As Broadway claws its approach again from an 18-month COVID shutdown, it may use a quick new tv business that captures the joy of stay theater. At present, New York Metropolis is sinking $30 million into one thing referred to as “NYC Reawakens,” which appears like a slogan for Sleepy’s. Up to now, the outcomes are a blended bag.
The primary business encompasses a generic voice singing a bland rendition of “New York, New York.” We see a cute homosexual couple taking within the sights from the window of a cab, a man slicing pizza, a breakdancer, and a transvestite dancing by way of Instances Sq.. It ticks all of the progressive containers, nevertheless it’s uninspired. A second business — during which a bunch of New York celebs, together with Stephen Colbert, Sara Bareilles and Andy Cohen, sing solo alongside to a saxophone-heavy model of Billy Joel’s “New York State of Thoughts” — was higher. But it surely nonetheless misses the mark.
What’s wanted proper now’s a business that embraces the one factor New York has that no different metropolis on the earth has — Broadway, a enterprise that, earlier than COVID, yearly pumped $2 billion into town’s coffers.
The general public isn’t coming to New York to see Colbert singing a tune on a balcony. However they are going to flock to see the award-winning “Hamilton” for those who give them the precise push.
“NYC Reawakens” ought to take a cue from “I Love New York,” the legendary promoting marketing campaign that, within the Nineteen Seventies, modified the notion of town. Again then New York was mired in debt, crime, sleaze and rubbish — rubbish that piled up on the sidewalks as a result of the Sanitation Division was on strike. The “I Love New York” marketing campaign, with its iconic brand by Milton Glaser and catchy theme tune by Steve Karmen, reduce by way of the muck to remind those who town nonetheless had its charms. And on the middle of that marketing campaign was New York’s distinctive promoting level: Broadway.
The inspiration for “I Love New York” happened after a drunken night time at Elaine’s, the Higher East Facet restaurant whose regulars included Woody Allen, Jackie Onassis, George Steinbrenner, and Joseph Heller. After the boozy dinner, Bobby Zarem, the highest New York press agent of the Nineteen Seventies, determined to stroll dwelling. He grew up in Savannah, Ga., and realized all about New York by studying gossip columnist Walter Winchell’s dispatches from Broadway, the Stork Membership and the Copacabana.
“I assumed New York was probably the most glamorous metropolis on the earth,” Zarem informed me after I interviewed him for my guide, “Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway.”
However New York on a chilly winter night time in 1976 wasn’t so glamorous.
“I noticed you would roll 1 / 4 down Second Avenue and there wasn’t a automotive or an individual to cease it,” Zarem mentioned. “The town was useless and dropping into the East River. I needed to do one thing.”
Zarem claimed he got here up with the phrase “I Love New York” on his stroll dwelling. He pitched the concept to the highly effective advert company Wells Wealthy Greene. The pinnacle of the corporate took the concept to New York Gov. Hugh Carey, who was livid that President Gerald Ford had refused to bail out a bankrupt New York Metropolis.
“I like New York a lot,” Carey mentioned. “If I get your advert company some huge cash are you able to make all people love New York?”
Carey got here by way of with the cash, and Wells Wealthy Greene made a cute business that featured vacationers from different states saying how a lot they cherished New York. “I stay on Cape Cod, however I like New York,” one man mentioned. It didn’t get a lot traction. After which somebody (no person remembers who) got here up with the concept of manufacturing an “I Love New York” business strictly about Broadway.
Taking pictures came about through the week of Jan. 25, 1978. Michael Bennett, the celebrated director of “A Refrain Line,” confirmed as much as direct his dancers in a snippet from his present. The actors from “Annie,” “The Wiz,” and “Grease” had been there as effectively. The ultimate shot was to be of Frank Langella, starring in “Dracula.” His line was, “I like New York, particularly at night time.”
However Langella didn’t just like the phrase “night time.” Dracula, he informed the director, would by no means say “night time.” Dracula would say “night.”
However this was a one-minute business, timed to a fraction of the second. “Evening” was one syllable. “Night” was two. It added a shade an excessive amount of time.
Langella did a few detached takes saying “night time.” The director requested him if he may put a bit extra Dracula into the hassle.
“Let me attempt it my approach simply as soon as,” Langella mentioned.
He seemed straight into the digital camera and purred, “I like New York, particularly within the night.”
Then he swirled his cape and walked off into the fog.
“It was fast and thrilling,” recalled Josh Ellis, the press agent for “Dracula.” “They’d to make use of it.”
Inside two weeks after the “I Love New York” Broadway business started airing, Broadway attendance jumped 30 %. Theater district eating places reported a 20 % improve in revenues.
All through the ’70s and ’80s, New York state produced a number of variations of the “I Love New York” marketing campaign. Frank Sinatra did one in 1983, when “Cats” was the most popular present on Broadway. He was to seem in Instances Sq. at night time surrounded by actors in “Cats” costumes. The director requested Sinatra’s handlers if the Chairman of the Board would attend a rehearsal. The reply: No.
So the forged of “Cats” practiced their bit in Instances Sq. with a Sinatra stand-in.
Then, as they had been preparing for the shoot, a limo rolled up and Sinatra received out.
“One take,” he mentioned.
The “cats” leaping round him, Sinatra delivered his line: “I like New York. why? As a result of it’s open all night time.”
Then he received again in his limo and was gone.
By the tip of the Nineties, Broadway and New York Metropolis had been booming. After which got here the terrorist assaults on the World Commerce Middle. I spoke to Gerald Schoenfeld, the chairman of the Shubert Group, Broadway’s strongest landlord, that morning.
“Michael, we don’t know what we’re going to do,” he mentioned. “We’ve been informed there could also be bombs in Instances Sq..”
Broadway shut down. However just for two days. Mayor Rudy Giuliani, decided to indicate the world that New York wouldn’t be dropped at its knees by terrorists, insisted that Broadway reopen on Thursday, Sept. 13.
To entice vacationers again to New York, Broadway produced one other memorable business. This one featured stars akin to Bernadette Peters, Glenn Shut, Alan Alda, Joel Gray and Brooke Shields, together with the forged members from each Broadway present in costume. Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, carrying their black fedoras from “The Producers,” led everybody in a rousing rendition of “New York, New York.”
As they had been making ready for the shoot in Instances Sq., a cab pulled up and Elaine Stritch, carrying a white pantsuit and a porkpie hat, jumped out and made a beeline for Lane. She hadn’t attended any rehearsals, so she didn’t know the choreography. Lane tried to show it to her, however each time she tried it, her hand flew within the mistaken course and hit him within the face. The director moved her out of the entrance line. However when he yelled “motion,” Stritch dashed proper again to Lane’s aspect. No person had the heart to maneuver her once more.
The business was a smash. A 12 months after the assaults on the Commerce Middle, Broadway was posting recorded grosses.
The pandemic has decimated Broadway’s revenues and robbed numerous theater folks of their jobs. And, with the Delta pressure forcing us to masks up once more, no person is aware of how for much longer it can go on. A slew of huge exhibits together with “Depraved,” “Chicago” and “Hamilton” are scheduled to open subsequent month, however luring folks again right into a theater goes to take greater than a business of a man slicing a pizza or celebrities singing in empty rooms.
What’s wanted is Hugh Jackman, main a parade of theater celebrities by way of Instances Sq. as they belt out town’s nice anthem — “New York, New York.”
Come on, Broadway. Give us the outdated razzle dazzle, and make us love New York once more.