Sunday, January 16, 2005

Choosing a Season: Casting & Budgets

More on the Process:

Casting & Budgets are kind of intertwined. I talked in the last post about how getting press coverage necessarily leads to getting audience attention, and then ticket sales. Well, when it comes to appealing to the press (and to new audience members) nothing does the trick like "a name." This is true for 42nd St. Moon; this is true for Broadway.

[Yeah, remember that whole NY Times article contending big-star Broadway vehicles were a dying breed? Guess the above cited NY Times article published but a month later takes a different view, huh?]

Lea DeLaria was such a name this past Fall, and ticket sales were higher than the other shows in the season. Now whether that was purely driven by her name, or by the press coverage and reviews that came because of her name, the result is the same.

Of course, hiring "names" does impact the budget. So, there's part artistic decision, and there's part business decision. And even non-profits have to worry about whether they're running in the black or in the red.

It's not only the cast that impacts the budget. Think about "Can-Can" and all those brightly colored can-can outfits. They're sort of necessary when you do the show. Luckily 42nd St. Moon found someone who had those outfits already made. Didn't have to buy the fabric and pay someone to create them. Big savings. But it was lucky.

Some shows rely on "production values" to a degree that makes them hard to do for 42nd St. Moon. When I did "I Married an Angel" back in '95 there was a centerpiece ballet number that was simply cut altogether, not because the actress couldn't have danced around a bit, but because it would have been pointless without a bunch of props and scenery that were scripted to go with it. As it happens it wasn't really plot-worthy, so no biggie. But fast forward 100 years...can you imagine someone doing "Miss Saigon" without something replicating a helicopter?

And it's not only budgeting that affects casting. Whether they like to admit it or not, casting and artistic directors do bear in mind the stable of performers in the area when choosing shows. It's not pre-casting; it's just common sense. Certain shows were vehicles for certain kinds of talents. You want to feel like if the perfect person doesn't just walk through your door at auditions, you might be able to find them with a few phone calls.

Now, the Bay Area happens to be rich with musical theatre talent. But consider timing...will it be as easy to get that talent to commit (not to mention to pull in the audience) during the holidays, as an example? There's a lot competing for people's time and money during the holidays.

Variables, variables, variables.

I got a different view of the process this week, and it made me more than a little glad that I just show up and watch theatre...I don't have to make it happen!

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