Film studios down-sell the fact a film is actually a musical

I read recently a report that this fall’s flu shot has not been as effective as other years. Apparently some of the virus strains included in this year’s flu vaccine have mutated into other virus strains. Unfortunately, I seem to have picked up one of those marauding mutates that were part of my flu-shot cocktail. 

However, along with Pat and my brother Terry I still managed our annual New Year’s Eve outing to the Chemainus Festival Theatre for dinner and the company’s Christmas play. Probably not the wisest thing to do when not feeling well but I didn’t want to spoil our New Years Eve. On the way home we passed through Ladysmith to view the town’s impressive Christmas lighting display.

I felt close to normal on Saturday morning which enabled me to drive up to Parksville to take in the final of the BC Men’s Junior Championship. Sportsnet TV was broadcasting the game live and I found it amazing how much lighting equipment they’d packed into the ice rink to enhance the game for viewers. (see photo below).

Pat and I read all our favorite magazines on our iPads through an online service called NextIssue. Browsing the latest Maclean’s magazine I noticed an article by Jaime J. Weinman about how selling a musical to modern moviegoers involves being a bit evasive about what it is. It started me thinking about the Annie movie  I reviewed recently in this blog and how the advertising trailers had promoted it. 

I got out my iPad and previewed a few trailers of the film. As the Maclean’s article had pointed out, there was only a few seconds of onscreen singing used. One of the trailers concentrated only on the dialogue for Cameron Diaz (Miss Hannigan), making it “look like a comedy without music.”

Another movie musical out this Christmas is Into the Woods which I haven’t seen yet. The article points out that if a person didn’t know the Broadway catalog, they might be very surprised to find it is a musical. Even though the film is based on Stephen Sondheim’s 1987 song-filled take on Grimm’s fairy tales, the first theatrical trailer had no singing whatsoever.

According to Matthew Kennedy, author of the book Roadshow! The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960’s, he claims that studio marketing departments often believe the musical is in disrepute. They feel if people hate musicals, then why give that information.

Even last year’s mega-hit Disney film Frozen was first marketed as a non-musical, concentrating instead on a character called Olaf, a comedy-relief snowman voiced by Josh Gad. It wasn’t until the hit song Let it Go took off worldwide that advertising slid into a musical mode.

According to Weinman’s editorial, the 2002 film version of Chicago is considered to be the ultimate example of how a musical can be sold to a modern movie theatre audience. The studio trailers mostly ignored the music and sold it based on its dark comic plot. 

The article quotes Samual Craig, a professor of marketing at New York University who explains that music will attract people to a concert but not a movie. He goes on to say that without a strong story, a film’s appeal will be limited. With this in mind the studio promotion of Chicago concentrated on convincing people there was a compelling story behind all the music. The film itself made sure the audience kept focused on the plot by setting most of the numbers in a dream-like world, making it possible for musical-haters to speculate that the characters were imagining the songs.

In conclusion the Maclean’s article claims that ever since Chicago’s success at the ticket booth and at film award ceremonies, no matter how much singing there is in a film, the studio-marketing departments usually aim their promotion material towards people who prefer a more realistic film style.

However, no marketing guru could hide the fact that the 2012 film version of the musical Les Miserables had non-stop singing from start to finish. Instead the marketing staff emphasized that the music was recorded live right on the set instead of having the actors lip-sync their songs to a pre-recorded soundtrack, thus making the film more musically authentic.

Photo above: Dancers strut their stuff in the film version of Chicago.

It appears at this point in time the film studios will continue to sell musicals to the demographic groups that appear, at least in their eyes, as hostile to the form. They know fans of musicals like myself will automatically buy a ticket to a movie based on a Broadway show. However, their job is to get more bums in the seats and if it takes a little sleight of hand to do it, so be it. On the up side, it may be some of those people who don’t know it’s a musical going in, just might be surprised and actually like it.

Sunday wrapped up our New Year’s week. Pat worked most of the day on organizing her next Timbre! choir concert and I started noodling through the score of Anything Goes that I’m doing for the Bard to Broadway company in Qualicum next summer. Late in the afternoon both of us took in the big budget Hollywood epic Exodus: Gods and Kings, another politically controversial film playing this holiday season. 

Joining the extraordinary banning throughout North America of the Kim Jong-Un assassination movie The Interview, Exodus: Gods and Kings was banned in Egypt for what the country’s culture minister Gaber Asfour explained was the films “Zionist view of history” and that it contained “historical inaccuracies.” O dear. I think it’s time some of these world leaders lightened up. When did Hollywood ever worry about making a script historically accurate?

After the film we scooted home to watch Canada thrash Slovakia at the World Junior Hockey Championships. We then viewed an episode of The Good Wife on Netflix. We’d planned to watch the opening of another season of Downton Abbey but decided we’d had our flick fill for the day.

I let the digital recorder do its job so we’d be able to view the show later in the week.

Bard 2 Broadway Theatre’s 2015 Summer Season.

General AUDITIONS for all three 2015 shows (The 39 Steps, Play it Again Sam and the musical Anything Goes are being held in Parksville at the McMillan Art Centre (133 McMillan Street) on Sat. Jan 24 from 1:30 - 4:30 pm and Sun. Jan 25 from 1:30 - 4:30 pm. 

In Nanaimo Auditions are being held at St. Paul’s Church Hall (100 Chapel Street) on Sat. Jan 31 from 1:30 - 4:30 pm and Sun. Feb 01 from 1:30 - 4:30 pm. - Call-backs are Sun. Feb 08.

NOTE: Please prepare a 1-2 minute monologue.  If auditioning for the musical, please prepare a song, and provide sheet music for our accompanist, or backing track on CD or iPod.  Please wear comfortable clothing.  Please be prepared to stay for about 2 hours.  If you wish more information, or if you are genuinely interested, but cannot make these dates / times, please contact:- Gary Brown 250-468-9545 - or Eileen Butts 250-248-3782 -