Today, we take a closer look at the show art for two new plays on the Great Bright Way: Leopoldstadt and Life of Pi. Both are new works, both are London imports, and both in their own way are epic, event plays. The former represents a generational reckoning and religious awakening by one of the world's greatest playwrights. The latter is a spectacularly theatrical treatment of a popular novel and acclaimed film. Those pedigrees may get regular theatergoers in the seats, but to sustain a run, both need a marketing plan that sells their acclaim and content. That plan begins with the logo.
Before it even arrived at the Longacre Theatre last fall, Tom Stoppard's semi-autobiographical play was the buzziest play of the season. Heaps of awards, and tales of SRO crowds on the West End certainly created an urgency to purchase tickets. Not long after tickets went on sale, the limited engagement was extended by several months (currently through July 2) and ticket prices soared. Ticket demand is steady, but nowhere near its initial hype. So now marketing must now sustain it until awards season (it's a shoo-in for tons of nominations) gets things cooking again.
As far as the key art goes, it is definitely eye-catching and tells a lot about the piece, even if one knows nothing about it. The title icon is lovely, striking black lettering against a homey, sepia toned stained glass styled background. The title font suggests an Old World European feel, while the plain, all-caps font of the names is positioned to be noticed, but not more so than the title. It also feels more modern than the title, subliminally suggesting a more current bent in contrast.
The photographic element of the whole poster, a black and white photo of a boy from another time points up the historic element of the play. He's playing Cat's Cradle, a key symbol in the performance, and a thoughtful way to represent the interweaving of the generations - a never-ending loop of twists and turns.
The logo is attractive, makes you think and is just mysterious enough that it might make tourists consider buying a ticket.
Life of Pi:
Another award-winning play from London, Life of Pi, is probably the better known property of the two, but it may still be a hard sell. True the title is known to artier film aficionados and contemporary readers. But is it mainstream enough for the general public, and exciting enough without being a musical? Will fans of the movie wonder if the stage version can capture the breathtaking special effects of the film? Well, I'm thinking there was a reason why later in the London run, the advertising included exciting production photos...
Is the Broadway production team thinking the title alone will get people in the seats? Are they counting on word-of-mouth from London? Or are they not wanting to give away any of the visual surprises of this epic play? A little of all three would be my guess.
What they came up with is certainly bright enough to make the eye take a closer look at it. Bright ocean blue with bright yellow lettering is tried and true; a recent tenant of that same theater ran for years with the same color scheme. The font is bold and simple, drawing the eye just long enough to read the title and then look more closely at the image above.
Glittering stars, a bright full moon, all shimmering on the water together creates a feeling of fantasy and a vastness. A single image on that vast seascape - a lifeboat with a single boy and a sleeping tiger - also suggests the fantastic, but also a feeling of loneliness, and maybe even some danger. It certainly makes you stop and think. If you get lost in the fantasy, you might buy a ticket just to see what it's all about. And you might be interested if you've read the book or have seen the movie. Put me in the fantasy camp - I know almost nothing about the work - but at the very least, I'm excited to see just how it will be presented. Of course, I'm not the typical theatergoer. I see lots of things and am willing to try something unknown.
Still, I can't help but wonder if some of the production photos might not do more to capture a bigger audience.