Surprising Things Overheard At Broadway Focus Groups

The Producer’s Perspective
10 surprising things overheard at Broadway focus groups.
January 13, 2012

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, then you know that I’m a big proponent of research. We’re one of the few industries on the planet that spends millions of dollars developing a project . . . but rarely test that project before going to market, or when we’re in the market.

I don’t do a show anymore without proper research to help guide me in my decision making process (and BTW, that’s the key – to let it guide you – not let it drive you. You are the one holding the wheel, and the research just acts as a GPS that gives you the short cuts to where you want to go).

From what I hear from my peers, however, more and more focus groups and audience research reports are being done, which I think is fantastic. The more we listen, the more we learn.

One of the greatest reminders you get when doing a live focus group, where you sit behind a panel of one-way glass and listen to people talk about your show or Broadway habits in general, is how much people do not know. It’s not that they are dumb, or ignorant or anything.

It’s just that . . . we live in a bubble.

Since we constantly consume Broadway info, we sometimes assume everyone knows who is starring in The Mountaintop or how many weeks Darren Criss is in How To Succeed or that Darren Criss is even IN How to Succeed.

I thought I’d illustrate this point by listing ten surprising things heard by me and my peers over the last six months at a bunch of different live Broadway focus groups.

Fasten your seat belts . . .

10. “Priscilla closed. Yep, in October. I heard someone on the radio say it was the last day to see it.”

9. “I heard a radio spot for Mandy Patumpkin and . . . some lady . . . I can’t remember her name . . . but it’s, you know, that lady has . . . been around.”

8. “I want to see Spider-Man.” “I want to see Spider-Man.” “I want to see Spider-Man.”

7. “I get all my tickets through Ticketron.” (Ticketron disappeared in 1991 when it was acquired by Ticketmaster.)

6. “I went to see Priscilla because I thought Bette Midler was in it.”

4. “The only show I want to see is Hugh Jackman.” “It closed.” “Really? Then forget it. I don’t want to see anything!”

3. “I’d see any show by Andrew Lloyd Webber.”

2. “I don’t like to buy tickets in the winter. Because if there’s a huge storm I can’t drive into the city and I lose my money. Bloomberg always says, ‘Despite the snow, Broadway is open!’ Well, it’s not open for me, and I don’t want to be out that money so I stay home and watch TV.”

1. “Wicked plays television commercials all the time.” (According to my sources, Wicked has never had a television commercial.)

Ok, now, the above comments were each said by only one person in a small group of Broadway theatergoers, so I wouldn’t take any one of them as an indication of a trend amongst theatergoers (although that snow thing does make me think we need to do a better job of articulating our snow policy to ticket-buyers).

But I post them here to remind us all that just because we know something, doesn’t mean our audience does.

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