Last week, a convoy of 70 trucks made its way along the NH-8, from Mumbai to Delhi carrying cargo worth millions, insured for an undisclosed sum. It was precious stuff; the trucks were full of life-size castles, bridges, trees, street lamps, a tavern and whatnots. Beauty and the Beast, Disney’s Broadway spectacle was moving cities. After being watched by 27,000 people (including premier shows) and making between Rs 5-7 crore in ticket sales for 10 shows in Mumbai’s NSCI, the musical with an all Indian star cast is opening in Delhi on Friday.
This is the musical’s first trip to India and there was some trepidation about finding an audience in the country, especially since the tickets were priced higher than the average movie/play rates. Siddharth Roy Kapoor, managing director, Disney India, says, “We aimed to target the well-travelled consumer who is looking for new avenues of entertainment. The disposable income in this category has increased and we thought it was a fair bet to place.”
For New Delhi, ticket prices have been raised even further. In Mumbai the show had five tiers of pricing and tickets ranged between Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000. In New Delhi, the charges have gone up and there are only three tiers – Rs 3,000, Rs 5,000 and Rs 8,000. While Disney India is not willing to reveal the cost of mounting the lavish Broadway musical, it says that it will break even, well within the three-year time frame that it had set for itself.
When Disney first proposed to bring the show to India, the biggest concerns were finding the talent and setting up the stage. Disney is known for its meticulous set designs and gruelling auditions for its Broadway productions; and true to tradition, the Indian team spent close to a year shortlisting people and putting them through several rounds of tests and trials. The production team went through 8,000 applicants, shortlisted 1,000 before finally picking out the 100 people who make up the cast.
The India team chose to start with Mumbai and Delhi because, “The choice of entertainment in these cities is limited and a show like Beauty and the Beast caters to this audience. We opened with 80 per cent occupancy and after the first day, ran to a packed house till the end of the Mumbai leg of the season,” says Kapur.
|MARKETING THE MUSICAL|
The NSCI Dome in Mumbai where the show was held holds 2,300 people. The size and shape of the venue presented several challenges and the team decided to go back to the musical’s debut performance on Broadway New York for inspiration. (Disney completed 20 years on Broadway in December 2014, Beauty and the Beast was its debut show.) It was decided to stage the play on a semi-circular platform with the audience seated in the convex of the stage. The auditorium was fitted with swivel chairs, allowing viewers to follow the action across the stage.
At New Delhi’s Thyagraj Sports Complex, the seating arrangements are going to be similar. However, the capacity of the venue is less than Mumbai, it can hold a maximum of 1,600 people and that has led to Disney organising 12 shows in the national capital. The pricing has also been revised, partly because there are fewer seats and also because the Mumbai experience showed that price is not really a barrier for those who want to watch the show. Therefore most of the seats (1,250 out of 1,600) have been priced between Rs 5,000 and Rs 8,000.
Disney is also contemplating adding a season to the musical’s India sojourn. Kapur says, “We are very happy with the response so far. It seems there may be scope to have the shows twice a year, possibly during summer too. We are still mulling over it.” Given the popularity that the Disney franchise has among children (and adults) in India, there is also a chance that the production may move beyond the two cities. “Ultimately, we will also go into other metros and mini-metros. The main concern is the venue since we need a specific layout to carry out what we started in Mumbai” says Kapur.
The Mumbai experience has encouraged the team to look at bringing more shows to India. Kapur says that other productions are on the cards, but given the scale at which the shows are mounted, a new production is at least a year away.
The Jungle Book is one of the titles being considered. Disney is betting on the huge appeal that the story holds for Indians across all ages and their familiarity with the movie and its music; and it is only fitting perhaps, that the show is staged in the country where Rudyard Kipling set his timeless tale.