Recently, I spent a beautiful weekend in Connecticut at the Goodspeed Opera House. If you’re not already acquainted with Goodspeed, it’s one of the most incredible and legendary musical theater companies around (ever heard of a little show called, Annie? They started it.) I was there was to attend their annual festival of new musicals with some of my producer brethren. We all had a great time and saw some really fabulous readings of new shows but whenever I attend readings or even look at the descriptions for new shows, one thought always comes to mind — “Tits and Ass.”
If you know A Chorus Line, then you know that Val showed up in NYC with talent. She could “dance rings around the other girls.” But she didn’t hit the big time until she did a little work on her “tits & ass.” Now, I’m not suggesting that you’ll need to change your physical appearance to find success with your musical but c’mon, honey this is showbiz — your musical needs to be attractive!
As a producer, both on Broadway and for a new works festival at a regional theater company, I speak from experience. A lot of scripts come across my desk and like all producers and theater companies, I have to make a decision about which ones get my limited time. Often it’s the catchiest blurbs that stand out. Those folks that are not only able to capture my attention with a bit of pizazz but who can hold it there with good material.
Let me be clear, speaking as your own personal Val:
Your new musical is never going anywhere, no matter how good it is, if your descriptions, synopsis and tagline are all a 3.
See, you can’t underestimate the importance of your show’s description and support materials. Before you can get an audience to come see your show, you’ve got to get theater companies, producers and festivals to want to read your show. Then, once they’re on board, they’ll need to get people excited enough to want to come pay money to see your show.
Do your job right and you make theirs easier — easier, to say YES.
It’s been years since A Chorus Line was a new work searching for a home but imagine, if the original creators had tried to sell it as, “a show about 18 people doing a group job interview for 90 minutes, talking about their miserable childhoods and in the end most of them don’t get hired.” NO ONE would have wanted to see it. (That ain’t it kid, that ain’t it, kid.)
Thankfully what they said was, ”This is A Chorus Line, the musical for everyone who’s ever had a dream and put it all on the line.” In the end, kid, though it will still be the same great show, you’ll thank yourself, if you aim for Dance 10, Looks 10!
BTW — Another great illustration of this point comes from that very song in A Chorus Line, in fact, it was originally called, “Tits and Ass,” but listing the title in the program ended up ruining the joke by giving the punch line away. The song didn’t start to get any real laughs until they changed the title to, “Dance 10, Looks 3.”
So before you send that new work out on the line, in the competitive world of musical theater, spruce up the bingo bongos and fix the chassis.