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Foray Into The Woods Reaps Poor Returns Thus Far

August 4, 2011
by

Adeline Chia’s piece on page 2 of today’s Life! made for rather disheartening reading.

She mentioned how Dream Academy’s current mega musical production of Sondheim’s “Into The Woods” is experiencing slow ticket sales, with only about half of the 20,000 available tickets sold thus far.

I was particularly surprised by this fact, considering Dream Academy was hard at work with the marketing for this production, starting almost as early as in March with the initial publicity photos and all that.

They have indeed been working hard on marketing from day one.

In all honesty, Dream Academy’s production is a highly commendable one and is definitely deserving of better patronage.

Granted, last year’s touring production of Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music” probably might not have done well, because I was there on one of the nights and the turnout was miserable.

But this didn’t seem to be the case when I was at opening night of Dream Academy’s “Into The Woods” last Friday.

I did a quick survey of the Esplanade Theatre and I believe it was approximately 75%-80% filled that night. (Or maybe it was just because it was opening night.)

Whatsmore, “Into The Woods” seems to be a much more easily-marketable show than “A Little Night Music” is.

If ever there was a Sondheim show that could be considered mainstream enough to attract a general audience, then I suppose “Into The Woods” would have been it.

Truth be told, while Dream Academy deserves high praise for having the guts to stage a Sondheim show, they would probably also have been aware right from the onset of the tremendous risks involved in taking on such a production.

Sondheim shows aren’t the easiest shows in the world to sell.

Sure, there are the hardcore musical theatre fans who will always view Sondheim as “God”, but even to the average musical theatre fan, Sondheim isn’t always the most enticing of prospects.

Personally, as a huge fan of musical theatre myself, I perfectly admire the lyrical genius of Sondheim, but would much rather prefer the lush harmonies of Loewe or the golden melodies of Rodgers any day.

It’s kinda sad, but it seems like the most commercially successful show a producer can put on nowadays is either:

a) a Disney spinoff, e.g. “Beauty and the Beast”, “The Lion King”, “The Little Mermaid”

or

b) a jukebox musical, e.g. “Mamma Mia!”, “We Will Rock You”

or

c) a Euro mega-musical, e.g. “Les Miz”, “Phantom of the Opera”, “Miss Saigon”

Incidentally, Adeline Chia’s article also revealed that Toy Factory’s “881” musical earlier this year also didn’t fare too well, with less than 60% attendance.

I was pretty surprised by this fact as well, as I had thought that “881” would have had many things going for it, such as being able to draw on the fame of the Royston Tan film, plus the fact that it appealed to the Chinese-speaking crowd, plus the fact that it carried a number of Hokkien tunes.

But alas, even all these were not enough to achieve more than 60% attendance.

On the one hand, you really have to applaud local theatre companies like Toy Factory and Dream Academy for sticking to their guns and bravely putting up huge musical productions which they believe in.

But on the other hand, you wonder how long it will be before they start to throw their hands up in despair and turn to the tried-and-tested, money-spinner fare of the Lion Kings and the Mamma Mias and the Phantoms.

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