retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Michael Sansolo had an Eye-Opener yesterday about how “the whole can be less than the sum of the parts and whenever it happens, it’s instructive.

“Apparently, it is happening right now on the great white way of Broadway, where the most expensive musical ever - Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark - is turning into an epic lesson. On paper, the musical should be a surefire winner. Its subject is a comic book character that is well known and loved, so much so that the franchise has produced three high grossing movies (with a fourth, a reboot, currently in production). The show’s director is a Broadway luminary. Bono and The Edge, the heart of the mega-group U2, supply the music.

“In other words, Spiderman is a can’t miss success. Except it apparently isn’t all that good. The show has gained a stunning amount of notoriety for the spate of injuries suffered by various actors as they fly around and above the audience on cables. There have been so many mishaps that the show’s official opening has been postponed time and again.”

Sansolo concluded: “There is a great object lesson in this. Spiderman was blessed with all the best ingredients, but still came out flat. It’s like a perfectly designed store or product that seems to be blessed in every way except customer appeal. It’s why we all have to keep asking ourselves tough questions and remind ourselves that there is no sure thing. EVER!”

MNB user Dave Henry responded:

Saw it in December. Had to go alone as my wife and friends wanted no part of it ! Thought the first act and storyline was very good. Second act needed a lot of work. No technical problems that night. The music was terrific (full disclosure - I am a Huge U2 fan ). Hope they at least produce a soundtrack. Several friends tell me reworked second act much better. Despite the critics, it may survive.

MNB user Ramesh Murthy wrote:

I took my family of 6 to see it January (my original tickets were for Thanksgiving Day weekend, but those performances were canceled), primarily because my youngest (3 yrs old) is such a fan of Spiderman.

We spent quite a bit to have “premier” seats and when it was all over, the overall reviews from the family was quite positive – and by the way, the theatre audience really seemed to enjoy it – there was an almost “electric” buzz from the moment the show started. My 3 year old was glued to his seat watching the play from start to finish (How many things can keep a 3 yr old engrossed for 2 hours?). Truth be told, I was not one of the most positive reviewers of the production (loved the technical effects but found the story and music a little flat) but I have to say it was a great time.

I think that there is a slightly different lesson to be learned from all of this, other than the sure thing. The lesson is that sometimes breaking the status quo and pushing the envelope of what is possible may take longer than you thought – but you need to have the conviction of your beliefs.  What the folks who are putting on Spiderman are trying to do is go beyond what has been deemed possible in the setting of a theatre. In all fairness to them, most shows have their previews off-Broadway (and outside the spotlight), but that was not possible in this case because they actually had to make structural modifications to the theatre to accommodate the set and special effects of the play. The problem I have with the critics is that they are not willing to acknowledge that a production of this ambition is going to have some (if not many) start-up problems and will take some time to fine tune.  It is probably true that in Broadway time, this production has been taking too long to get going – but I believe that the producers, writers, etc. have been taking the feedback and working to get the story and music on par with the technical elements. Maybe they shouldn’t be charging full price, but I am fairly certain that the shows are sold out now for some time. In the end, we were very thrilled that we had a chance to see this musical because we felt that we were experiencing a “game-changer” for what people might be able to do in the theatre setting.

MNB user James Bingham wrote:

The interesting message here is that the critics hate it but apparently those who have seen it (the normal people) love it.  It will be interesting to see how the masses view the disruptive product versus the supposed experts.

Having been a critic, let me just suggest that the critics - quite fairly, in my view - felt that people were paying full price for preview tickets to a show that clearly is a work in progress.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to pay good money to see a Broadway show, I want to see a finished product - I don't want to see actors on cables getting all tangled up so they have to stop the show to untangle them (As happened last week.)

I do think that some people are attracted to the freak show nature of it - just like millions of people will tune into “reality television” programs that specialize in people being humiliated in public, just like people will slow down to look at a car wreck or stop to watch a building fire.

And just to be clear, I love the theater. I’d go weekly if I could afford it and had the time. And one of the best times I ever had in the theater was the preview performance I saw of “Spamalot.”

So I come to this with an open mind.

On the subject of Safeway’s new nutrition labeling program, MNB user Mark Dickerson wrote:

I applaud Safeway for their efforts but it is like putting lipstick on a pig saying the choices will be healthier.

If they wanted to help consumers make informed choices I suggest they put a red tag in front of each food product that contains artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

This would dispel any myth that upwards of 90% of the products they sell are choices for a healthy lifestyle.

Food additives are soft kill agents approved as safe in order to reduce populations and to drive up the medical needs of the public.

The marriage of state and corporate powers in this country has gotten so out of hand that there are no longer any true protections.

The FDA has approved so many known carcinogens, toxins, and excitotoxins that is stands as proof the revolving door between corporations and the very agencies they regulate is a form of collusive delayed pay off.

How many people have you seen in the past year or two suddenly get sick with cancer, autoimmune or other degenerative disorders, lost their hair prematurely, or experienced infertility? I’ve lost count.

These are all the result of 20, 30 to 40 or more years of ingesting harmful food additives, unsafe medicines, harmful vaccine adjuvants, sodium fluoride, and volatile organic compounds.

The combined cocktail of chemicals deemed “safe” by the FDA or USDA have an additive effect over a lifetime and we are now seeing epic die offs as a result.

Let’s see you try and go to print with a story of this nature.

It will never happen, KC.

Why? Because the guilty parties involved have infiltrated the media and there has been a gag order on any truth getting out that would damage sales of big pharma, the AMA, CPG, Agribusiness, big banks….. the list goes on and on.

All in cahoots all slowly reducing the population.

I’d love to contribute to one of your columns.

First of all, you just did.

Second of all, I never got the gag order from the conspirators. Damn! I hate it when I get overlooked.

Another MNB user wrote:

There are so many “less than healthy” items stocked all over the usual grocery store, and shoppers know it. When a grocery store sets out tags that identify a “healthy” item, using whatever standards they use, and places these ”healthy” items amongst the “less than healthy” items…how can the consumer trust the grocer, when he has proven for decades that he is interested in their money and not their health. It’s a matter of trust. And the grocer is up to bat.

We posted an email yesterday from an MNB user who felt that there were certain kinds of stories - like the “Chick-fil-A/gay marriage” and the “CEO arrested for child prostitution” stories - that I ought to stay away from if I want to protect my brand.

I disagreed. I think that doing those stories is critical to the MNB brand.

One MNB user wrote:

When I saw the news about the CEO of Wild Oats, my first thought was, “I wonder how Kevin Coupe is going to address this horrible story?”  How’s that for personal brand?  And as far as how he or she “needs to help you” seems awfully close to late week’s “Christian businessman” who “wants to help you understand” life as God has created it.

Never forget - the people who write are people who care. Even if we disagree, we have that is common.

Another thing we have in common - a sense of humor, as reflected in this email from MNB user Geoff Harper:

As you say, MNB may not be for everyone, but if you are still laughing after four hours, call your doctor.

That’s my new ad line!
KC's View: