On designing the post-performance talk show Part I

When a friend and I were deliberating over when to see a Toho production of Jekyll and Hyde, we chose the date with the best seats possible (for the same price) and a post-show talk. We were fans of the musical of course but more so of Megumi Hamada, who played one of the two female leads.

The day of the performance, there was a small sign next to the entrance with the names of those who would be joining the talk event. Hamada’s name wasn’t on it. Imagine our disappointment! This was her first musical role after quitting Gekidan Shiki, where she was a top performer for 15 years, so J&K was quite the special occasion.

Note: She originated the Japanese roles for Nala in Lion King, the title role of Aida, and Elphaba in Wicked.

We asked ourselves if there might be a surprise appearance…but there wasn’t.

The reality of post-performance talk shows

The talk was a mildly entertaining 20 minutes of roundtable discussion with the two male leads, led by the older and more established conductor. They spilled bloopers from rehearsals, talked about the challenges of their roles, and shared funny stories about what goes on behind the scenes. Standard interview stuff, right?

Later, I watched some clips on YouTube and found that it didn’t really matter who participated in the talk because they all followed the same loose script. Different people (all whom can handle a microphone), different episodes, but same story and the same call to action: “Please buy another ticket“.

The script is structured so that throughout the 20 minutes, the actors can express how each show is very different, how the entire production is evolving with each show, and hey, there were x number of shows left.

“Please buy another ticket” as a call to action

Trying to get people to come back is an integral part of sales, and many major musical productions rely heavily on fans that see multiple shows. One sign of slow sales is when there are discounts for your next ticket if you buy it during intermission.

And why not? Convincing people to come back is so much easier than getting someone in for the first time.

I just find this kind of attempt a really clumsy way to push that CTA. And frankly, there’s something less-than-magical about seeing actors pimping tickets, even if it’s presented in the form of a roundtable discussion. It’s done half-heartedly – just going through the motions when it’s your turn.

As we walked out of the theater, I commented that I would have preferred a more spontaneous discussion so the actors could show their personality. My friend replied that she would have preferred that they hired a screenwriter so they could present something of substance.

Very interesting! What other approaches could we imagine? How could this experience have been optimized? Read on to Part Two