Thursday, July 24, 2014

President's Page: Fall Into Fall Theatre

The fall semester begins in just a few short weeks for our local students, but school isn't the only thing that is on the horizon.  The fall always heralds the beginning of the “theatre season.” 
 
After everyone has returned from their vacations, camps, and outdoor activities, things begin to wind down.  It is just natural to start thinking about the broad span of entertainment options that always follow Labor Day cookouts and trips to the lake.

I think the Orpheum's fall lineup is really intriguing.  This year the fall begins with the magic and humor of Penn & Teller on Friday, September 19th.  We've wanted to bring this duo to the Orpheum for about 10 years, but their popular Las Vegas show leaves only a few open dates for outside venues. 
 
If you've never experienced Penn & Teller, their routine is hilarious and illusions are top grade.  There is a slight resemblance to the Marx Brothers in that Penn does all of the talking and Teller has never - and I mean never - been heard saying a single word.  EVER.  Since I have waited such a long time to book them for this single Orpheum performance, I think I am safe in saying that this is a one-time opportunity for all of us to see this totally entertaining  duo.    
 
Next, we bring you a spectacular new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera, running September 24th through October 5th.  We get more requests for Phantom than any other Broadway show, and this production is one of the largest touring musicals on the road so it promises to be a memorable event.

Our insatiable appetite for cooking celebrities will be met with a one night event featuring Alton Brown on Saturday, October 25th.  The always entertaining Food Network personality will be on the stage telling us the most interesting things about our foodie habits.  There will also be some humorous food science experiments, audience participation, and a little bit of messiness in the kitchen.  This is a funny exploration of the most interesting things he has discovered through his popular weekly shows. 

And that's just the beginning!  The fall will also feature several concerts, special events, and the Tony Award winning musical Once.  So I encourage you to kick off your fall season at the Orpheum with this wide variety of great entertainment.


Pat Halloran
President and CEO
 
 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Wild Ride From Broadway to Beale: The Press Agent, Part 1

Periodically, Main and Beale explores the ins and outs of how Broadway shows make their way to Memphis.  This week, we wanted to explore the incredibly important partner that many of you probably never knew existed: the press agent.  Don't let the title fool you: it usually takes a team of agents to get the job done, and they juggle a whole lot more than press which is why we had to split this topic into two blog entries! 

Press agents act as a liaison between the show's producers, the actual production, and the theatres that have booked the show, taking care of every little detail that the production simply can't manage while traveling from city to city.  So let's start where we left off.  The show is booked, the contracts are signed, the booking agent's job is basically done.  Enter press agent. 

First, the press agent will reach out to the theatre, and everyone will learn more about who's doing what.  The good news is that if you've been in the Broadway business for more than a year, you've probably worked with at least someone on the team before.  For agencies with larger staffs or agencies that are managing a blockbuster show, the theatre usually works with a group of people.  For example, there might be one contact for the marketing and box office departments who keeps a close eye on cash flow and ticket sales, another contact who approves the artistic design and layout of advertising materials, and a press contact who helps schedule press appointments, interviews, and education workshops for the actors.  Other times one agent is handling everything... with every theatre... sometimes for more than one show!

Then you start the planning process.  The theatre and the agent start working together as much as 18 months in advance to determine the answers to a lot of questions.  How and when will the theatre announce the season to the public?  What marketing materials does the theatre need in order to announce successfully?  What are the ticket pricing levels for the show?  When will the show go on sale to the public?  What is the marketing budget, and how will those dollars be allocated?  Will the production allow promotions or advertising trade and to what extent?  And many times, especially with blockbusters, the press agent has to go back to the producers for approval before the answers to these questions can be finalized.

For season announcements, theatres need production video, pictures, and copy that briefly describes the show.  For a show that's hot off of Broadway, the press agent must to work with the production and the producers to create these materials since Actor's Equity Association (the actor's union) typically prohibits using Broadway footage and images to promote the tour.  Not to mention, it can be misleading to distribute pictures or video of the Broadway cast when those aren't the same actors that audiences will see on the road.



The original Broadway cast of Kinky Boots. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Sometimes, however, particularly for shows that have yet to actually launch their tours, it's unavoidable.  Kinky Boots is an example: when the Orpheum announced its season last March, the show was still in pre-production, so there was no way to get new materials that included the touring cast.  In that case, the press agent has to make sure that the Broadway cast is clearly credited, and then they have to rush to get new video and photos as soon as possible.


