As the industry awaits an official reopening announcement, theatrical offices have been working to ready Broadway productions.
The pace has picked up at marketing agencies, casting offices and at the offices of producers who are aiming for a fall opening. However, while the workload is increasing, many plans hinge on yet unannounced reopening dates and a unified return strategy.
At advertising agency RPM, Executive Creative Director Steven Tartick said his team has been rapidly working to craft ad campaigns for returning Broadway shows. He expects an upcoming rush of advertising in which every show, including the long-running titles, makes a new case for why customers should return to that production.
“Within let’s say a month or so, you’re gonna have every single show on Broadway putting out fresh messaging, and ultimately competing at a really high level for attention in dollars,” Tartick said.
Even though some production reopening dates remain undetermined, Tartick said most shows want to have materials ready to release whenever they’re given the green light. The office’s Broadway clients include “Moulin Rouge!” “Hamilton,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Chicago” and “Mrs. Doubtfire.”
The Broadway League said Thursday that it was optimistic that productions can return starting this September. A reopening announcement is forthcoming.
Compared to prior campaigns, Tartick anticipates marketing that emphasizes the emotional promise of the show, rather than its critical acclaim, given the time that has passed since productions were last reviewed. The Tony Awards could establish a further connection between Broadway and ticket buyers, but without an announced date for the awards ceremony, it’s difficult to build a marketing plan around it, he said.
And while health and safety will be top of mind for theatergoers, Tartick hopes that those protocols can be conveyed by the industry as a whole, rather than on a show-by-show basis.
Casting office Stewart/Whitley has now resumed all of the work the office had in March 2020. Auditions are being conducted virtually for Broadway productions, national tours and regional theater. And, over the past few months, the office has cast five readings of plays and musicals, which were produced virtually and are now aiming for productions in the 2021-2022 season.
“It’s been fast and furious,” said Duncan Stewart, co-owner of the casting office.
Casting for existing Broadway shows — the office has “Hadestown” and “Chicago” as clients — has thus far consisted of conversations on which cast members want to return, with each show’s general management office relaying the details, Stewart said.
Still, without announced reopening dates or set protocols for Broadway’s return, much of the work being done now can feel like rushing toward an unknown goal.
“We’re in a really weird zone right now because you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but there are so many details to be worked out,” said Damian Bazadona, founder of digital advertising agency Situation.
Situation has been producing digital events for Broadway and other clients at a steady clip over the past year, so the pace of work has remained largely unchanged. Conversations on returning to Broadway theaters have begun, but Bazadona said he believes the industry has not yet completed the first needed step to ensure all industry members feel safe and ready to return.
“We need an alignment of all stakeholders,” Bazadona said. “There’s not alignment in the industry.”
In recent weeks, actors and other industry members have organized marches to protest inequity on Broadway. As previously reported, theatrical unions are in the midst of negotiations with producers and wage cuts have been presented to them.
What’s clear thus far is that the gears to reopen the industry are in motion.
“The Broadway return is starting to feel real,” Tartick said.