Thursday, April 7, 2011

Broadway On TV: The Season's Newest Commercials, Part I

It has been some time since I've blogged about TV commercials for Broadway shows.  So, today, I thought I'd blog about the commercials for the two shows I've most recently seen, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Priscilla Queen of the Desert.  And despite giving it up for Lent, I thought now might be my last chance to talk about the current ads for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark before they make any of the substantial changes promised, so I relented and am talking about it now.

One of the things that strikes me about all three commercials is the inclusion of onscreen quotes from reviews - a common practice to be sure.  Another thing that strikes me about all three is what isn't being touted in the ads.  I think you'll see what I mean.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

You sure get a lot in this 30 seconds!  And it will likely sell tickets, especially to those who are marginal fans of the Harry Potter films, who wanted to wait and see if Daniel Radcliffe could actually sing and dance.  Well, the very first quote/voice over tells us that he is a "musical comedy superstar."  And who wouldn't believe that?  Clip after clip shows him doing just that - singing and dancing.  And if that won't sell tickets alone or makes you still unsure, the quotes/voice overs tell us that the songs are "classic, bright and funny" and the dancing is some of the best on Broadway.  The ad also succeeds because it is fast paced, shows a lot of scenes - hot guys in suits dancing (gay men, check), pretty girls in costumes that "they just don't make anymore" (wives who love musical theatre, check). 

And it also succeeds by what it doesn't mention: a.  the Harry Potter films.  Seeing Daniel live is the prize; let's not remind folks that this is a decidedly un-Hogwarts show; b. that while critics loved his performance, his voice isn't going to get him to Carnegie Hall any time soon, so you never hear him singing; c. the husbands of the aforementioned "wives who love musical theatre" might just go along because cool funny man John Larroquette is in it, and he carries golf clubs and footballs...

Grade: A

Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Gay musical theatre fans don't need a commercial to get them to see this show at the Palace Theatre.  And clearly, the ad is going for a more "universal" crowd.  For a show that features two drag queens (and dozens of others) and a transgendered person, this ad is surprisingly (not really, click HERE) lacking in drag queens and gay themes.  OK, maybe the 2 second shot of Priscilla bathed in a rainbow lighting effect might be a clue.  But if I didn't know anything about the show, save for it was "finally on Broadway," I'd see big, colorful sets, lights and costumes, and HUGE dance numbers with people in kick lines and pinwheels.  The mention of "three friends" has our leads in street clothes both times they are on screen for more than a few seconds - I'd bet if you screened this for 100 people, 99 wouldn't know Tony Sheldon wasn't really a woman from this.  And nothing says sexy fun for wife like a soundtrack of disco hits, and for husband like three sexy divas with tight dresses, prodigious cleavage and pouty lipsticked-lips gyrating to quotes about the show.  And all of the costumes are outrageous, so as they blur by at an amazing pace, you don't even notice that those Broadway chorines are really Broadway boys. Now, I'll admit, and hope, that the ticket buying public at large might figure all the pink, neon and feathered clothing just might have to do with gay themes, not to mention the background song, "Finally," but the producers wanted a cleansed version "to get people in the seats" and to "teach them a lesson" once they are there.  This commercial certainly fills that bill... and if you are savvy enough to realize what's up, a tight shot of Will Swenson hugging a child who leaps into his arms, will seal the deal... this has a FAMILY angle.  The ad does what is supposed to - at least what the producers want, anyway - so in that way it is a big success.   But an ad for a show that wears tolerance on its spangled sleeves that is tricking people into the seats, rather than educating them before money is exchanged kind of lessens the bigger impact that the show could have.  Maybe it's just me...

Grade: A (for selling tickets)  Grade: D (for selling out)

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Ad #1

Nothing beats bad word-of-mouth like filmed good word-of-mouth!  And by all of the demographic groups - teenaged boys, tween girls, a lady who "goes to a lot of Broadway plays," a middle aged man... inter cut with lots of flying and fighting... lots of color and lighting... and a shot or two of Bono, with a rock guitar underscoring.  Images of the most stunning visuals aside from the flying - the swinging/weaving (remember those colors in The Lion King?), the pop-up cartoonish sets (it is based on the comics legend, not the films) and some dancing to boot (a real Broadway musical, right?)  This commercial pretty much gives the finger to all the bad word-of-mouth - especially since the majority of it comes from people who have never stepped foot in the Foxwoods Theatre.

If all I had to go on was this ad, I'd RUN to the B.O. and buy a ticket!

Grade: A+

Ad #2

This ad will not likely be playing much longer, as it is big on Julie Taymor's visuals.  Note that it relies on a quote from a review.  Hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right?  That quote focuses on three things: "Visual feast," "electriFLYING" and "Bono and the Edge's rock score."  On these three counts, the ad succeeds with, um, flying colors.  First of all, there is a barrage of interesting visuals - gorgeous moving sequences, spectacular close-ups of villainous costumes and electrified sets.  Then there is the blaring rock music throughout (if it is actually in the show, I don't remember it, but that isn't really the point, is it?).  And finally, the flying - Spidey zipping around the theatre, Spidey and Green Goblin in an aerial battle, and perhaps most significantly, they are doing so OVER THE AUDIENCE, unscathed, not stopping, no one being injured.  And this includes the final image before the logo - a clearly wired Spider-Man catapulting from upstage, right to the edge of the stage and in the face of a patron.  See?  They fixed it!

I can't really blame them for using the quote, either.  They didn't ask for it, but they sure got it.  Why not make lemonade from lemons?  (And I checked - The New Jersey Star-Ledger does refer to the "stellar songs.")

Grade: B+ (They should have used one of those "stellar songs.")

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