Broadway has been recording and releasing cast recordings since 1931 when Fred and Adele Astaire recording a limited release of songs from the Band Wagon. This was the first step to tearing down the wall between the confines of the theatre and home entertainment and mass media. Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark new music video “Rise Above 1” may have torn down whatever remained standing of that wall.
The music video is an obvious ploy to sell more Spider Man tickets, but this injection of a device so modern and mainstream into the marketing plan, one which has already included the radio release of “Rise Above 1” as a radio single, is truly a momentous move. Of course, the very fact that Broadway openly embraced the stage adaptation of a comic book is a telling maneuver. Basically, Broadway wants to be more “mainstream” and attract a broader audience.
The release of a music video and a radio single is about as mainstream as a production can be in this day and age. Then again, the theatre, perhaps once considered an exalted entertainment medium, has quickly become the part of the synergized entertainment industry. Sure, musicals like Rent and Mamma Mia have been made into movies, but quite a bit of time typically elapsed between the debut production and the Hollywood screening. Looking forward to 2012, several 2011 Broadway musicals are already slated for the silver screen.
Next year, audiences will have the choice of purchasing War Horse tickets and Book of Mormon tickets to see the critically acclaimed productions on the stage in Broadway (or on tour) or in the comfort of the movie theater.
Developments like these have made the 21st century an interesting time for live theatre. Though it is still most often an intimate affair between the actors and actresses on stage and those who purchased seats for a seat at a theatre, most likely with more tradition than the local Cineplex, the theatre has become much more accessible to an audience that spell the experience “theater”.
The nostalgic may wax poetic about the death of classic theater. This is a completely fabricated argument of course. Just as many big budget musicals are based on big budget movies as the other way around, in fact Broadway may be drawing more “inspiration” for the movies’ box office than their own at this point time (Lion King, Catch Me If You Can anyone?). The point being that Spider Man has released a music video, War Horse and Book of Mormon are already Hollywood bound, and Broadway theater is what always has been, all about the money and the exposure.