Yep, that's their responsibility too.  Every time there are major cast changes to a touring production, the press agent has to get the producers to approve another shooting budget.  Then they hire photographers and videographers to come to a rehearsal and take a new set of photos and videos for the theatres to use.  The agents will sort through literally hundreds of production photos ("Nope, that photo is kind of blurry. Nope, the lead's eyes are closed in that one.) to find around five that will actually make it to the marketing site.

Wait.  What is a marketing site?  Glad you asked.  Another big job of the press agent is to create a comprehensive marketing site and marketing manual that will give the theatre's staff all the tools they needs to promote the show.  The site can include photos, "b-roll" footage of the production, sample copy for radio ads, suggestions for promotions that have been successful in other markets, logos and fonts, unique opportunities for the local press, options for educational outreach - the list goes on and on!  These marketing sites allow the markets to have access to the insights, materials, and messaging that made the show successful on Broadway.  It's a lot of work for the press agent, but it makes their job much easier down the road.

Some agencies will host a marketing junket where all of the markets who have booked a show for the coming year will come together to learn more about the show.  These are sometimes done via phone conference, at the annual Broadway League Spring Road Conference in NYC when everyone is gathered in the same place at the same time, or in a host city.  For the latter option, market reps will fly in and see the show in order to experience it first-hand.  Then the agent will spend a full work day going over all of the marketing opportunities and guidelines to the group.  This is also a great opportunity for various cities to collaborate and learn from one another.

From then on the agent is in constant communication with the show's producers and increasing communication with the theatre as the dates for the show close in, consistently checking with one another as questions arise.  In Part 2 of our exploration of the press agent's responsibilities we'll discuss what the press agent's role in the weeks leading up to the performance.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Beyond the Stage: Crystal Wishes and Orpheum Dreams

Nothing beats that moment when you walk into the Orpheum Theatre for the first time.  It's like jumping headlong into the 1920s, attending an exclusive formal event, or possibly even getting a taste of what it would be like to have a royal title.  One of our favorite things to do is to listen to all of the "oohs," "ahhs," "whoas," and "wows" that we hear when people walk through the doors.

We work hard to keep the Orpheum historically preserved, making sure that even the chandeliers are pristine.  Chandeliers aren't necessarily the first things that come to mind when you think of preservation, but the Orpheum's Czechoslovakian crystal chandeliers are in fact original to the building, meaning that they are at least 85 years old and certainly among the most beautiful antiques we have. 

Last week, our team cleaned the Orpheum's six grand and four "bowl" chandeliers.  Once a year, the chandeliers are lowered to eye level for a little maintenance - and this is no easy task!

Because of the sheer weight and size of our grand chandeliers (the largest of which, pictured above, weigh 2,000 lbs. each), it takes hours just to lower them from the Orpheum's massive ceiling.  So slow in fact, that the naked eye can barely tell they are moving without the help of a vantage point.  Once on the ground, every single piece of Czechoslovakian crystal is prepped to be cleaned and polished. 

First, each chandelier goes through a gentle steam clean using good old fashioned distilled water.  This allows the fixture to be cleaned thoroughly without the use of harsh chemicals, helping to preserve the integrity of the crystal.  While doing this, workers look for any broken or cracked pieces and evaluate if they can be repaired.

Next, each and every piece of crystal is hand-polished using a lamb's wool cloth.  As you can imagine, this takes a considerable amount of time to polish just one chandelier, let alone ten!  Finally, the bulbs in the chandeliers are replaced, allowing plenty of light to keep the chandeliers sparkling.  All in all, it takes a team of four at least two full days to restore the chandeliers to their maximum luster, not counting the day or so it takes to lower and raise the chandeliers.

So the next time you walk into the lobby for a show or look up towards the auditorium ceiling at intermission, we hope you'll notice that the twinkle in our chandeliers is a little brighter, enhancing the beautiful, magical ambiance of Memphis' historic Orpheum.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

President's Page: London's MEMPHIS Tours Memphis!

Beverley Knight will star in the role of "Felicia" in the London
production of MEMPHIS. www.beverleyknight.com
The London production of MEMPHIS, the 2010 Tony Award winning Broadway musical, is getting closer to its long-awaited opening where it will make a huge impact on potentially millions of European theatre lovers. 

MEMPHIS is scheduled to open at the Shaftesbury Theatre on October 23rd of this year.  We expect to have a long run for this show, and if my math is correct, about 2.5 million Europeans will get a lesson on the role our city has played in cultivating many of the musical genres that the world enjoys today.

