New Year’s Resolution #3: Collaboration

This term is most often seen in the YouTube community nowadays. Collaborations occur when two different but similar content creators come together to create collaboration videos that will appeal to both of their fan bases bringing the fans of one creator to the other (and vice versa). But collaborations abound in the other areas of the entertainment industry as well – and hold the key to bringing new audiences into theatres across the world!

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New Year’s Resolution #3: Bring more new audiences into the theatre due to exciting collaborations

Some of the most exciting and lauded entertainment properties have come from collaboration. Collaboration between the South Park creators and Broadway creatives brought the world The Book of Mormon. Collaboration with a whole host of influential celebrities has kept Chicago treading the boards since 1996. And collaboration between theatre and different communication channels has brought us live streaming, live broadcasts and DVD releases. But what has happened this year?

Celebrity-driven collaborations have been all the rage this year because they are an incredibly effective strategy to bring new audiences into the theatre. Idina Menzel and the Broadway leading cast returned to the touring circuit in If/Then bringing the Broadway experience and guarantee of a great show to theatres across the country. Big Australian names jumped on board Opera Australia’s television endeavour with The Divorce. And many Hollywood celebrities have crossed the United States to make their debut on Broadway stages. But there are two specific celebrity-driven strategies that I want to highlight . . .

The first comes all the way from pre-Broadway tryouts in Cambridge where the new musical adaptation of cult-classic film Waitress recruited pop icon Sara Bareilles to write the music and lyrics. From the out of town reviews that have been released, this production is sure to impress the New York theatre community artistically due to Sara’s beautiful writing but is also likely to perform to continuous sold out houses thanks to the star power of the Sara Bareilles name. But the big push for ticket sales isn’t coming from Sara Bareilles herself. It is coming from her fans.

Sara Bareilles’ fans are incredibly loyal people. In fact, I am pretty certain that they would follow her off a cliff (I’m sure I would!). And as a result, an influential online community has sprouted online generating PR and word of mouth from a publicist’s dreams. This word of mouth is creating a huge buzz around this show and is sure to inspire Sara Bareilles fans from all walks of life and locations around the country to seek out her latest work. (And the self-recorded CD release is certainly helping on that front).

The other big celebrity-driven collaboration comes from a little closer to home. CATS. The musical that divides all theatre audiences has had a makeover for a modern generation. The two biggest changes come in the form of a rapping Rum Tum Tugger and a celebrity Grizabella. Now, Grizabella was always a celebrity role in this show but it was for a different kind of celebrity. It was previously used to highlight a theatre matriarch, someone who was incredibly well-known in the theatre industry and had served their time across many productions. But not anymore!

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest version of CATS uses this role to highlight a pop singing celebrity who will make their theatre debut in his production. The West End saw Nicole Scherzinger originate the coveted role before Australian songstress Delta Goodrem took over for the Australian tour. The announcement of this change was met with outcries that ‘Theatre was being ruined to pander to celebrity’. Is that the case? Definitely not. It is a slight change in the show that means ‘Memory’ now takes its place as one of the highlight moments of the show and new audiences have an incentive to enter the theatre to see their favourite pop star front and centre at the end of the show!

What will next year hold? Rumour has it that the new production of CATS will return to Broadway and speculation is rife on who will take the lead role and prove the power of celebrity to New York audiences. Anthony Warlow, one of the biggest Australian drawcards, will be heading back to the Australian stage in Fiddler on the Roof. And Sara Bareilles will be transferring her Waitress onto the Great White Way. But this is only the start . . . keep an eye out for plenty of producers calling on the power of celebrities to send their show’s messages far and wide across the world!

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