be costing a ridiculous amount of money to run this show. Plus, the initial capitalization must be sky-high for off-Broadway. All this for a show that is at 37 Arts, aka in the middle of nowhere.

To put this in perspective, Altar Boyz has seven cast members including the understudies, received a rave Times review and has been running at New World Stages (which has a better location than 37 Arts, though I still call it Dodger Stages, no matter how many times David Gersten tells me I'm wrong) for almost two years and hasn't recouped yet. Sure, it is in a theater with less seats that In The Heights and has a lower top-ticket price, but still... You have to think Altar Boyz, a musical about a boy bands, has a much more universal following that a musical about life in Washington Heights. I mean, I send all my random friends that come into town and want to do off-Broadway, instead of on, to Altar Boyz. Do tourists even know where/what Washington Heights is?

So, I'm just shocked at the financial planning behind a musical like In The Heights. The producers cannot think they will ever make money with it at its current location. I assume the theory is--mount it off-Broadway and if it is a hit, move it, and if it is not a hit, you haven't lost as much as you would by mounting it directly on Broadway. That must be it.

Speaking of possible off-Broadway to Broadway transfers, I've been trying to listen to a recording of Feeling Electric. I think the rumor first spread six months ago that this show was going to be getting the Spelling Bee treatment at Second Stage (complete with similar backing). Now, I saw it when it was at NYMF and I didn't think it was good. I've now been listening to the recording and don't get it. Can someone tell me what I'm missing? Please? I like to get things.


Anonymous said...

Dear Carajoy: Stop wondering so much and try to enjoy the musical

Mary said...

Hmm.. I never did understand the need to Broadway-a-fy (I know, not a real world) an off-Broadway production. If Altar Boyz still hasn't recouped and I'm almost positive they've been doing well for an off-Broadway, how in the world is In the Heights going to? Granted, I don't know much about In the Heights, so I can't really compare the two, but it baffles me nonetheless.

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