How Jason Derulo took Broadway actors to ‘The Other Side’

I certainly branched out with yesterday’s article about Jason Derulo and his clever stunt to gain some new loyal fans. But, as promised, today I am going to tie that back into the theatre with the recent casting of Brian D’Arcy James in the new musical Giant.

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Now for those of you that watched SMASH, you will remember Brian D’Arcy James as they rather jealous husband of Will and Grace alum, Debra Messing. Well before he spent a season on SMASH, Brian D’Arcy James spent quite a bit of time on stage headlining in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Next to Normal and my personal favourite, Shrek: the Musical.

So he is sort of a big deal when it comes to actors on Broadway.

But here is the interesting thing about Giant . . . it isn’t on Broadway. It is playing at the Public Theatre which is classified as an Off-Broadway theatre.

See the similarity? Jason Derulo stepped down a level to perform with some up-and-coming artists and Brian D’Arcy James is doing the same in New York’s theatre scene.

The number of Broadway actors spending some time Off-Broadway seems to be increasing in regularity recently. We have had Caissie Levy (Elphaba in Wicked, Sheila in Hair and lead role Molly Jensen in Ghost the Musical in both London and the West End) take some time out in huge Off-Broadway success Murder Ballad). And even acclaimed actress, Maggie Gyllenhaal took the lead role in the play Three Sisters which also played Off-Broadway.

While we do occasionally have famous people performing Off-Broadway (Aaron Carter has been leading The Fantasticks cast for a couple of years), this recent trend is fairly interesting. Is it because fewer shows are closing on Broadway – thanks Disney! – so these stars have to look for work elsewhere? Is it because they get to work on new and exciting edgy pieces of theatre? Or is it so that they can build their brand with a new audience?

While it may be one of the first two questions, the marketing ramifications for their future appearances are really cool!

No doubt, Off-Broadway is more accessible to audiences as tickets are much more affordable and easier to get than fighting over the latest Tony Award winner. As such, many people who usually go to an Off-Broadway musical or play may not have seen these theatrical powerhouses perform.

Now here is the genius . . .

When these performers go back to Broadway, they will bring a whole new audience with them. Not only will they appeal to the people who have already seen them in a Broadway show, but they will bring those who saw them in an Off-Broadway show up to the Broadway level because they will hopefully be willing to pay the higher price to see these phenomenal actors perform. Especially as the risk of not enjoy the show is minimised now that they like the lead actor!

The other advantage is that they open themselves up to a new and ever-growing market . . . the hipsters. People who would never be seen on Broadway because, well, it is just too mainstream!

So why wouldn’t these actors want to give Off-Broadway a go? Reach a wider audience, make themselves more employable to a Broadway producer looking to hire stars who will bring an audience and of course work on building their brand with the hipster sub-culture.

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