Recently the "Queen of British Soul" Beverley Knight, who has been cast in the lead role of "Felicia," and David Bryan, keyboardist to Bon Jovi and composer for MEMPHIS, visited Memphis so that Beverley could get a taste of our incredible city in preparation for her role.  She experienced Memphis blues, rock and roll, and gospel in addition to barbeque from Central BBQ in Downtown Memphis.

The group, which also included members of the London press as well as Beverley’s husband and manager, visited the National Civil Rights Museum, Sun Studios, the Stax Museum and Academy, and she also attended a service at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church.  Highlights of the trip included Beverley and David performing at BB King's with the Stax Academy Student and Alumni Band and a recording session for "Colored Woman" - a signature song from the show - at Royal Studios.  Of course there was also great BBQ, soul food, and some late nights on Beale.  How’s that for a healthy dose of Memphis music, history and culture? 

I had the pleasure of seeing Beverley perform on the West End (the London equivalent of Broadway) when my wife and I went to London.  She took on the Whitney Houston role in the musical version of THE BODYGUARD.  Wow – was she fabulous!

I am excited to be putting together a group from Memphis to go to London in October for the opening.  It will be one memorable occasion for all going along.  There is limited availability for the London trip in the fall, so if you are interested in more information, contact Lauren Steinkamp at 901.529.4224.


Pat Halloran
Orpheum President and CEO

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Feeling Lucky? Try THE BOOK OF MORMON Lottery

Mark Evans
THE BOOK OF MORMON First National Tour
(c) Joan Marcus, 2013
They week we've all been waiting for is finally here!  The Tony Award winning musical phenomenon The Book of Mormon is in Memphis for a limited engagement through Sunday, June 29th. 

Don't have tickets?  You're in luck!  Well, hopefully.  The Book of Mormon offers a special ticket lottery policy that allows winning entrants to purchase up to two tickets for $25 each (cash only). 

No crazy antics required: just show up at the Orpheum Box Office two and a half hours before any performance with cash and ID in-hand, and print your name and the number of tickets you'd like (1 or 2) on an entry form.  Each person gets one entry, and we'll be checking for duplicates so no cheating.  At two hours before the show, we'll draw a limited number of winners.  Those lucky winning fans will flash their ID, purchase up to two tickets, and skip into the theatre happy as can be.

A few tips and reminders:
  • Be punctual.  We follow the schedule so it's fair for everyone. 
  • Stay put after entering!  You must be present to win.
  • Don't forget your cash.  Lottery tickets are cash only.
  • Remember your ID.  This is how we make sure that you're the real winner!
  • No cheating.  One entry per person per lottery.  Cheaters get caught.
  • If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.  There are six more performances for The Book of Mormon before the end of the run: that's six lotteries!
Please access the official press release here for all of the rules, regulations, and restrictions.

For those of you don't want to take any chances, there are still some tickets available for this engagement, but they are going fast so act now by calling the Orpheum Box Office at 901.525.3000 or visit the official Orpheum website at www.orpheum-memphis.com.


THE BOOK OF MORMON, Now through June 29
From South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, it's The Book of Mormon, winner of nine Tony Awards including Best Musical.  Ben Brantley of The New York Times calls it "The best musical of this century."  Entertainment weekly says it's "The funniest musical of all time."  Jon Stewart of The Daily Show calls it "A crowning achievement.  So good it makes me angry."  For more information, please visit BookofMormonTheMusical.com.  Disclaimer: Contains explicit language.

Thursday, June 26, 2014  7:30 PM, lottery begins at 5:00 PM
Friday, June 27, 2014  8:00 PM, lottery begins at 5:30 PM
Saturday, June 28, 2014  2:00 PM, lottery begins at 11:30 AM
Saturday, June 28, 2014  8:00 PM, lottery begins at 5:30 PM
Sunday, June 29, 2014  1:00 PM, lottery begins at 10:30 AM
Sunday, June 29, 2014  6:00 PM, lottery begins at 3:30 PM

The Orpheum Theatre is located at 203 S. Main Street in Downtown Memphis, Tennessee.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Wild Ride from Broadway to Beale: The Show

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, our most
requested show, is finally on tour again!
We all love that special kind of excitement that comes when you're sitting in your favorite Orpheum seat, the orchestra starts up, the curtain begins to rise, and you know you're in for a great night of entertainment.  But have you ever wondered what's going on behind the scenes?  Where are these people from?  Where are they going?  How in the world did they get here?!

Well, the obvious answer to that last question is by bus or by plane.  But periodically, we're going to dig a little deeper to give you an insider's look into the many steps a show takes to go from Broadway to opening night at the Orpheum.  For this entry, we'll take a look at your favorite part: the show.

