After each performance of She Loves Me, ensemble member Alison Cimmet searches the She Loves Me hashtag on Twitter and likes all of the tweets. “I just love seeing how enthusiastic our fans are and it makes me feel connected,” she said at the afterparty at Sardi’s in midtown, “so I searched for #SheLovesMeLive, and it came up with like 5,000 tweets—and this was only at intermission maybe—and I was like, ‘I’m not gonna be able to like all of them!’”
In fact, #SheLovesMeLive trended internationally on Twitter last night, as it became the first livestreamed Broadway production in history. (Off-Broadway’s Daddy Long Legs was the first New York show to do so in December 2015.) Viewers from all over the world logged on to BroadwayHD, the streaming platform, to watch She Loves Me in real time Studio 54.
BroadwayHD co-founders Stewart F. Lane and his wife, Bonnie Comley, were thrilled that 60 different countries tuned in to the livestream. (Final viewing numbers have not yet been reported.) Since launching in October 2015, the platform offers over 150 theatre titles for viewing and has done two Off-Broadway livestreams. The June 30 livestream of Roundabout Theater Company’s acclaimed revival of Joe Masteroff, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s She Loves Me (starring Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi, Jane Krakowski and Gavin Creel with direction by Scott Ellis) marks the first foray into livestreaming a Broadway show.
There seems to have previously been an unspoken concern that if viewers around the world could see Broadway live on their screens, they wouldn’t show up to fill seats.
“I think that two of the points that we’re trying to introduce to the theatre community is one: What we have is a huge marketing tool to enhance revenue for the shows that are up there. It’s alternative content and an alternative source of money that they can put towards the production that wasn’t available before,” said Stewart Lane, “and the other is to actually market it so you can increase ticket sales.
“When we produced Legally Blonde and MTV shot it and showed it, ticket sales spiked at the box office because people saw it, liked what they saw and said, ‘I will see this live and spend the big bucks for it, because I know I’m going to like it.’”
In addition to Lane and Comley’s faith in the medium, the cast feels it’s the best way to inspire audiences to make the trip. Many recalled growing up watching PBS’ Great Performances series, an experience that only encouraged them to buy a Broadway ticket. Still, it’s a relatively new endeavor for the industry, and it didn’t come without some nerves.
Even Tony nominee Jane Krakowski felt a few jitters going in to the night. “Honestly, at maybe 5 o’clock tonight I was like, ‘Wait, what did we agree to? Why are we doing this?’ … It didn’t really hit until today what we signed on for,” she laughed. “But, I couldn’t think of a better cast to go through this with, and I was so proud of everybody when it was over,” she continued. “I never would have thought this would happen for our little sweet show.”
Moreso than the jitters that come with an historic event, the cast felt energized. “It kind of felt like opening night,” said Cimmet. Though for this performance, she and her fellow female ensemblists weren’t just in the show, they were viewers, too. “We set up our laptop in the ladies’ ensemble dressing room, and we streamed it,” she said. “There was a little bit of a delay, just a couple of minutes, so actually after every scene we would run down to the dressing room so that we could watch what we just did onstage.
“I always think when I come out for the curtain call … I remember to be grateful that I just can’t believe I’m about to bow on Broadway,” said Cimmet. “And tonight, I almost started to cry because I just knew I was part of this incredible historic moment.”
Additional reporting by Adam Hetrick.