The message in “Sousatzka’s” marketing is all about this show going to Broadway.
The campaign takes Toronto’s audience for rubes.
Since the marketing message is basically “see it now before it heads to Broadway” I’m here to say it’s not headed to Broadway.
If the marketing message doesn’t give people another reason to see the show it won’t make it to April.
There are some good reasons to see this show, namely the three stars, but it’s not going to Broadway.
With that in mind here are my top three reasons why despite having a stellar cast, some outstanding performances and first class musicians the show isn’t going anywhere.
Below I’ve linked to all the reviews.
1) No Buzz
Right from the start the marketing for “Sousatzka” felt stale.
The show’s Google AdWords campaign has nothing to say about the show or its themes. The ad uses scarcity as a tactic rather than touting the award winning cast or political themes.
There is nothing particularly clever, thought-provoking or enticing about their Ad Words Text “World Premiere Prior to Broadway Through April 9 Only.”
Scarcity is a tactic better suited to a local used car lot than a show featuring some of the most talented and creative thinkers in theatre.
The show’s Facebook page only managed to capture 3,600 likes. That’s more than double the seating capacity at the Elgin Theatre, but the fans were never leveraged to build excitement or anticipation.
The Facebook page’s rate of engagement is higher than average, with plenty of likes, comments and shares, but the “Sousatzka” social media crew isn’t being “social” on social media.
Instead they use the platform to broadcast ticket discounts and desperate sounding messages from actors urging people to come see the show: “I strongly urge everyone to come and see our show. It is truly transitive and heartfelt.”
I would expect every actor to deliver a “heartfelt” performance. “Transitive” I’m not so sure about.
Even though the show’s employees and fans are engaging on the platform, the folks running the social media platform have a terrible record of responding to the fans.
When they do respond it’s only after an average delay of 1,117 minutes.
Look up Garth Drabinsky on Twitter.
Someone hijacked the Twitter handle @GarthDrabinsky and here’s the photo.
As for the @SousatzkaTO page, just like Facebook it has more in common with a used car lots’ hard sales tactics, than any creative endeavour.
For comparison have a look at “Come From Away’s” Twitter page.
“Because We Come From Everywhere, WE All Come From Away” reads the graphic image.
The accompanying text reads “When the world stopped, their stories moved us all,” which evokes the genuine heartfelt moments we shared after the September 11, 2011 attacks on The World Trade Centre.
No desperate urging required.
What’s the message under “Sousatzka’s” Twitter image? “World Premiere. Strictly Limited Engagement prior to Broadway.”
On social media “Sousatzka” is the annoying guy at the party who wants to sell you a used car and refuses to tell you anything about it until you “come on down to the lot before it’s gone.”
2) The Show
Two words: Johnny LaRue
The show is not a block buster. Here’s why:
- A first act plagued by boring exposition.
- Roll out the tropes…
- Boy with an absent father.
- Child prodigy on a journey of self discovery.
- Political refugees seeking a new home.
- A selfless, underapreciated artist.
- A sleazy, self interested concert promoter.
- A nazi soldier rape scene that results in a baby being put up for adoption.
- All the above were tolerable, if not unbelievable, but it was the feel good Christmas bells number, complete with floating snow flakes that crossed the line into pure schmaltz.
- Then there’s the predictable resolution to the abandoned baby.
- With an ambitious narrative that falls flat, and cast of over 47, the show is simply not sustainable.
3) Garth Drabinsky
As well as being a convicted felon, who still owes many people money in the industry, Drabinsky is known to have been the kind of person no one wants to be around…including some of the key creatives working on “Sousatzka.”
Early in the rehearsal process The New York Post’s Michael Riedel reported that Drabinsky had an altercation with the Academy Award, Tony Award, Emmy Award and Drama Desk Award winning orchestrator Jonathan Tunick.
Why am I paying you all this money?” yelled Drabinsky.
The outburst silenced the room until Tunick stood up and said, “Because I’m one of the greatest orchestrators in the history of Broadway.” And then he walked out.
Riedel writes that Tunick was prepared to leave “Sousatzka,” and Drabinsky was looking to replace him. But Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire, who wrote the score, weren’t having it. They exercised a clause in their contract giving them approval over the orchestrator. They wanted Tunick and no one else.
Drabinsky’s ego always gets in the way.
As reported by J. Kelly Nestruck in the Globe and Mail Drabinsky’s photo on the website is four times the size of the crticially acclaimed actresses at the heart of “Sousatzka” Victoria Clark, Judy Kaye and Montego Glover.
As Netsruck writes “[Why] he is so front-and-centre in the marketing for Sousatzka, rather than, say, Maltby or Victoria Clark?” (see image below)
Links to the Reviews
Meanwhile, the black performers in the cast, save for the few named characters, all appear as an indistinguishable mass whose only purpose is to dance and belt the word “Africa!”
“The cast give it everything they’ve got (at times, the strain of their effort is painful to watch), and the design (in particular Jon Driscoll’s projections) does yeoman work in moving the action between worlds.”
Globe and Mail
“Drabinsky’s done a disservice to his show by shining too big a spotlight on it before it’s ready.”
Mooney on Theatre
“The end result is a show that I found overblown, unfocused, clunky and often tedious.”
“Adrian Noble’s direction is pedestrian.”
Company Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann