Art That Draws: A Symbol to Sell The Goodbye Girl

This weekend, when Chicago papers carry the first print ads for the Broadway-bound musical The Goodbye Girl (which opens a five-week tryout at the Shubert Theatre December 22), the public will get its first gander at the graphic image that will be one of the chief promotion tools for the new multimillion-dollar musical. It’s part of an important trend in the mass-marketing of theater spectacles; at the same time, thanks to the ego needs of the show’s creators, it’s a departure from that trend as well.

Theatrical-production logos have taken on added significance ever since producers such as Cameron Mackintosh began using advertising that centered on a single pristine image that a mass audience could instantly identify with a particular show. Few theater fans would fail to recognize the ragamuffin that is synonymous with Les Miserables or the white mask that screams The Phantom of the Opera. “Cameron has made it clear that the advertising image for his shows is paramount,” explains Rick Elice, cocreative director for New York-based Serino Coyne, the advertising agency that handles approximately 80 percent of the productions opening on Broadway, including The Goodbye Girl.

But, as careful observers of theatrical advertising soon will note, the about-to-be-revealed artwork for The Goodbye Girl is a far cry from the single-image approach others have exploited so profitably. It’s a much busier logo than those created for Les Miz, Cats, or The Phantom of the Opera, with no dominant visual element.

The chief underlying reason for this is the contractual billing arrangement made by members of the show’s creative team. The contracts stipulate that the names of no fewer than seven of the show’s principal creators, including leads Bernadette Peters and Martin Short, director Gene Saks, choreographer Graciela Daniele, playwright Neil Simon, composer Marvin Hamlisch, and lyricist David Zippel, must appear in the ads in the same size type as the show’s title.

Given the challenge of incorporating so many names in such large type into a graphic image, Elice and his Serino Coyne cohorts decided to openly embrace what other ad executives might have perceived to be an insurmountable obstacle. Elice explains, “We asked ourselves what would get people into the theater to see The Goodbye Girl, and we decided it was the names of the experienced talent involved.” Before the artwork was drawn by Jim Miller, Elice and his team also reasoned that the final product needed a look that would instantly communicate the feeling of New York City, where the show is set. Elice says, “We were looking for something that represented the excitement and variety of the city.”

Their thinking eventually led them to a bustling cityscape image that moves in many different directions. The familiar New York skyline makes up the background; above it towers a billboard touting the well-known Peters. The musical’s title wraps around the front of a New York brownstone (site of much of the show’s action) in the center. Next to the brownstone a crane is lowering a sign with Short’s name on it, a sly reference to the comedian’s Broadway debut. Beneath the brownstone a blimp is taking off with the names of Simon, Hamlisch, and Zippel scrawled on its side. Under the blimp looms a theater marquee emblazoned with the names of the set, costume, and lighting designers. At the bottom of the image is a bus with director Saks’s name in bold letters on its side while choreographer Daniele’s name unfurls on a banner above the bus crowded with chorus girls.

Elice has given the finished artwork a three-dimensional feeling to set it apart from the rest of the current Broadway art. Further down the line a planned animated television spot will play off the imagery in the artwork.

Auditorium One-Ups the $11-Million Miss Saigon

Spectacles aren’t cheap to produce, and the latest from producer Cameron Mackintosh is no exception. Opening October 17 at the Auditorium Theatre, Miss Saigon may be the costliest theatrical production that has ever played the Windy City. With a cast of 48, the musical’s weekly operating expenses total a whopping $525,000. At capacity, with a $60 top ticket price, this $11 million touring production could pull in approximately $850,000 a week here. This version of the musical sports a newly developed $150,000 computerized helicopter landing mechanism that Mackintosh says will be used in all the show’s future productions. The helicopter landing during the evacuation of the American embassy in Saigon is generally touted as the show’s biggest special effect. But many theatergoers may wind up more impressed by the stunning renovation of the Auditorium’s front entrance, completed hours before Miss Saigon’s first preview last week. Sleek glass walls and doors now pull the audience into the building, and the outer lobby’s ceiling boasts fresh paint and gold leaf. A first-class job.

Where’d the Audience Go?

Anyone concerned about the future of the arts in this country would be well-advised to find a copy of the October 5 issue of the New Yorker (the first under new editor Tina Brown) and devour Adam Gopnik’s article “The Death of an Audience.” Gopnik has penned a savvy think piece on what he terms the “overarching cultural tragedy of the end of the century,” namely the demise of “the amateur, afternoon public for culture.” Where does Chicago stand in discussion of this timely matter? For one sad answer check out “Board Games” by Robert Sharoff in the current issue of Chicago magazine. Sharoff quotes various local socialites discussing how they choose which boards of cultural institutions they wish to serve. Notes one: “To look at it from its crassest point of view, where would you rather go to dinner–the Art Institute or the Hyde Park Art Center?”

Royal George Finds a Buyer!

After months of uncertainty, restaurateur and real-estate mogul Sue Gin has purchased the Royal George Theatre complex at 1641 N. Halsted for around $1.7 million. Among other endeavors, Gin owns and operates Christopher’s On Halsted restaurant in the complex. Gin and her representatives are talking to Michael Leavitt and Fox Theatricals and other producers about a long-term lease or possible equity position in the building’s theater and cabaret spaces.