Things could not be stranger now on Broadway.
With the season demolished, and no Tony Awards, and no fall season, producers are trying to gauge when the Great Bright Way will re-open next year.
Some shows have posted previews for March 2021, with April opening nights. They assume theaters will be ready for customers. Also, the assumption is that April 30th or so will be the 2021 Tony Awards cut off, and that the Tony’s will happen in June.
Scott Rudin– who’s in a lot of trouble with a $6.3 million lawsuit over unpaid for ads– decided to skip the Tony deadline and open “The Music Man” in late May. Of course, since part of that lawsuit is over “Music Man” ads, who knows if that show will even come to fruition?
Now the great producer Frank Marshall and his team have decided to open their musical about Princess Diana on May 25, 2021. But before he does that, Marshall will film “Diana: The Musical” a la “Hamilton” and show it on Netflix before the stage production begins previews.
This is unheard of. In a joint statement, the “Diana” producers said, “We speak for the entire company when we say that we couldn’t be more excited to finally be able share our show with theater lovers everywhere. Though there is no substitute for the live theater, we are honored to be a part of the quality entertainment that Netflix provides its subscribers worldwide.”
This is a big gamble. What if “Diana” stinks? If it gets bad reviews on Netflix, that will kill the Broadway audience. But I think producers are signalling that this will now be a summer run, no Tonys expenditure, and let the show either catch on or close by Labor Day.
Marshall knows what he’s doing. Steven Spielberg’s long time movie producer, he last tried his hand with the Jimmy Buffet musical “Margaritaville” in 2018. (It wasn’t a success.) He has nothing to lose, really, but plenty to gain with a long investment in “Diana.” And Netflix needs the content.
Is this the beginning of a trend for musicals? Not yet. They’ll wait and see how Marshall’s gambit pays off.