Ensuring the Signs of Success

Whenever a member of the typical theatre audience doesn’t enjoy a show, the number one complaint is often the same. ‘I didn’t leave the theatre humming the songs’. So what can you do to fix this? Repetition.

At any one time in the day, consumers are taking in a huge amount of information. And this doesn’t change in musicals. They may only be looking at one stage for two and a half hours, but there is so much going on. Dancing. Costumes. Acting. Funny punch lines. Special effects. Scene changes. Lighting. And, of course, the music.

While the music may be positioned as front and centre in the product, it actually only forms a small component of the audience information overload. So when seeing a large-scale glitzy blockbuster it is difficult for the audience to remember the songs well enough to hum them on the way out – especially if they haven’t heard them before.

But classic musical theatre managed to circumvent this problem. It is near impossible to come out of a Rodgers & Hammerstein or Cole Porter show without humming the tunes. So what are they doing differently?

It comes back to a marketing philosophy. There are a certain number of repetitions of information a person must hear before the information is stored in their memory.

Look at the stereotypical pop song format for instance. Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, Chorus. Of course you are going to walk away with the chorus still playing in your head – you just heard it four times!

The same thing happens in these shows. Except in a different format.

Taking advantage of the overture music before the show, the entr’acte music after interval and (most importantly) the curtain call and exit music at the end of the show, these composers already prime the audience to receive the hummable information from their songs. When those key songs come up, the audience has already heard the main hummable melody one or two times and then generally gets another burst after the song when the actors come out to take their bows.

These moments in the musical may not seem that important in the grander scheme of things, but they actually play a crucial part in the audience enjoyment of the show because those important melodies are not new. They have already been heard and aren’t a shock when the leading man or woman breaks out in song in the middle of an everyday situation.

Plus, there is one more added bonus. If the audience leave humming the songs the value of the entertainment extends the whole way home. The experience is no longer only two and a half hours. It extends to three or three and a half as these people continue to play the musical in their head gaining extra enjoyment and value.

There is method to the madness of these orchestral moments in a show. So why not take advantage of them?