May 1, 2012
With 'Jesus Christ Superstar,' 'Godspell,' and more, marketing ramps up for people of faith
"Jesus is cracking jokes, sharing parables and dying for our sins in three Broadway musicals this spring, while another six shows feature religious themes that are woven through dialogue and lyrics."
So reads the first paragraph of an interesting story in the New York Times about the unusually high number of Broadway productions that might appeal to a faith-based audience. Faith shows up overtly in such shows as “Leap of Faith,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Sister Act” and “Godspell,” and less so in shows like “Memphis,” “The Lion King,” “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” “Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark.” And yes, even the controversial “Book of Mormon,” with all of its profanity, has a "faith element."
The article quotes Tom Allen of the marketing firm Allied Faith & Family, which targets the faith audience. Allen says that "Broadway is having its first faith moment," and that his firm -- and others -- are looking for effective ways to measure just how much people of faith are turning out for these productions. He has proposed a “faith-based discount” in order to track such sales, but so far, no production has taken him up on it. (The Chicago arm of Allied Faith & Family is testing the same idea, with a "faith discount" to Million Dollar Quartet, a show that includes some nods to faith, now playing at the Apollo Theater. Readers can save up to 35 percent on tickets by clicking here and then typing “FAITH” into the field marked “Promotions and Special Offers.”)
Is it working? Hard to tell . . . yet. Thomas Viertel, a producer on “Leap of Faith,” said the jury's still out, but he likes the idea. "Producers have never really tried to reach audiences of faith beyond the traditional sales to groups from synagogues and churches,” he told the Times. “I think there’s a whole new market out there. It can be risky to take the time to find it, though, because commercial productions need to bring in money fairly quickly to survive.” He added, “And not all religious shows will have wide appeal.”