Thursday, October 17, 2013

Broadway on TV: The Glass Menagerie

When I left the Booth Theatre a couple of weeks ago, I had that "theatre buzz" feeling.  It is that rare excitement - a mixture of an aching soul and an exhilaration in my senses that would probably have allowed me to run the New York Marathon right then and there. Overwhelmed by the need to articulate my feelings, I'm pretty sure I babbled on and on, trying to get it all out.

So, when I saw this commercial for The Glass Menagerie, I had to smile and chuckle to myself.  Why?  I remember saying things like, "It took my breath away!" and "Zachary Quinto was a real revelation!" Lo and behold, what quotes are used in that ad?  See for yourself...

Grade: A+

As classy and powerful as the show that it is advertising, this TV spot is a textbook example of how to promote a play (versus a musical).  First, almost all such ads include pull quotes from the reviews, but it is essential for a play.  I've read that several surveys have shown that people who buy tickets to straight plays are most influenced by reviews.  This spot includes quotes from a variety of sources, some spoken aloud, others fading in and out of the visuals.  And the most prominently displayed (and spoken) are those from The New York Times, still the most influential source of criticism among those same ticket buyers surveyed.

The sound of the commercial also tells so much about this production.  The underscoring - a somber piano tune - comes directly from the show.  The male voice narrating it is deep and very serious - no hype here.  But it is the kind of voice that commands your attention - maybe even enough to make you not change the channel or turn around as you run off to the kitchen for a snack.

Visually, this commercial captures the show's theatricality, starting with a slow pan away from the outside of  the Booth Theatre, and then fading into a shot of a stage light shining on the title.  Tennessee Williams wanted all to know that this play was meant to be overtly theatrical (have you ever read the stage directions for this masterpiece?), and the production  and this ad embrace that concept completely.  As the ad goes on, images from the show fade in and out, colorful and extra vibrant against a completely black background.  And on the sides where the quotes appear in bright white, the black background ripples like water making rings after a pebble stirs it. Of course, the reflective water mirrors (literally and figuratively) a key design element in the show.

A memory play... a memorable production... this commercial pays off in enticing theatre-goers to get to the Booth, and it pays homage to an amazing production of an real American masterpiece.


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