Monday, July 2, 2012

Truth and truthiness in theatre marketing

Theatre companies love me - they call, they write all the time. I know it's because they miss me and they really, really want to see me again but some of the lines they use to lure me back are, shall we say, heightened for dramatic effect.

Here are a few recent examples of marketing pitches. While some are inaccurate, others exist in that gray area between truth and truthiness. They're anonymous because I don't want to pick on any one theatre company. I saw the Broadway musical Curtains, so I know it's a business.

We're giving you an early chance to get the very best seats to this Broadway hit before the general public.

I was excited when I got this e-mail and immediately went to the theatre's website to buy a ticket. Just one problem: their definition of "very best seats" seems restricted to the last three rows of the orchestra or to the far left and right sides. There was nothing closer on any day I checked. It's possible everything else is sold out but I think I'll wait before buying my ticket.

 The Broadway series features Tony winners Catch Me If You Can, Memphis, Million Dollar Quartet, Sister Act, War Horse and more!

Wow, look at the lineup of Tony winners! Except that Sister Act, while it was nominated, didn't win any Tonys. The awards for Catch Me If You Can and Million Dollar Quartet went to Norbert Leo Butz and Levi Kreis - actors who, to the best of my knowledge, aren't going on tour with the musicals. At least they got Best Musical Memphis and Best Play War Horse right.

Don't miss the the last three performances of what the NY Times calls a "fearless" play that "breaks the mold."

When I read that I thought one of the Times' theatre critics saw the play and reviewed it. Wrong! The quotes come from a physician who writes for a Times wellness blog. She saw the medical-themed play and loved it. But is it fair to translate her rave into an endorsement from The New York Times, the same as if critics Ben Brantley or Charles Isherwood had written a review? I'm not sure.