Today's Video Link
I have in my e-mailbox 16 messages from readers of this site telling me with varying degrees of certainty that the voiceover on those Pippin commercials is by Alexander Scourby. I have zero messages suggesting any other name. Make of that what you will. (I shoulda thought of Scourby myself…)
Frank Ferrante, who somehow hasn't been mentioned on this site in a little while, informs me that the Pippin spots were produced by Peter LeDonne and Jeffrey Ash of the advertising agency of Ash/LeDonne. Here's an excerpt from Ash's obituary over on Playbill…
Pippin, the 1972 Bob Fosse-director Stephen Schwartz musical about a wayward prince trying to find himself, was a Blaine-Thompson client. Until then, Broadway producers had not invested much in television advertising, deeming it too expensive, and imagining its viewers were not prospective theatergoers. But with the box office flagging, the show filmed a television spot featuring a dance sequence of star Ben Vereen and two dancers. (The dance was not actually from the show, but a special routine created by Fosse for the commercial.)
"Stuart Ostrow had the guts to try television," Mr. Ash is quoted as saying in "The Anatomy of a Broadway Musical," an upcoming book by Ostrow. "Everyone said people who watch TV wouldn't spend the $9.90 to go to a musical. But we cut out all the newspaper ads and ran the TV ad with Ben Vereen and the girls."
According to Ostrow, in 1973 the fledgling Ash/LeDonne Agency—which was formed by Jeffrey Ash together with Peter LeDonne—set up a shoot in Princeton, New Jersey, to film "The Manson Trio" dance excerpt, starring Ben Vereen, Candy Brown and Pam Sousa. The spot worked. Tickets sales soared, and the show became a hit.
As I understand it, the rationale for not advertising Broadway shows previously went something like this: By the time a show begins having a lot of empty seats that need filling, all the folks in New York who might be interested in seeing it have seen it and you're aiming mainly for the outta-town crowd and tourists. A spot aired on New York local TV is not going to lure in tourists because they don't see it on their local stations when they're planning their New York trips and once they get to town, they don't waste their vacations watching TV. Or something like that. Whatever the rationale, the campaign for Pippin proved it was not valid.
Peter LeDonne, by the way, did the marketing for the show Groucho: A Life in Revue starring Frank Ferrante when it played New York in '86/87 and also was a producer of the West End production in 1987. That's how Frank knows him.
Frank is currently in Amsterdam (!) playing his other character, Caesar, in a show called Palazzo that at least in this video looks very much like Teatro Zinzanni, the show in which he sometimes appears in America. Frank's in this promo with the huge beauty spot on his cheek. He returns to America next month and resumes touring with his uncanny Groucho show. In March, he'll be in Arizona, Ohio, Kentucky and Virginia. Check out his schedule here — or if you're less than a hop, skip or jump from Amsterdam before the end of the month and you can go see him in this…