Countdown to Curtain:
Talking with MARGO LION, Producer
By all accounts, Triumph Of Love was, indeed, a triumph at Baltimore's Center Stage. But much can happen in the journey a regional hit takes to a Broadway stage, resulting in changes to both the material and the cast.
Producer Margo Lion told Playbill On-Line, "We've made certain changes, but the show is structurally the way it was. We wanted to make some cast changes based on our concepts about the character. Our cast out of town was wonderful and did a great job, but the realities of Broadway dictate that you need amperage with a small show about young people. You need to get the most exciting cast you can."
Asked whether Betty Buckley's recent ailments had thrown a twist into the show's plans, Lion said, "Betty is in fine fettle. She did both matinees yesterday [Oct. 6] and the evening show Saturday. So she's recovering and she will do eight performances a week."
Another difficult patch in the casting came when comedienne Elayne Boosler proved a wrong match for the character of Corine. "Elayne saw the character differently," Lion said of the decision to replace her with Nancy Opel, recently in Mere Mortals Off-Broadway. "Nancy is a real pro in the musical theatre business. She has a substantial career and track record. She has a humor and wit that are appropriate for the way we saw that character." So what was gained by peppering Triumph with a more high powered cast? "Well, the biggest laughs out of town still land," Lion said. "But now I think there's a subtlety to the characters and a dimension, thanks to the extraordinary contribution of the cast members we didn't have before. Although these characters are prototypes, when you have actors like Abraham and Buckley.. They add enormously to the dimensionality of these roles. I think the audience is having a wonderful time."
That, of course, will be the key to the show's commercial success or failure. The show is looking at a capitalization of $3,350,000 to $3,500,000 -- based on a current advance sale of $1.5 million, which Lion calls "exceptional" for this type of production. "We did a half-million piece direct mail, which really did superbly. We're trying to market it every way we can, but to as broad an audience as possible. Very quickly out of the gate, there is a broad audience appeal. We're hoping to break even in well under a year. We have a very modest capitalization and lean running costs. It has the kind of story and and structure that Broadway theatregoers have been asking for; it's very contemporary. Young audiences (20-30s) really like it. The bus leaders (folks who put together those bus tours) really love the show. Kids love the show, 9-, 10-, 11 year-olds. So people who hear it's `18th Century French comedy,' might've thought this is for a narrow audience. But no, it has a very, very broad audience."
Though cast-members, creators and crew all have different opening night rituals, Lion has her sights set on the standard day-after ritual: "We have an ad meeting at Serino Coyne and determine what the campaign will be based on reviews and response to the show. We hope and anticipate favorable reviews, but you have to be prepared and keep the ball rolling no matter what."
And Triumph isn't the only ball rolling on Lion's court. She's also involved in trying to bring George C. Wolfe's On The Town to a Broadway house, is talking with Michael Mayer about a new piece, and hopes to do another co-venture with Jujamcyn/Pace: a revival of a straight play to start on the road and then come to New York. Triumph itself is a co-production with Jujamcyn and PACE, alongside Metropolitan Entertainment Group (John Scher), Baruch-Frankel Viertel and Alex Hitz.