Friday, February 14, 2014

Broadway on TV: The Bridges of Madison County

As I finish sharing my two cents' worth on the TV ads that are trying to persuade us to buy tickets to Broadway shows, I thought taking a look at those for The Bridges of Madison County, the romantic new musical now in previews on Valentine's Day was an apt choice.  Before I go on, I want to stress that my thoughts about these ads have no bearing on my thoughts about the show itself.  (My review of the show will be posted next week when it opens.)

So, I read with great interest the avalanche of Tweets and message board critiques that popped up when the TV commercial for the show made its debut.  People were generally unkind, so I had to see for myself if they were just being pre-opening bitchy or if they had a point.

They had a point.

TV Commercial

I can totally see where they were going with this spot.  It is clearly aimed at the ladies who lunch and women who love romance novels and the Lifetime network.  There is nothing wrong (or surprising) about that angle, since that is the exact audience that made the novel on which the show is based one of the best-selling books of all time.  The problem is the quality of the ad. It looks cheap - you can tell they are in front of a green screen, with a generic, unflattering background.  Kelli O'Hara looks pretty good (she's better in person, even with a similar wig) and so does Steven Pasquale.  But when they do the slow motion lip lock with a softening lens on them, it looks really phony.  Couldn't they have done another take where the pair doesn't look like they are pushing their faces together?  But what really takes the cake is the tagline, coupled with close-ups of O'Hara enjoying the summer country day.  The way the line is doled out, it looks/sounds more like an ad for a feminine hygiene product than a Broadway musical.  It made me giggle, much like I did as a 12 year old when a real douche commercial came on the TV.  Grade: D

TV Commercial (Creative Team Version)

This spot is more conventional (read predictable, boring) and aimed squarely at regular theatre-goers.  To that end, it is markedly more effective that the other.  It reminds us of the acclaim received by all involved, tells us who the stars are and shows off the pretty logo (The 3D prairie flowers look better in this version.)  But it is a dull 30 seconds, more a reminder than a call to buy tickets.  After all, real regular theatre-goers already know all of this already.  Occasional theatre-goers - admittedly a large chunk of the potential audience - however, might have their interest piqued enough to look into it.  Grade: C

Online Commercial

Easily the best of the three, this spot is definitely for theatre fans - fans of musicals, fans of Jason Robert Brown, fans of Kelli O'Hara, fans of Steven Pasquale - because it shows them in action, albeit recording the cast album, and it emphasizes one of the show's greatest assets, the beautiful, romantic score.  It is a great ad all the way around. The downside is that it is actually labelled "Online Commercial," meaning that its intended audience must be the kind of people (like me) who scour the Internet - YouTube specifically, in this case - looking for anything we can get our hands on that is show related.  Kind of a waste, since we are likely to buy tickets anyway.  But I sure can see swooning housewives reaching for the phone if they see the steam heat that is obvious between O'Hara and Pasquale.  And they never even touch each other.  Grade: A


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