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I was talking with an agent for some Broadway show tours this week in order to get a sense of what things might look like for productions in Fall 2021/Spring 2022. I was intrigued to learn that they were considering sending out two shows in repertory.
What that means is the same cast and crew rehearse so they are capable of mounting two different shows. This was once a common practice in theatre, and is still not terribly uncommon, especially among Shakespeare festivals.
I have seen some smaller touring productions offer this option, but never heard of it on the scale of a Broadway touring show. Given that you can do so much with projections these days, they can cut down on built set pieces to allow the tour to go out with the same number of trucks a Broadway tour of a single show would.
I am not sure if this is the right solution, but this is the first group I have spoken with that seems to acknowledged that times have changed and touring productions need to adopt new approaches.
This offers an opportunity to be more responsive when it comes to routing a show. Usually the tour of Show A will have one schedule and tour of Show B will have another schedule. It doesn’t help either me or the production company if Show A is touring near me but I want to see Show B. The repertory approach means they can send one tour out and perform one show 150 miles away and then another show in my venue. Since they are only sending one tour out with one set of cast and crew, there is a potential to save money vs. sending the two shows out separately.
If they were particularly well-organized and a venue had the space to shift and store things, they could feasibly do one show one night and the other show the next night and have the labor costs involved in doing so be economical for the venue.
How this might impact the quality of the show and the production values people expect, I don’t know. It is absolutely possible to execute a high quality experience with the investment of enough attention.
I suspect the first year or so of post-Covid touring will be an environment that will see even tours of single productions stumbling to find their footing and how well they handle that will be the biggest factor in the success and quality of their product.