Selling Out With Darren Bagert
It’s a big night for two-time Tony Award-winning Broadway producer Darren Bagert. After a successful run at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center, Side Show opens on Broadway — and Bagert is the lead producer. The exciting new reimagining of the 1997 Tony-nominated musical is based on the remarkable true story of the legendary Hilton twins as they rise from side-show attractions to celebrities of their day, and features music by Grammy-winning composer Henry Krieger (Dreamgirls) and direction by Academy Award winner Bill Condon (Chicago, Dreamgirls) in his Broadway debut.
Bagert, whose other credits include Of Mice and Men starring James Franco and Chris O’Dowd, The Glass Menagerie starring Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto and Buyer & Cellar starring Michael Urie, isn’t feeling pressure so much as excitement. Here’s wishing Bagert good luck (times two)! You can read more about the “stunning” (The Washington Post) musical production here.
Selling Out: Congratulations on bringing Side Show to Broadway. How are previews going?
Darren Bagert: The audience response has been electric every performance. Audiences are discovering this amazing story of the Hilton sisters and their triumphs through the powerful music of Henry Krieger, our Grammy-winning composer of Dreamgirls.
SO: What are some of the challenges of transferring the show from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. to Broadway?
DB: The challenges have been exciting. When meeting with our Oscar-winning director Bill Condon and his team, we decided not to transfer the production directly. Even our design team, including David Rockwell, modified and enhanced the glorious production from the Kennedy Center. We went back in to the studio to rehearse, added sequences and yet another new song, and then allowed almost three weeks of previews for the improved changes to land. I could not be happier at the response.
SO: Any concerns about selling out in a bigger house?
DB: It’s very interesting. We love being at the St. James. The stage is significantly smaller than the Kennedy Center, so the show itself feels much more intimate. We are very luck that Jordan Roth and the entire Jujamcyn family invited us into their fold. We believe word of mouth is so strong, we will have a long list of new fans of Side Show. We are seeing many patrons returning more than once, which is exciting for any show.
SO: The advertising campaign has shifted since the first production. Can you tell us about the decision to make it less dark and a little more glitzy for this production?
DB: Phantom of the Opera, Les Miz, Cabaret, Chicago — these are great musicals, which all have a darker edge to them. I don’t find Side Show a dark show by any means. It’s the true story of these two sisters searching for love and acceptance in a challenging world — a story everyone can relate with directly. I decided to celebrate the sisters … find more of the Cinderella story as they became the highest-paid performers of their time. They even traveled and performed with Bob Hope. The sisters are the central focus, and they should be the central focus of the campaign.
SO: What other challenges are there to marketing a show like this?
DB: Every new Broadway show has the same challenge: bringing awareness of a new title to the tourists. Long-running shows like Wicked, Mamma Mia! have a major advantage — the longer you’re around, the longer your show has a worldwide brand. Each new show must find its place, which simply takes time.
SO: Are you feeling pressure — as a lead producer on this show?
DB: I decided to champion Side Show back to Broadway. This production is completely new and felt like the time is right. I feel more excitement than pressure today, which is a wonderful feeling in the theater.
SO: Anything else you’d like to add?
DB: Giving someone as talented and celebrated as Bill Condon his Broadway debut is an amazing thing. I feel so lucky that the creators and Bill Condon allowed me to take their creation to Broadway.
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