Skittles Just Created a "Broadway Musical" Starring Michael C. Hall
What's better than a Super Bowl ad? A Broadway musical, obviously.
At least that's what Skittles is betting on. This Sunday, rather than paying for a 30-second TV spot seen by more than 100 million people, the candy brand (owned by Mars) is throwing its resources into a 30-minute show called Skittles Commercial: The Broadway Musical. There will only be one performance, seen by 1,500 ticket holders at New York City's Town Hall theater. And no, it won't be aired on TV or livestreamed online.
If that math sounds confusing, don't underestimate the power of social media buzz.
Ari Weiss, a creative officer from the ad agency behind the production, explained the concept to The New York Times this way:
...people buy snacks for Super Bowl parties in the days leading up to the game, not during it. Mars challenged the agency to invent an ad that would create a conversation before the game.
If this all sounds like the commercialized apocalypse of Broadway integrity, the producers get it. The show is the very definition of "meta":
- A teaser posted on YouTube earlier this week films the cast rehearsing and recording a number called "Advertising Ruins Everything."
- Michael C. Hall stars as the character "Michael C. Hall," an actor conflicted about starring in a Skittles commercial.
- Even the tagline on a poster for the performance reads, "A New Marketing Stunt Starring Michael C. Hall."
"People are starting to realize that experimental theater is the place for new ideas," says choreographer Raja Feather Kelly. "They're being really self-reflective as an ad agency, taking a look at this consumerist product."
Kelly, who often dissects pop culture and media in his work, was brought on board by director Sarah Benson. She advocated to hire him when she found out the production team hadn't realized they needed a choreographer to create a musical. (When will people realize dance doesn't come out of thin air? Good grief.)
Kelly has fashioned the choreography as a love letter to his favorite Broadway shows, throwing in references to everything from West Side Story to The Wiz.
Asked what it's been like choreographing for Michael C. Hall, Kelly says, "He's been game to do anything." Hall would ask him to email over videos of the choreography before rehearsal, so that he could learn all the steps before they got into the studio. "It makes sense why he's so successful—he works really hard."
Creating a commercial musical isn't a wholly new concept. The Times points out that, back in the '50s, '60s, and '70s, brands like Chevrolet and Coca-Cola use to hire Broadway talent to create mini-musical industrials for conventions and business meetings.
Yet those commercials/musicals served as fun perks for employees. This marketing stunt charges ticket holders up to $200 to watch what is effectively an ad. And yes, it's sold out.
But here's one thing no one should argue with: All proceeds from the ticket sales are going directly to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS—with a matching donation from Skittles.
Most people may know Derek Dunn for his impeccable turns and alluring onstage charisma. But the Boston Ballet principal dancer is just as charming offstage, whether he's playing with his 3-year-old miniature labradoodle or working in the studio. Dance Magazine recently spent the day with Dunn as he prepared for his debut as Albrecht in the company's upcoming run of Giselle.
You know compelling musicality when you see it. But how do you cultivate it? It's not as elusive as it might seem. Musicality, like any facet of dance, can be developed and honed over time—with dedicated, detailed practice. At its most fundamental, it's "respect for the music, that this is your partner," says Kate Linsley, academy principal of the School of Nashville Ballet.
Just four years ago, the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance welcomed its first class of BFA students. The program—which boasts world-class faculty and a revolutionary approach to training focused on collaboration and hybridity—immediately established itself as one of the country's most prestigious and most innovative.
Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:
Notable dancer and beloved teacher, Ross Parkes, 79, passed away on August 5, 2019 in New York City. He was a founding faculty member at Taipei National University of the Arts in Taiwan, where he taught from 1984 to 2006. Lin Hwai-min, artistic director of Cloud Gate Dance Theater, said: "He nurtured two generations of dancers in Taiwan, and his legacy will continue."
About his dancing, Tonia Shimin, professor emerita at UC Santa Barbara and producer of Mary Anthony: A Life in Modern Dance, said this: "He was an exquisite, eloquent dancer who inhabited his roles completely."