If you caught The Tony's a couple of weeks ago, you might of thought that those fabulous performances were meant to let everyone know why these musicals were so deserving of their nominations.  Maybe, but that's not the only reason.  Broadway is a commercial enterprise, and those jaw-dropping performances help to entice audiences to buy a ticket and keep the shows firmly established on Broadway - it's much more economically sound to keep a production on Broadway than it is to start a production on Broadway.  But more importantly for venues like The Orpheum, those performances gave people a taste of what they can expect to see when the show hits their city.


FIRST DATE can now be licensed by theatres worldwide,
but you might not see it at touring venues just yet.
Most popular, award-winning Broadway musicals will usually give it a go on the road.  Others will do some serious soul-searching before touring: producers can take the musical on tour and hope for profits, or they can cut any Broadway losses they may have and move on to the next big thing. 

For example, Main and Beale explored a show called First Date late last year.  The show closed a little early and sadly didn't get much Tony buzz.  It's unlikely that this adorable exploration of first-date pitfalls and pleasures will be seen on the Broadway touring circuit.  But you might have an opportunity to enjoy this delightful show at your nearby regional and community theatres.  Of course, there's also a chance that an independent producer could license the material and launch a tour on his or her own.

Once the decision has been made to take a show on tour, the next challenge is to book it!  A show will buddy-up with a booking agent, and the agent will begin the long, confusing, and challenging mission of putting together a tour. 

It's not as simple as calling up a theatre and saying, "Have I got the show for you!"  Booking agents have to consider the tour route ("I don't think I can move a full-scale production from Seattle on Sunday and be ready for opening night in Memphis on Tuesday."), the theatre's schedule and availability ("I already have something scheduled for that week.  Do you have any openings in November?"), and they have to balance this among the 200+ venues that might be interested in booking the show ("Let me call San Diego and see if they can push back their engagement so we can fit you in.  I'll get right back to you!").

It's a seemingly impossible puzzle, but somehow they get it done, and the tour is officially on!  Now that the show is "sold" to venues, the producers have to deliver the product.  The creative team has to think through how to translate the production from Broadway to the road.  The show has to be flexible since some venues might have smaller stages or, in some cases, fewer amenities than others.  They have to figure out how to build a set that is comparable to Broadway but that can be taken down and re-built week after week.  They have a laundry list of people to hire: cast members, company managers, stage managers, orchestra members, stage hands, wardrobe supervisors and more.  Finally, this dream team begins the rehearsal process in its "launch city," fine tuning the show in every possible way. 

MEMPHIS The Musical's 1st National Tour
launched from The Orpheum Theatre. Now MEMPHIS
is headed to London!
We are very proud of the fact that Memphis The Musical launched it's first national tour from the Orpheum Theatre.  The cast and crew spent weeks getting the everything just right.  Then, the show played in its namesake city for several weeks before going on to visit 55 cities!

It's no secret that the show is the most important part of any tour.  Of course, any show needs a lot of support to maintain that beautiful production that audiences cheer for every night, and we'll tell you more about that next time when we discuss our largely invisible but all-important partner: the theatrical agent. 


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Flyer Flying for 25 Years

In 1989, the Orpheum offered six Broadway shows to the public: Me and My Girl, My One and Only, My Fair Lady, Les Miserables, Evita, The King and I, and Driving Miss Daisy.  And that same year, The Memphis Flyer published its first edition.

The Orpheum is thrilled to congratulate The Memphis Flyer on 25 years of enthralling stories, in-depth news and entertainment coverage, and an all-around great read week after week.  Achieving such a milestone is no easy feat, and we offer a hearty "thank you" to the visionaries who saw that a publication as dynamic as The Memphis Flyer was - and continues to be - needed in Memphis. 

Each week we excitedly pick up the latest edition of The Flyer, knowing that we're in store for enlightening and pertinent stories and exclusives; a lesson in all things "Memphis" - old, new, and revived; great entertainment features and reviews; and few laughs in between.

Of course, theatre has always enjoyed a big presence in the paper whether it's a review of Playhouse on the Square's newest main-stage play, updates on the new Hattiloo Theatre, Ballet Memphis' technological innovations, or a feature on the next blockbuster Broadway show at The Orpheum.  And any good Flyer reader knows that its "Steppin' Out" section and impeccable events calendar are among the best places to find out what's happening in and around the city for all things music, film, food, and theatre.  For that, in addition to all of the information that you bring to your readers, we are all incredibly grateful.

So, from The Orpheum to The Flyer, congratulations on a wonderful and successful 25 years, and thank you for all that you do to help make Memphis a vibrant and thriving theatre community!