Pop Up Concert Closing Musicial Theater Number

Earlier this week the LA Times had a rather lengthy piece on the closing number of the musical Six, a show about the six wives of Henry VIII.  In the final number which has come to be known as the “Megasix”

Audiences film while dancing by their seats, singing along and cheering with excitement. Spotlights swoop from side to side. Confetti falls from above. And each of the six actors — dressed in jewel-toned Tudor fits, fishnet stockings and bedazzled boots — reprise the catchiest sections of their characters’ signature songs for the crowd and their phones.


Each subsequent staging yielded more Megasix uploads — except in the United States, where filming the performance is against union rules. Moss and Marlow could easily have considered its burgeoning social media popularity a risk: “Most of the time, creators are a little bit hesitant getting that [intellectual property] out there without the greater context of the show,” said Jonathan Breitbart, a 20-year-old Colorado theatergoer…

Recording and sharing video of that part of the show has become something of a mini-industry. One fan reported that she watches for casting changes and buys last minute tickets so she can catch how the understudy or new performer puts their spin on the character. Another has seen the show 97 times ” in the name of “swingo,” or seeing an alternate play every queen.”

Just as the production of Hamilton hit on the practice of Ham4Ham to entertain people waiting on line for the lottery tickets to the heavily in demand show, this is another example of a production finding an element of their show that they can leverage into something of a grassroots marketing effort.

Though it should be noted, the effort hasn’t entirely had constructive results. Some of the actors reported feeling increased pressure to go to 150% to look great for social media. A lot of nasty comments are made on social media about performances audiences have judged to not be up to standard or compare unfavorably to another performer’s interpretation.

The underlying tone of the article seems to point to a likely trend of Broadway/West End shows designing themselves to be “camera ready” as it were for similar grassroots efforts. Though this brings to mind the semi-joke about bosses telling their marketing departments to create a viral ad. Not everyone who tries to create an experience that fans take ownership of is likely to succeed.

Dedicated Performance Experiences Not Really Controversial Until Race Is Involved

Over the weekend I caught a couple news articles out of the UK about a production which is carving out one performance in their run for black audiences only. The show, Tambo & Bones, which runs June 16 to July 15, is said to be taking a page from Jeremy O. Harris’ show Slave Play which included “Black Out” performances whose intent was to fill all the seats with Black identifying audience members in order to provide an environment in which they might feel completely free to interact with the artists and each other.

“The theatre’s website stresses that “no one is excluded”, but the accompanying promotional material hints strongly that white theatre-goers would not be welcome along on July 5.”

In answer to the objection that this constitutes a type of segregation, it was noted that theaters already provide dedicated performance experiences to various groups.

These include a “socially distanced and masked” show, one using British Sign Language, captioned and audio described performances, and a “relaxed environment” version, where those with autistic spectrum conditions are not expected to respect the normal theatre etiquette of remaining in their seats and observing silence.

Granted, most of those types of performances don’t emphasize an exclusivity in messaging as heavily as Tambo & Bones is. This seems to be one of those cases where there is no bad publicity. For one group, being emphatic that this performance is for you has a great appeal…and can create perhaps an even stronger, almost magnetic appeal for those who are explicitly being told one performance out of many isn’t for them.

Slave Play created a dedicated Black Out page to encourage and help others follow the example of the inaugural performances. Among the productions who have hosted Black Out nights are: Long Day’s Journey Into Night; A Commercial Jingle for Regina Comet; What to Send Up When It Goes Down; Marie and Rosetta; Choir Boy; as well as Jeremy O. Harris’ Slave Play and Daddy.

While the page mentions that two of the Black Out nights for Slave Play were invite only performances, it appears tickets for other performances following this approach were more publicly available for sale similar to how the Tambo & Bones tickets are. (Basically, I couldn’t find any news stories specifying they were invite-only private events.)

Symphonies Telling Stories Of Local Relevance

A link to a great story came across my feed today about a Hawaii Symphony Orchestra’s production that was really focused on resonating with the interests of the community they serve.  Last month, they performed an original work, Symphony of the Hawai’i Forests for school children. (Instagram video here.)

The program featured new music performed by the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra (HSO) accompanied by new animations based on kaʻao (legends) that were created for this project that tell stories about how we can connect and care for our forests of Hawaiʻi.

Teachers were provided with online educational resources by the Mālama Learning Center about the forests of Hawaiʻi to prepare their students for the topics that would be covered during the symphony. Meanwhile, classes were encouraged to learn a hula about the water cycle so that they could then perform together en mass at the concert.

This was a significant undertaking that required collaboration with many partners, including state and federal forestry services, as well as those developing the animation, dance, and educational content. Programs like this will likely go a long way in showing students how a symphony orchestra can be relevant to their lives.

Following some other links, it appears they offer programming for adults along the same lines so it isn’t the case that kids intrigued by their symphony experience growing up only have the core classical canon as an option when they get older. In 2019, HSO presented an original concert paying tribute to the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s successful circumnavigation of the globe in 2017 using traditional navigation techniques on the voyaging canoe, Hōkūleʻa. (I wrote about the 40+ year effort to achieve that back in 2017) That too was a huge production involving over a thousand people between the singers, musicians, dancers, visual artists, etc. Again it emphasized the value of local stories to the community.


Striking While The Engagement Iron Is Hot

I was scrolling through Reddit while waiting for a show to end Friday night and happened upon a post that reflects great engagement by the St. Louis Blues hockey team.  A guy discovering hockey for the first time and bemoaning his city’s loss of the Rams football team back to Los Angeles gets an invite from the Blues to attend a game.

When the nascent fan, Tony X. says he wants to buy the jersey of the biggest underdog on the team, a team member responds suggesting his jersey and later offers to sign it. The Blues apparently captured Tony X’s picture at the game as well.

Given the hashtags on this, I assume it all transpired in 2017 and it just bubbled back up on Reddit as so many topics do. It still provides a great example of how to really grab someone and keep them engaged when their interest is piqued.  Many of the questions Tony X asks are similar to those first exposed to a new arts experiences – Why is that guy doing that? What should I wear?

Note that even though Tony X was a sports fan, his focus was on football so even though he knew some of what to expect from the experience, there were still some aspects that would be new and possibly intimidating.