Variety Buzz

Just when you thought the dust had settled on the big bad Internet and its affect on Broadway shows and their out-of-town tryouts, things are stirring up again. The newspapers had their say, and now Variety, the Hollywood trade magazine, has tossed their two cents in.

In an article written by Pamela Renner, she rehashes the Internet buzz which surrounded Seussical while it played in Boston. It's only "rehash" for the theatre community, but perhaps it's news for those out in La La land.

The central focus of the article is about the chatterati who attend shows in previews or out-of-town, prior to Broadway openings and how they spread the buzz via the Web. The infamous post by Danny proclaiming The Full Monty a hit on our message board, at intermission no less, on opening night of previews was mentioned. And I have to admit that when that occurred even I raised an eyebrow with a chuckle. That's the Web for you.

We, on the Web, feel we have absolutely no effect on the Broadway box office or the marketing of a show, or its success. Obviously, some in the biz feel differently and are concerned. In Renner's article, I was suprised that Lindsay Law, producer of Monty, was even aware of the famous Danny proclamation: "It's a Hit!" But, that's good buzz. It's the bad buzz that is generated which is of concern.

This Internet buzz is also creating a change in the way the legitimate press is reporting on shows in previews or out-of-town. Years ago it would have been considered "untoward" to write about a show prior to its Broadway opening. But, what's a writer to do today when it's being reported on the Web, whether it's by a chatterati or a columnist? Michael Riedel, New York Post columnist, addressed this issue in a recent airing of Theater Talk on PBS. He, of course, took some heat for his Seussical reports which were published in the Post during Seussical's Boston run.

If the Internet is forcing columnists into this situation then I suppose the Web does have its effect on the Broadway buzz. There's really no turning back. What we'll probably see in the future are fewer and fewer shows trying out in Boston or D.C. and producers will take the safer road, perhaps, that of Regional theatre transfers which are under much less scrutiny.

However, when Signature's Broadway bound production of The Rhythm Club cancelled its Chicago run, it was stated publicly that they didn't want to go through the hell Seussical did. That show is now on hold due to funding problems which, of course, was put through the wringer in the way of discussions on the Web.

The Web is a two-way street and I think producers need to take a closer look to see how they can harness the Web's power. Everyday the world is getting more and more wired and the day will come when their box offices will be really affected. It's not happening yet, the chatterati are a drop in the bucket, but one day in the future, the bucket just may overflow.


See you Thursday!


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