Frank Young, the man who is Theatre Under the Stars, has been known to refer to his subscription audience as "blue-hairs" when defending the conservative, warhorse musical choices that usually make up TUTS season.
So who knew TUTS would be raking in the bucks this year because of MTV?
Legally Blonde just finished a smash stint at the Hobby Center, bringing in more than a million bucks a week for its two-week stand, according to show-biz bible Variety.
Legally Blonde received tepid reviews in New York and closed early, but it has turned out to be a cash machine on the road. Why? Because MTV did a reality series called The Search For Elle Woods, where contestants tried out to star in the production.
As Variety notes:
The success of TV casting shows is well documented. You're the One That I Want did a lot --- financially, if not artistically --- for the Broadway production of Grease. How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? did a lot for the London revival of The Sound of Music.
But there was an important difference with the "Elle Woods" show. Styled as a search for a replacement rather than an original star, the show was broadcast toward the end of the New York run. It thus did little for the Broadway box office. But the timing has been huge for the road.
"It helped us become the thing everybody loves: the four-ticket buy," [producer Mike] Isaacson says. "The show has given the kids a huge knowledge base about the show. You can hear the whispering in certain scenes."
The impressive grosses for Blonde means money in the bank for TUTS -- the company hopes its productions break even; Blonde's success will make up for any duds on the rest of the schedule.
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In these economic-cruch times, theater ticket sales may be a luxury Houstonians choose to forego.
John Breckenridge, CEO of TUTS, tells Hair Balls that sales have been steady for the season.
"Theatre Under The Stars has been fortunate this year," he says."We're having a
strong season even compared to last year. We are a non-profit so everything we accomplish, we owe to our amazing patrons, sponsors and donors."
Then again, TUTS is not releasing sales data on its other shows. So we'll just have to see how many seats the Happy Days remake fills. Somehow we don't think the MTV crowd will go for that one.