Friday, November 6, 2009

Dear Brighton Beach Memoirs Producers: You put all your PR money WHERE?

In the last year, the New York Times has suffered decreasing circulation, has had to borrow money from Mexican investors to keep afloat, and most recently laid off 100 staffers & asked the remaining employees to take a 10% pay cut. With its rapidly declining readership, reflecting the public's scorn for partisan journalism, the NYTimes is not the first place you'd go shopping for ads for your multi-million dollar revival of not one, but two Neil Simon plays. Unless you're the producers of the recently closed Brighton Beach Memoirs, and the stillborn Broadway Bound.

Michael Riedel of the NYPost cites unnamed sources (but if they're Riedel's sources, you can take it as gospel) as saying that the producers of the recent (doomed) revival of Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirs at the Nederlander put their entire PR budget into an exclusive ad agreement with the Gray Lady. No direct mail, no TV or radio GOOGLE ADWORDS, for Heaven's sakes! They put every PR dime into the NYT.

And how does the NYT spin it? They claim that Neil Simon's plays have fallen out of fashion, and obituary writer & Times apologist Patrick Healy even cites that as the official cause of death in their ArtsBeat Blog. No mention of the experimental PR ad deal is mentioned in the NYPost article, not even a mention that there might be a conflict of interest with the paper reviewing something they're simultaneously taking ad revenue to promote.

I read the online version of the Times; after all, comedian Andy Borowitz says the NYT slogan should be "For $2.00, try the print version of our free online edition.” I never once saw an ad on the web version of the paper for BBM. For all the money spent, you'd think the Times would have thrown up a banner ad or two, but I saw none.

I saw the revival of BBM at the Nederlander (in a great nabe, BTW) a week and a half before it closed. Under David Cromer's excellent direction, the production had received raves during its Chicago run; but the only reason I knew about those reviews is because Mr. Cats.Politics.Theatre is a theatre critic, and he emailed them to me before we saw it. It was an excellent production, and I told Mr. CPT that Laurie Metcalf would likely receive a Best Supporting Actress nod come Tony time.

Instead, Metcalf and the rest of the outstanding cast (who were going to star in Broadway Bound in repertory with BBM) are out looking for a job. I can only hope some of the PR money wasted at the NYTimes found its way into the actors' & crews' severance checks. They've more than earned them for the incompetent actions of the producers.