Well, it’s a process. Once a show opens on broadway, investors will often meet to discuss the future of the show. It’s not uncommon for the idea of a touring production, a sit-down production and other versions of the show to be created to come up. But tours DO NOT just happen from success – if that was the case, then we would have a tour of every single show on Broadway. Sometimes shows that didn’t read well in NYC are brought on tour and prove to be extremely popular – like Legally Blonde the Musical. While not a smash on Broadway, the tour was successful and ran for several years.
But bringing a tour is a long process with many factors. For example, Roald Dahl’s Matilda was adapted to the stage several years ago. Even so, it took quite a while for the show to come to Broadway, and the question on everyone’s lips once it arrived in the Big Apple was “Will it tour?”. This is where all those factors I talked about come in. The show involves several special effects and also an ensemble of young children, which is extremely expensive to travel and employ along with child wranglers. The producers had to think: “would producing a tour be profitable? Could we turn a profit with all these kids?” They also had to factor in the title of the show. Remember, Matilda is a book before it was anything: would the title still be relevant next year if the tour needed to continue to be profitable? If a tour was produced, that would mean three replica productions of the same musical running throughout the world. As a relatively new musical, Matilda needed to consider this.
Think of Wicked – with over 5 continuously running productions around the world, all five productions were not produced in the same year. Producers put up a Broadway production, achieved success and brought it to London a little later, and slowly added tours and other international productions. While they did this, they had to consider if this many productions would still make the show and title “as special”. This factor is one way tours may or may not happen. But as much as producers need to look at their own concern for producing a tour, everyone else in the theatre spectrum has to consider be adverse effects.
MTI – also known as Music Theatre International (where a lot of shows are licensed to high schools and local theaters) usually has to wait on a tour to close to release the rights. Also, when touring productions change content, it often times affects the licensed version of the show, (sometimes due to the fact that a tour may be the last professional incantation of the show where changes may be made by the creative team). Remember when Shrek’s Dragon got a new song “Forever” for the tour? That song (out of three others for the character) is what made it to the MTI licensable version of the show.
Touring theatre is complicated, lengthy and very lucrative, but however difficult to produce and impacting on the rest of the theatre community, is who we owe each generation of theatre to, since tours are sometimes the only exposure young people over the world get to the theatre.
(Picture via TheatreWorld)