Step Into My Foyer

More shows are beginning to embrace the idea of starting the entertainment as soon as audiences take their seat. And this is a great phenomenon which is slowly catching on throughout the industry. But can we take it one step further? Melbourne Theatre Company already has with the last show of their 2015 season, Buyer & Cellar.

Babs' Basement

Audiences have come to the theatre to be entertained. Hence, every extra minute of entertainment you can provide is an extra element of satisfaction when they walk out the door. More and more shows are beginning to take up this unmissable opportunity providing some form of action from the moment the ushers begin ushering. Anything Goes had a bar on stage where actors were milling in costume and enjoying a drink in the setting that would become the first scene of the show. Once did one better and placed an actual bar on the stage together with a live jam session from the cast. Even Melbourne Theatre Company’s Buyer & Cellar provided entertainment for the waiting audience in the form of a Barbra Streisand highlights series of songs encouraging a couple of friends singing and acting along to these iconic moments.

But the entertainment didn’t start there . . .

I should explain a little bit about Buyer & Cellar first. Set in the underground mall in Barbra Streisand’s basement which displays all of her possessions rather than placing them in storage (true fact), Alex More is hired to keep shop and provide company to the famous icon while she shops her own wardrobe. Unsurprisingly this show is rather centred on Barbra Streisand and so is the pre-show experience!

The hilarious production is playing in the Fairfax Studio at Arts Centre Melbourne which features its own lounge area away from the milling crowds for other productions. In fact, from this secluded lounge, the audience descends into the theatre which has been turned into Barbra’s basement. So it is an easy jump to think that the lounge could well be the lounge of Barbra’s ground-level residence. And that is where the experience starts.

Scattered across the tables and stands in the Fairfax Studio lounge are the kind of knick-knacks you would expect any famous celebrity to scatter throughout their home . . . Photos of the even more famous people they have met and highlights from their career. This is exactly what the audience encounters upon entry. They provide a great talking point and begin to prepare the audience for the Barbra Streisand-heavy experience, but they also begin to immerse these people into the world of Barbra Streisand – the world where this play takes place. Essentially a welcome to the life of Barbra Streisand before you enter her basement.

It doesn’t need to be much to start this entertaining experience in the foyer. You don’t need to create a magic Moroccan wonderland like the clever people at Disney have done for Aladdin. But you do need to keep them entertained from the moment they walk in the door. Because like that old saying goes ‘First Impressions Count’ and stepping into the foyer is your audience’s first impression of your show!