BWW Interview: What's the Future of Live Streamed Musicals? BroadwayHD Co-Founders Stewart F. Lane & Bonnie Comley Explain + SHE LOVES ME!
As BroadwayWorld previously reported, online theater streaming service BroadwayHD will live stream She Loves Me, marking the first time a Broadway show has been broadcast live. Roundabout Theatre Company's hit revival of "She Loves Me," starring Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi and Jane Krakowski, will be available to watch live on BroadwayHD.com tomorrow, June 30 at 8 p.m. EDT. The show will be produced in association with Ellen M. Krass.
Since its launch in 2015, BroadwayHD aims to extend the reach of Broadway to fans old and new, anytime and anywhere. BroadwayHD is the only online streaming service of its kind, offering viewers an unprecedented Broadway experience and access to exclusive live streams in addition to an on-demand library of over 150 Theater Productions from the comfort and convenience of their own home-or wherever streaming is possible. It's the Broadway you know and love, curated from the stage to your screen.
Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley, co-founders of BroadwayHD, recently chatted with BroadwayWorld about tomorrow's big event and the future of live streaming on Broadway. Check out the full interview below!
How has the service been going since it launched this fall?
Bonnie: It's great. We're asking people on social media what it is that they want to see for added features. Like any entertainment streaming service, it's something that's constantly evolving, so you check in one month, check in the next week... we've got new stuff as often as we can put it up there. The latest we're layering on is the live stream. We did two already that were off-Broadway, and She Loves Me is the first ever live stream of a Broadway show, so we're making history!
Stewart: The public is really embracing She Loves Me. We haven't seen numbers like this since we launched, so we're really excited about it.
How long has She Loves Me been in the works?
Bonnie: We actually worked with the Roundabout [Theatre Company] as a commercial arm of theirs with Sunday in the Park with George, way back in... when was it?
Stewart: Even farther I think... the 1776 revival? We have a real history with them.
So was it you who approached them with this idea? Did they require convincing?
Bonnie: Several years ago, before we had the BroadwayHD website in mind, we wanted to see about doing digital captures and we'd just been going back and forth looking for the right show and the right time. This one was the right time. We took a couple of years to actually build the website, and then we put all our content on the website and started looking for what's next. Then the Roundabout's She Loves Me came about because we had seen the show and we loved it. As we said, we already had a relationship with Roundabout's Todd Haimes, so we went to him and said, "What do you think?"
How many cameras is it being captured with?
Bonnie: It's ten for this one. It's a big show!
Stewart: Ten cameras, a couple of trucks, and lot of personnel to look and sound great.
Have you done any tests from the theatre?
Bonnie: There are trucks in front of the theatre now- the remote trucks.
Stewart: We have banners on them now.
Will you guys be there in the truck or will you be watching from home?
Bonnie: We're gonna be at the theatre, but we can watch it from our phone while we're in the truck. We're gonna be all over the place taking peeks at it.
And after it streams live, it's going to be available for a week?
Bonnie: Yep, it's going to be on demand for a week. And what we're going to do is we'll be shooting two other performances for camera rehearsal. Then if there's anything less than perfect, we can add them together and polish it, if needed.
Stewart: If you tune in a little early, we have a pre-show that'll be terrific. I can't wait for you to see what happens during the intermission!
What's the timeline for the archival editing?
Bonnie: We don't actually have a date for when it's going to be up on BroadwayHD and living permanently there. We're gonna do it for a week, take it down, edit anything if needed, and then we'll see when we're going to put it back up.
What's the measure of success for this? The number of viewers? Subscribers?
Bonnie: I think that it's a combination of that, but it's also going to be what the audience reaction is and what the industry reaction is. People are so excited already, as Stew said. That's going to be a part of it as a new business and as a new concept. Not everyone is aware of it and not everyone is going to be able to watch it as it live streams, so it's going to be the first of hopefully many other live digital captures. I think that it's just the measure of success... how many people say, "When is the next one?"
Stewart: We're looking for the big "wow" factor, when people go, "My gosh, I've gotta see this show before it closes. It was so much fun to watch on BroadwayHD!" That's the kind of experience we want people to have.
When is the next one?
Bonnie: I wish we could actually say, but we don't have it finalized just yet.
Stewart: We're looking at a couple of Broadway shows now.
Tell us about some of the other content that's up there now. What's most popular?
Stewart: My favorite up there is the London production of Gypsy, that we've gotten before it comes to Broadway- the Olivier-Award winning one with Imelda Staunton. She's an amazing Mama Rose. I've never seen such a bitter version, but she really is the mother from hell when you see this production! And she's got the vocal chops to back it up. It really makes you think about her character.
And you've got some great material from partners like the BBC, right?
Bonnie: It's going to be a different interpretation, but with the same score.
And there are new apps as well, so people can get it on their Apple TV and Roku Devices?
Bonnie: That was one of the things we knew as we were launching that we wanted to do- an app that people could have and watch it on TV, and the older demographic was saying that they don't watch on their phone or iPad. They just watched on their TV, so about a month ago we got our app together. So now people can watch it on Apple TV and Roku.
And like Netflix, it feels like a natural evolution from the early ones that were broadcasting, movie theatres to now, you can watch it from the comfort of your own home.
Bonnie: Like we said, we're a type of entertainment service that's just evolving all the time, so it's also new and people are, in the Broadway producer's mind, not the standard operating procedure with digital capture. We're hoping it's what is part of what they'll do going forward... they see the value of it they see and that it's a branding and a marketing tool that they can use. Then maybe a show live streams for opening night, and then sells because we can do that with the website.
Stewart: It brings Broadway to the world... sort of like BroadwayWorld!
What a great name for a website!
Stewart: Exactly! That's it. We're trying to take Broadway out of its provincial 20-block area and share it with not only the rest of the nation, but on a global basis. BroadwayWorld. But that was already taken [laughs].
Visit broadwayhd.com/shelovesme to reserve a live stream pass to "She Loves Me" on June 30 at 8 p.m. EDT for $9.99. "She Loves Me" is free with all annual subscriptions to BroadwayHD's on-demand library. BroadwayHD annual subscribers in the United States can watch the "She Loves Me" live stream on BroadwayHD's Roku and Apple TV apps.
"She Loves Me" runs through July 10 at Studio 54 as part of Roundabout Theatre Company's 50th Anniversary Season, and stars Tony Award-winner Laura Benanti and Zachary Levi, alongside Tony Award-nominee Gavin Creel, Byron Jennings, Tom McGowan and Tony Award-winner Jane Krakowski. It's directed by Scott Ellis, choreographed by Warren Carlyle with musical direction by Paul Gemignani. This classic musical comedy features a book by Joe Masteroff, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and music by Jerry Bock.