Finding New Audiences
The last time an original Broadway musical was given the pop star treatment was back in 1999 when Elton John and Tim Rice released ‘Written in the Stars’ from Aida sung by LeAnn Rimes . . . until this week!
It isn’t often that you can say that the most controversial musical on Broadway is targeted towards children. Finding Neverland’s controversy had nothing to do with sensitive political issues, nudity, swearing or any other behaviours which earn movies an MA15+ rating. The controversy surrounding this show is all about celebrities.
This week, only 48 hours after the Tony Awards, Finding Neverland released a concept album featuring all the songs from the incredibly popular musical. But rather than the cast performing the songs – that version is being released in a fortnight – this album features some of the music industry’s most popular and well-renowned names giving these theatrical songs their own twist. The collection of artists includes Nick Jonas, Keisza, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez, Matthew Morrison, Jon Bon Jovi and the Pentatonix. And it is pretty awesome!
Although this sentiment is not shared throughout the entire musical theatre community. Many people are outraged at the commercialism of this production. It is being produced by a big-time Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein. A number was performed at last year’s Tony Awards by American Idol-alum Jennifer Hudson (who was not in the cast). The Broadway company is strongly celebrity driven with Matthew Morrison and Kelsey Grammar with music written by ex-Take That member Gary Barlow. And now celebrities have been brought in to sing on the album.
This is definitely a change for the very traditional Broadway environment, but I would like to take this opportunity to jump to Harvey Weinstein’s defence. The actions he has taken with this show are not malicious. They are not because Broadway talent isn’t up to standards he is used to in Los Angeles. They are not because he doesn’t like the Broadway community. They are for one reason only . . . to bring the next generation to the theatre.
Harvey Weinstein was interviewed on his contentious promotion decisions this week and justified them with a simple sentiment. “The only thing that semi-impresses my five kids is that I know a couple of rock stars. It’s super important to build a bridge between the youth today and Broadway. It can be done, and I think this is going to be a unique way to do it.”
He gets a big tick for strategy here. If young audiences aren’t resonating with your product, you need to find a way to capture their attention because then they will start to explore some of the other offerings. And from a marketing perspective he gets an even bigger tick for bringing his musical to (arguably) the biggest group of people within months of opening on Broadway with the combined promotional reach of all his featured stars equalling a massive 152 million people.
That is a hell of a lot more than your average new original Broadway show!
So, congratulations Harvey Weinstein. You may be taking steps that not everyone appreciates, but you are taking steps into uncharted territory which could revolutionise the future audiences for musical theatre across the world!