The other day, I began this series of blogs by taking a look at The Book of Mormon and Catch Me If You Can's commercials, post Tony nominations. Today, I will take a look back at the other two nominees for Best Musical: The Scottsboro Boys and Sister Act.
The Scottsboro Boys
Long gone after 49 performances in the early fall of 2010, it is a real testament to the quality of this masterpiece of musical theatre that it garnered 12 Tony Award nominations, each and every one (and probably more) due. For my money, it truly was the very best musical of the season. But, like their other masterpiece, Chicago, it may take mainstream audiences a decade or two to catch up with Kander and Ebb. And, as my friends will tell you, I am quick to dismiss Susan Stroman when she gets a little too full of herself (The Producers, Young Frankenstein) as I am quick to jump on her bandwagon when she does the work of a master (Crazy for You, The Scottsboro Boys). I think her attention to the tiniest detail here is what separated her work from the rest of the pack this season. Alas, attention to detail is hard to reward when one must rely upon months old memory and/or even the best of video copies.
Fortunately, this same attention to detail pervades the television commercial for the show, about which I wrote back in October: "I think this brilliant ad speaks to everyone: the music and joyous jumping/dancing, along with the references to past shows by Kander and Ebb should really appeal to theatre goers; the cast should get more men to at least give it a second look, after all, how "prissy Broadway musical" can a show with all these guys be?; and the striking use of violent headlines projected like whipping scars on the backs of black men should ignite a spark in any American who has ever felt that injustice wins out far too much. These days, that universally American feeling might just sell this complex and controversial show. Not having seen it yet, I can't speak to how well it reflects the show it is advertising, but as a commercial it does its job for this viewer: I am intrigued and excited about seeing this new show. Easily the best TV spot for a Broadway show this year. Grade A+" Despite the ultimate failure of the show as a commercial Broadway venture, I still stand by every word.
Of the four Tony nominated musicals, I reviewed Sister Act the lowest. But that does not take away from the fact that, as musical theatre entertainment, it isn't grade A. A feel good musical in the finest tradition, I laughed heartily throughout, loved the humor of the book, and I still marvel at the authentic 70's sound of the score. And, yes, those were tears of musical theatre joy in my eyes. How could you not be thrilled and happy by the time those crazy nuns get done their finale?
So how does their 30 seconds in TV land compare? Will it draw audiences?
Well, it certainly should! From its tabloid like beginning, which catches your immediate attention, to the clever quotes drawn from reviews that play on funny religious puns to the announcement that the show is up for 5 Tonys including Best Musical, this commercial gets all of the words right. It's background music, "Take Me to Heaven," one of the show's brightest, catchiest tunes is also a good choice, not just for its catchy brightness, but also because it tells you that the score is not a rehash of the film soundtrack. And visually, it is perfect - a blend of scenes that remind you of the beloved film, rapid cross cutting of nuns on the run from bad guys reminds you of the zaniness of the vehicle, and there are just enough cross cuts of Deloris and Mother Superior emoting to remind us of the real heart of the story. In 30 seconds, you get a real feel for why the movie is so beloved, and best of all, a reminder of why you need to see this funny, lovable show. What more can you ask of a commercial? (P.S.: This is the first thing I've seen, advertising-wise for this show that doesn't draw attention to producer Whoopi Goldberg, beyond her name, along with the Broadway production company name, showing up briefly of the show title. And good, too, that the voice over doesn't mention either the film or Ms. Goldberg.) Grade: A
Coming up in this series: The Tony nominated Musical Revivals and the Plays.
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