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THE SELLING OF 'STARLIGHT EXPRESS' : A Bold, Brave, Sophisticated Ad Campaign

March 16, 1987|CLARKE TAYLOR

"The challenge was to attract people who don't read the New York Times," said Starger. The campaign began with an October ad in the New York Times and gained momentum when Starger decided to start selling tickets at the Gershwin Theater box office well before Christmas.

A 30-second TV spot (using animation rather than live actors) was also broadcast much earlier than tradition dictates.

The music is the big selling point as far as MCA is concerned. The company is assembling a "concept album" featuring pop stars such as Stephanie Mills and Harold Faltermeyer--MCA artists--and El DeBarge--a Motown artist, distributed by MCA--rather than waiting to record the customary, original cast album of the show.

These strategies may work for "Starlight Express," but they have created a cynicism within the theater community here about what the musical signifies for Broadway, at a time when the American musical is considered an endangered specie.

"I consider our show to be theater," said Starger, who implied Friday that plans for a nationwide, arena-type tour are in the works. "But perhaps it is a new form , and therefore requires a new kind of thinking."

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