Broadway is Behind the Times When Using Online Videos to Promote Shows
Once every few months, filled with self-loathing after spending nine straight hours in the company of real housewives, I feel the need for some aesthetic counterbalance. I express this need by skipping off the sofa and announcing, in my most trumpety baritone, "Honey, we're goin' to the theee-AAY-turrr! Fetch me the shirt with buttons!" What I tend to forget is that coordinating a night on, off or around Broadway usually demands some forethought. After one recent low-culture TV binge, I suggested we grab tickets for The Book of Mormon. The nice lady at Telecharge subsequently informed me that she could "probably" get us in by mid-May… of 2013.
Because I'm a really big person, I won't blame the theater world for my inability to plan anything in advance. Nonetheless, I wonder: Why hasn't it embraced online video to the extent that just about every other supplier of content-ish experiences has? Why does it insist on generating buzz in a manner befitting a marketer of 19th-century entertainments? [My sister, an Actor's Equity member, guesses that "behind the times" union regulations could have something to do with this, but that's a discussion for another time and forum.]
I bring this up in the wake of my reception of a video trailer for Ghost: The Musical. It was sent over by a friend who questions the need to revisit that particular monument to telepathic romance and tidy pottery, and the show looks every bit as loopy as a Saturday Night Live parody of a fake Ghost musical would be. On the other hand, as opposed to the few other theater-coming- attraction trailers out there, it might actually sell a few tickets.
Compare this with both the official and massively underlit and underproduced Playbill-assembled clips that preview another movie-to-musical extravaganza, Once. Each seems to have one mission in mind: to resell what's already been sold. For would-be showgoers who need affirmation that the stage rendition of Once won't include too many scary new songs or flatten the ever-charming accents of the lead players, the previews are a soothing balm. For everyone else, they reiterate that the best B'way strategy is to sit back and wait for the reviews to come in.
Which brings me back to the Ghost trailer, one of only two I've seen that suggest someone other than a summer intern has been entrusted with digital marketing (the other is a Steppenwolf Theater Company trailer for Penelope, which downplays the pathos of the source material in favor of South Park-ish hooliganism). As I see it, the Ghost trailer folks needed to do precisely four things: let fans know that the characters they cherish will be part of the production; let slower-functioning fans know that those characters will not be played by Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg; introduce the unfamiliar elements of "song" and "dance"; and showcase all the cool and expensive-looking FX, like flashing lights and visual illusions and whatnot. The preview accomplishes all these tasks in a tidy 1:58. It's a marvel of promotional minimalism.
My cousin's wife is dim. She loves Ghost. Assuming it hasn't reached her already, this trailer will prompt both a Facebook OMG link-share tsunami and the immediate booking of plane tickets and hotel reservations. I can't imagine she'll be the only one.