There's a story behind every Broadway poster. Here's a closer look at some of them from the past season.
November: The poster for David Mamet's politically incorrect political comedy features two-time Tony winner Nathan Lane and a stuffed turkey. "That was Mamet's idea," says Tom Callahan, the play's creative director at Serino Coyne, the advertising agency that started in 1977.
Observes Callahan, "The poster was photographed at the Gerald Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, where there's an exact replica of the Oval Office. It was taken by David Kennerly [Ford's personal photographer]." He adds, "The voting check mark that forms the 'V' in the title prevents people from thinking that the play's about Thanksgiving." And the only time Lane's ever been associated with a turkey was 25 years ago in Merlin.
Gypsy: "Gypsy posters are almost always red, but we didn't want it to look the same as it's always been," explains Sandy Block, a Serino Coyne creative director. "It's the star's name and the title. That's Patti from when she did [the musical] at Ravinia [the Chicago music festival] two years ago. The photographer shot her onstage, completely in the moment."
The Little Mermaid: "The artwork was developed at Disney," states Sandy Block. We used three images: the original illustration and two pictures of Sierra Boggess as The Little Mermaid, one of her with all the objects she's collected in her grotto, and another, where she has the dreamiest stare." Cry-Baby: "We wanted to use the sort of B-level pop culture that the characters would enjoy in 1954 Baltimore," notes Sandy Block. "We had it down to two: comic book and pulp fiction, and we chose the latter. The photographer, Richard Fahey, takes pictures and paints over them, which makes them look vintage."
August: Osage County: "I have two creative directors, Gail Anderson and Vinny Sainato," says Drew Hodges, CEO of the SpotCo Agency, which began in 1996. "Vinny and I put the poster together, inspired by the concept of Grant Wood's 'American Gothic.' I really wanted to show all the characters. Nigel Perry took individual photographs, and we assembled them in front of the house [where the Tracy Letts play is set]." Cyrano de Bergerac: "Frank Gargiulo designed the poster," says Gail Anderson. "Some quick digital shots of Kevin [Kline] were taken at the producer's office, and we turned them over to the illustrator, Edel Rodriguez. We did quite a few incarnations, honing in on the idea as Kevin got closer to what Cyrano would look like and how long his nose was going to be."
In the Heights: "Off-Broadway, we used an image of Lin-Manuel Miranda," Drew Hodges said. "For Broadway, we wanted to open it up and show the whole company - show that it was going to be bigger and bolder. Vincent Dixon photographed the entire cast, individually, we shot a lot of Washington Heights streets and buildings, and put it together in a dramatic way." A Catered Affair: "When you have five characters essential to the story, anything that doesn't feature all five would be incomplete," states Sandy Block. "This is an intimate and deeply felt show. You want to give a sense of the event you're asking the audience to participate in, yet set up the right expectations. We wanted an illustration, and chose Charles Pyle, who's a sort of 2008 Norman Rockwell, to create it."
Passing Strange: "The art was developed using Stew — the creator and star of the show — as an icon, set against a background of the journey he takes in the story," explains Greg Corradetti, director of accounts services at Serino Coyne. "We used the Brandenburg Gate and scenes of Amsterdam. The original was done by Dewynters [Agency] in London. We've taken the lights and color and vibrancy to a different level."
Young Frankenstein: "Mel [Brooks] wanted [the design] to be an illustration that would feel like a Hammer horror-movie poster," notes Drew Hodges. "The biggest star is the show itself, and we wanted to add some whimsy. We used Mark Stutzman, [the artist-illustrator] who had done the poster for [the Bernadette Peters] Annie Get Your Gun."
Les Liaisons Dangereuses: "Laura Linney wasn't available to be photographed. We spoke to the director, Rufus Norris, and set designer Scott Pask as to what their visions were going to be," explains Drew Hodges. "Rococo fabric was going to be used, and there was going to male nudity. We built a sensual photograph, and tried to make it look like an oil painting."
So, the next time you're walking through Shubert Alley, and a Broadway poster attracts your attention, be assured that there's a lot more behind it than may meet the eye.
(Michael Buckley writes the Stage to Screens column for Playbill.com. This article appears in the Playbill for the 2008 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall.)