New Year’s Resolution #5: Untraditional
Unlike the characters of Fiddler on the Roof would like to have you believe, tradition is overrated. Customers are always looking for something new. Something different. Something that stands out from the crowd. These are the things that customers attend to and 2015 was full of them!
The theatre has a sizeable audience that are after nostalgia. They are more than happy with what they saw in their golden years and aren’t really looking for things to change. This is your traditional revival audience. An audience who loved Anything Goes and is more than happy to revisit it every five years. But this kind of theatre is not sustainable for the future. If theatre is to grow and dominate the entertainment sector, then it needs to appeal to a new generation. A generation who doesn’t have the same interest in the musical stylings of the 1950s, but wants to see something new and exciting in a unique and memorable experience.
And 2015 certainly delivered on this . . .
Hamilton is the musical that everyone is talking about for exactly these reasons. It took a founding father of America, an unknown backstory, mixed in some rap and took a new approach to casting representing the traditionally Caucasian foundering fathers. This musical has become the hottest ticket in town selling out every performance well above capacity, much like its innovative neighbour The Book of Mormon.
Fun Home has also dominated headlines after this musical, focussing on the coming-of-age and coming out story of comic book artist Alison Bechdel, took out the prestigious Tony Award for Best Musical in this year’s ceremony. This musical has been praised for its successful efforts towards tackling difficult issues of suicide, sexuality and coming of age in a piece of mainstream theatre that has had mass appeal across entertainment audiences. Why? Because it is new. This show tackles issues which most shows don’t even talk about. Issues which are of great relevance to younger audiences and are able to stand out among the crowd.
Hand to God took this same approach with publicity stunts this year. Where most shows will buy a billboard in Times Square, a full page feature in the New York Times and several television advertisements, Hand to God took an alternate approach. The jury is still out on whether Hand to God orchestrated an audience member jumping onto the stage to charge his phone in a realistic, yet fake, power point in the show’s set, but whether or not it was planned, the production jumped on the back of this media wave and used it to some great promotional advantage.
But what is happening next year? Any new ideas headed to the world’s well-trodden boards? Cirque du Soleil will be leading this charge in 2016. The recent reimagined production of Pippin with a circus theme proved that there is a desire for more spectacular and acrobatic productions – especially for the tourist audience. And there is no one more renowned for live performance spectacles than Cirque du Soleil (except maybe Taylor Swift, but she isn’t headed to Broadway . . . yet). This famous circus company will be heading to Broadway in 2016 with its own show opening in one of the largest houses before collaborating with The Wiz transfer later in the year which will feature a chorus of talented circus performers to recreate the television spectacular.
Although there is no doubt that Cirque du Soleil won’t be the only bright and shiny idea to hit the theatre world next year. You’ll have to stay tuned to find out next year!