Diana – A New Musical: Netflix Release BEFORE Broadway Debut
Inspiration hits a creative mind, an idea grows, a team gathers, and auditions are held. Periods of creating, workshopping, and rehearsing turn the initial spark into a show. Last but not least, cast and crew share the production they’ve spent months or years on with a live audience. Inspiration, creation, repetition, opening night. That is one well-known recipe in the industry. However, the ingredients list got longer for Diana – a true musical story: pro-shot recording and online streaming, PRIOR to the Broadway opening night. When it comes to living theatre, which comes first in this transitioning world: live audiences or streaming?
Diana started its out-of-town run in San Diego on February 19th 2019 and closed on April 14th.The musical directed by Come From Away’s Christopher Ashley was extended twice in this short amount of time but received mixed reviews and went back to a workshop phase.
Jeanna de Waal and Roe Hartrumpf, respectively cast as the Princess of Wales and Prince Charles, took their first bows on Broadway’s Longacre Theater’s stage on March 2nd with a March 31st official premiere in mind. The global pandemic and Broadway’s shut down made it however impossible for them to keep on going and, like every show on the Great White Way, they were told to wait until the situation improves.
Cut to July 3rd 2020, also known as “Hamilton’s day.” Musicals and performing arts enthusiasts rejoiced when Disney Plus announced that they would release Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical on their streaming service on that day. Besides the fact that the production received rave reviews everywhere and that tickets have always been somewhat challenging to get, this news meant some form of return to the theatre. The 2016 best musical Tony winner’s rating and streaming success prompted Disney to add pro-shots of Aladdin and Once on the Island to their 2020 release schedule. If growing interest and newfound online audiences have opened a new market for show producers, how many will pick the virtual experience over the real thing? For how long? Most importantly, will the alternative turn out a competitor or a promotional tool for the original?
There is no official Netflix release date aside from “Early 2021,” but with a Broadway premiere now scheduled for May 25th 2021, Diana could be streamed for three, four, even five months prior to its real curtain rise.
Since our society now has new habits and found alternative ways to consume art and entertainment, this early virtual pre-run could help as much as it could hurt the show. Given the choice between an expense-free evening at home with a product covered by a subscription’s fee and a night out with full-priced tickets and other expenses, spontaneous seat buyers and other row fillers might go with the first option. Such reality and change in revenues have been observed in movie theaters that are not as crowded as they used to be.
Diana wasn’t Broadway ready at the end of its San Diego’s run, was met with mixed reviews, and had to go back to the rehearsal room to be greenlit. If those early reviews had an impact on Broadway’s producers and decision-makers, the pro-shot’s reception is as likely to impact ticket sales, for better or for worse. Netflix could have the effect that YouTube had on some productions that raised from the ashes, found new audiences, and were given a second chance, therefore creating a fandom for Diana’s team.
Again, if well-received, the pro-shot could be the great promotional campaign that live entertainment lacks in comparison to the movie industry. The way that Hollywood and Broadway promote their products may be the biggest difference between East and West coasts’ producers. Movie studios are and have always been great at launching their pictures by letting the world knows and constantly reminding them of what’s brewing. Hollywood knows how to get big opening box office numbers. From teaser to full-length trailers shown in movie theatres, on TV, and online, to websites created specifically for a movie, and actors spreading the word in countless interviews. Plays, musicals, and operas never get that kind of media coverage and don’t have a star system they can rely on, except perhaps for one that appeals to insiders and loyal spectators, not the general audience.
Diana has shooting scheduled for September 2020.
David Bryan’s songs will be performed at the Longacre Theatre as initially planned but without an audience. It will be interesting to see if this early, online promotion will have a positive effect on May’s box office entries, manage to create a certain enthusiasm around the production, or tarnish its reputation before it got to go on in front of a real, live audience.
Cats, Newsies, Legally Blonde, these are just a few pro-shots that have been well received by both fans and the general public, but they were all shot in front of live audiences. Actors not only had time to run and get comfortable with each show’s material, but they also had people to look at and reactions to play off. Artists know that every show is different because of the audience’s energy and that they are feeding off it to deliver their very best. One has to wonder how Diana’s cast will manage to do so in front of empty seats. Will the cameras manage to capture that spark in their eyes and that adrenaline in their body without the audience element? Was it because cast members from previously cited productions were able to lock eyes with an audience member or catch their smile that those watching from the comfort of their home felt that they were looking right at them or the room’s palpable excitement?
Diana – a true musical story: premiering on Netflix in Early 2021 or on Broadway in May 2021? Which comes first, the cheers or the clicks?
Also by Martin Frenette:
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