While us theater-lovers are spending every year filling out 525,600 minutes, with our favorite shows, songs, and YouTube videos of Broadway stars, most Americans forget about the Great White Way, but for two televised events that put our favorite shows on America’s TV screens. I’m referring to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Tony Awards. They’re important to us, as members of the theater community, because we get to see our idols (or in some cases, our friends and colleagues) get recognized for excellence for their art. But let’s be real… producers don’t produce these events to put a smile on the faces of the already Broadway-obsessed. Why would producers spend thousands to make the musicals and plays that occupy the streets of New York so attractive on national television twice a year? The answer is simple… recruitment. This conversion of the average American from casual theater-goer to excited consumer is the key to keeping the Broadway community alive.
While it’s hard to believe, there ARE some people in this world that aren’t obsessed with the 2011 revival of Anything Goes or have the entire prologue of Beauty and the Beast memorized. But, I think it’s safe to say that most average Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, right? They also shop at Macy’s, and probably also sit down as a family on Sunday nights to watch something on TV before hitting the hay. If producers are able to recruit them at these moments to go see a Broadway show, it can drive up ticket sales big time. High ticket sales mean profit for the investors and producers. This success on national telecasts is what will keep producers bringing new work to Broadway, around the world and to new places you never even expected (like NBC’S The Sound of Music LIVE and RCCL’S Hairspray).
If a show is not selling well but a tour is planned, producers will want to invest (yes, appearing on the Tony’s costs money) in an appearance to not only generate buzz for those that may travel to NYC, but for those live near a theater that might house a touring production. Although it seems like a stretch (and it can be), these TV spots thrust theater into the eye of the public. In many cases, reaching a community of theater-lovers beyond those typical New York City ticket-buyers can be what makes a hit– and producers can often thank the Tony Awards for that.