The Great Broadway Swindle, the Williamsburg Yeti and Nederlander China


Two announcements this past week could well shake up the known geopolitical universe.

Or at least shake up the Broadway commercial theater industry.

Story continues below.

Or at least give it some pause.

Or perhaps give observers of the Broadway commercial scene, not to mention audiences, something to debate when not debating whether the musical Women on the Verge of Nervous Breakdown, which has now postponed previews twice, is actually having a nervous breakdown.

The first announcement came from Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment.

Here’s a smidgen of the press release, courtesy of publicist Brett Oberman:

…A new training program has been established between Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment and China’s Ministry of Culture under the title of “Cultural Trade & Industry Exchange Program”; the first session was launched Sept. 19-24, 2010. This delegation comes from China’s central and local cultural bureaus representing 10 Chinese provinces/municipalities including Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Guangxi, Guangdong, Zhejiang, Shenzhen, Sichuan, Hunan and Chongqing. This series of bilateral culture educational programs is designed to introduce China’s theatre professionals, policy makers and educational experts to the business process of the Broadway industry.

For those with short-term memory issues, the release reminded celebrators of the Broadway scene that Nederlander Worldwide has actually been on the China case for quite some time — and I mention that fact with admiration:

Nederlander Worldwide has established the ‘China on Broadway’ initiative to bring the best of Chinese culture to Broadway audiences in New York City and across North America. In January 2009, Nederlander Worldwide presented Soul of Shaolin, the first Chinese production to appear on Broadway, at the Marquis Theater. In celebration of the opening of Soul of Shaolin, both the Mayor of New York City and the Governor of New York State proclaimed Jan. 15, 2009 as ‘China On Broadway Day’. In February 2008, Prior to Soul of Shaolin, in February of 2008, Nederlander Worldwide presented The Dream of the Red Chamber, a “cultural exchange gift” from the city of Shanghai to the city of New York, at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall. Efforts are currently underway to present the next production from China, Zhou Xuan, on Broadway in early 2012.

Ah, but not all is necessarily wine, roses and bamboo in every quarter of the planet’s theatrical scene.

We cannot know, for instance, what the Chinese really think of our uber-capitalist commercial theater system on (most of) Broadway, with its regular fetish for quantity outweighing quality when push comes to shove.

But we do know, however, what some passionate advocates here in New York think of the Broadway pricing scheme — and how wretchedly representative they are of the class warfare and economic stratification that marks the left-right divide in Obama’s strife-ridden America.

Were that not the case, why would there be a new grassroots movement called “The Great Broadway Swindle“?

Peddled by a group (or individuals?) called the Williamsburg Yeti, the sassy, saucy, totally-not-hyperbolic Facebook page for the “Swindle” states that it will take up arms against:

…the Evils of On-Broadway, and how Broadway has corrupted Theatre as Art, and turned it into an over-priced tourist attraction that only the wealthy can afford (or those spending their savings while on vacation). Coming soon will be…

Gosh. Do you hear the people sing?

Um, come to think of it, since China is still technically a Communist state, perhaps the Chinese will be intrigued by some of the additional copy about the “Swindle” on its Facebook page:

Please note that This “Group” is Pro-Theatre (and Very Pro-“Off-Broadway”)…. But is intended to Expose (and fix) what has now become the Financial Giant that is “On-Broadway”!

And for those who may question/be curious: Although this group is in no way about Unions, ..this group was created with the believe in being Pro-Union (for those who are already union members)…as the Unions are one of the few things that protect those working in the industry from the On-Broadway financial power-houses.

Diplomats, to your posts! After all, in tough economic times — when the racial composition of the Broadway audience still resembles little more than a night out in Wasilla and commercial producers still argue that Broadway would face imminent collapse if is economic model was challenged — we’ve got to preserve the status quo, right?