Running Away With The Circus
When it comes to the creation of entertainment, it is difficult to find a company that does it better than Cirque du Soleil. They examine their audiences and they create a distinct product which will meet (and often far exceed) their needs. And their latest venture on Broadway does exactly this.
A Cirque due Soleil performance and a Broadway musical are two rather different entertainment entities with fairly diverse audiences. Where musical audiences are looking for powerful, relatable stories and ravishing musical numbers, Cirque audiences want to be blown away with spectacles and magic. With the great success that Cirque receives in its performances all over the world, it would be easy to assume they will just roll a new big top into the Lyric Theatre on Broadway with their new show Paramour which opened for previews today. But they have done something that will have all the other musical houses shaking in their boots.
The one golden rule of creating a popular product is to look at your audience. The audience powering through Times Square every night is there with a rather distinct purpose. They are largely tourists and they want to see a Broadway show (which could be their first experience of theatre) as one of the iconic activities to check off the New York bucket list.
Would a traditional Cirque show have satisfied this audience? Maybe, for a little while. But chances are that they have already seen one of these shows that tour around the world. This audience is here to see a razzle, dazzle musical spectacle which the traditional Cirque show doesn’t provide. And if you are going to set up in Times Square then you want a slice of the 13 million person pie.
So what did they do?
Cirque due Soleil’s Paramour has found a happy medium between the two. President of Cirque, Scott Zeiger says it best, “We brought in not only the traditional Cirque du Soleil spectacle team, but we paired them with a composer who writes pop songs with lyrics that propel story, and a director that does scene work, and designers that mirrored the Cirque du Soleil designers to create a story-driven narrative that can deliver not [to] just the Cirque du Soleil audience, but the Cirque du Soleil audience plus the Broadway audience”.
By creating a piece of entertainment which will also satisfy theatre audiences they have managed to find a middle ground which will attract long-time Cirque fans while also giving them the theatrical experience they desire from visiting Broadway. But it will have an interesting impact on the touring audience.
This audience is new to musical theatre. They wouldn’t usually see a show, but because they are in New York they will make the most of it and book tickets. But they will be looking for a show that they believe they will enjoy. In this mix are the big blockbusters of Wicked, Book of Mormon and Phantom of the Opera which have enjoyed enormous publicity and word of mouth all over the road. And then there are the assuring brand names, of which Cirque du Soleil is one.
The brand already has associations of quality and exceptional, spectacular entertainment for the non-theatre community. So it is an easy jump to choose this option over the others because this non-theatre audience probably already has had a pleasurable interaction with the Cirque brand. It decreases the fear that they won’t like the product yet still provides them with an experience they are looking for in this famous New York and Broadway context.
Every show should have this aim if it wants to attract the tourist segment of theatre attendees. Find a point of difference which gives them faith they will enjoy the show and decrease risk of engagement and you will be onto a winning strategy like the people at Cirque due Soleil.