How to Succeed with a Cast Album
Cast albums are a non-negotiable nowadays. They don’t cost anywhere near as much as mounting the show and they manage to easily reach out to the important tourist market because potential audiences can engage with them across the country and across the globe. But what about a show that is driven by a celebrity lead role? What happens when they change?
Despite the theatre community’s apparent dislike for celebrity lead musicals, there sure is a lot of love for the currently-running revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. So much love that the run has continued to be extended past the end of Neil Patrick Harris’ contract (who starred as Hedwig at the beginning of this revival).
Since Neil Patrick Harris’ departure, the role has been taken over by Andrew Rannells (The Book of Mormon), Michael C. Hall (Dexter), John Cameron Mitchell (the co-creator of the show) and Darren Criss (Glee) with Taye Diggs (Rent) waiting in the wings as the next lead.
But the cast recording only features Neil Patrick Harris.
This means that any potential audience members who are not fans of Neil Patrick Harris will miss the opportunity to be engaged by the cast recording – and could possibly be turned off from buying a ticket!
How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying faced a similar issue during its revival a few years ago. It was largely a star-driven musical with Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) leading the cast. After his contract expired he was replaced by Darren Criss and then Nick Jonas (Jonas Brothers). The original cast album was recorded by Daniel Radcliffe, but what about all those Nick Jonas fans?
So how did they solve this dilemma?
They chose a couple of songs where the celebrity lead was strongly featured and they re-recorded them with the new star. So you have the option of purchasing the Daniel Radcliffe version of How to Succeed or the Nick Jonas version . . . or both.
Maybe it is time for Hedwig to start looking at putting out a new album. There are plenty of diehard fans who are lining up at the theatre to see each new celebrity and they would certainly be in the market for the album as well as all those dedicated fans of the celebrities behind the later incarnations of Hedwig.
It is easy to underestimate the power of a simple cast recording, but keep in mind it is the most powerful way that a tourist – who might be visiting New York in the near future – can engage with the show. And if you have got them onto the album then they will probably be purchasing a ticket when they are in town!