The Secret to Successful Shows . . . Programming!

Programming is a very difficult skill to master. It requires fine balancing of works that performers want to do, works that audiences will pay to see and a keen analysis of other environmental factors which may come into play. And an article in today’s The Age has shown an insight into how this keen knowledge can be utilised.

Wicked Couldn't Be Happier LD

There is a reason why these professional shows are called ‘big budget musicals’. They require just that . . . an enormous budget. And when you are spending that much money (or your investors’ money) you want to have rather good odds that it will work out.

Today The Age printed a really interesting article on the topic of programming from John Frost’s perspective with some very clever approaches that should be considered by everyone. You can check it out here.

Basically, the article looked at the programming over the last 18 months and the upcoming programming for Australian theatregoers, and one thing has changed. Risk.

The programming from the last 18 months was rather risky. Shows such as the world premiere of An Officer and A Gentleman and Australian debut seasons of Legally Blonde, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Addams Family have, unfortunately, not done as well as one might have expected. Despite the fact that these casts were phenomenal and the show they performed was brilliant, audiences were hesitant to spend large amounts of money on this entertainment.

John Frost draws this all back to the current economic climate where all Australians are still rather tentative about their spending in the wake of the global financial crisis as our economy slowly recovers. And while this topic of economics may seem to concern investors more than theatregoers, it is still a big concern. As consumers become more tentative with their spending the perceived risk increases in many purchase decisions and the overall portion of their spending devoted to entertainment decreases.

But that isn’t a reason to give up . . . it just provides producers with another consideration when it comes to programming.

At this point in time, maybe Australia isn’t ready for more risky, new and edgy programming. There is a large amount of risk in engaging with a new musical that you haven’t heard much about – so why give consumers this option when they will most likely turn around and look for a risk-free investment for their time and money?

Taking a look at the programming for the next year, there is a lot of nostalgia. The King and I, The Rocky Horror Show, WickedGrease, The Lion King and crowd-favourite Les Misérables. With the exception of Melbourne Theatre Company’s Once, all these shows are relatively risk free. None are new to Australian audiences having all done previous Australian tours. All have received fantastic reviews from around the world. And most of all, if you ask any consumer to name a random list of musicals (even those who have never seen one in their life) they will surely hit upon a couple of these shows.

All this means decreased risk for consumers and ultimately a better likelihood that they will buy a ticket because they know that a good time is waiting for them through the theatre doors!

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