EXCLUSIVE: Times Square is teeming this week with out-of-town producers who descend each year in the weeks before the Tony Awards to see shows and sit through seminars run by people who think they know their business better than denizens of the flyover. They’re an important block among the 860 Tony voters and courting them during the confab, run by the Broadway League, runs hot and heavy. Jon Stewart and Tommy Tune made heartfelt keynote speeches; producers worked the crowd. None more avidly, even passionately, than Scott Rudin, whose powerful production of A Raisin In The Sun – starring, as you may have heard, Denzel Washington — is in the running for Best Revival of a Play. If you’ve seen those ubiquitous ads for The Book Of Mormon, you know that Rudin goes his own way in promoting his shows; Raisin is no exception.
This week, the visiting producers began receiving what ticket buyers will have on offer starting next week: The first-ever digital souvenir booklet for a show. Instead of a cheesy oversize booklet, they’ll get a pocketable flash drive with a 68-page program. I have it (Tony voters will also be getting it next week, gratis) and it’s exquisite.
The Raisin presentation includes photos, both archival and from the production, along with extensive interviews with the entire company, plenty of commentary from Washington on the play and on his colleagues, and essays on the significance of Lorraine Hansberry’s accomplishment by such luminaries as novelist Jeffrey Eugenides and Veep executive producer Frank Rich.
“We felt we couldn’t do what we wanted to do in a short printed book,” Rudin told me. “We wanted the amount of content that the play demanded and this satisfied that. We also felt that the audience receives information differently than they ever have, and that with a few rare exceptions, most sophisticated theatregoers would rather take home a USB key they can put in their pockets instead of a printed book of an inconvenient size and minimal content. I hope we’ll do this for everything now. It’s got wonderful material — why would we ever now do anything else?”
So: Rocky may have the championship fight, but Raisin has the knockout. And look for another one this fall, when A Delicate Balance brings Glenn Close back to Broadway. No word from Rudin on whether a digital booklet is in the works for Mormon.
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