It’s a theater truism that the only thing that will keep your show going for a long run is word of mouth. Strong word of mouth is the gift of a great show. Not just, “You must see this show!” but, “I want to bring you to this show so I can watch you love it; besides, I want to see it again myself.” These rare long running shows are usually launched with great reviews, lots of press, lots of awards and berserk audiences from the get-go. As the impact of the reviews dies down, the press moves on and a new awards season rolls around, all that remains of this magic quartet is the berserk audiences.
As a producer, you should take some time to bask in this glory, but the truth is that when word of mouth is your best friend, you can do some things to see that it stays at that enthusiastic high of the early days.
First, don’t stop advertising and don’t cut back much either. It’s important that you constantly remind your potential audience that you’re there and keep your big hit top-of-mind.
Second, get involved with the audience experience. Go to the show – a lot. Shows are living creatures, just as all of the people who make the shows are. We’re fortunate on Broadway that there are many highly professional artists, musicians and crew that are capable of running eight a week brilliantly. But these are human beings and things change, sometimes subtly, sometimes not so much, as a show goes deep into its run.
My particular bugaboo is sound. Somehow, shows seem to get louder as they go along. I don’t know why, but it’s happened on several shows with which we’ve been involved. Whether it’s that or something else you think you’ve spotted, talk to stage management or even the director. They can look for whatever concerns you and deal with it.
Make it your business to get to know the theater staff. The treasurers can be tremendously helpful in keeping the show’s ticket sales healthy. House management, ushers, ticket takers – everyone who is a part of the audience experience – is rooting for your show to succeed because it means they have a job. Your attention to them and admiration of what they do can give them a valuable sense of being a part of the success.
Only the lucky few get to experience the phenomenon of a big, huge hit. If it happens to you, be ready.