July 16, 2010

Challenges in exporting services: Broadway Edition

I found an article in today's Wall Street Journal interesting.  It is primary about the challenges and success that face theater production when exporting a show to different parts of the country.

Exporting Broadway shows is a tricky proposition, however. It's not just a question of translating the dialogue and lyrics into the local language. There's also the thorny question of conveying humor and pop-culture references, and trying to gauge what audiences will respond to in vastly different cultures.
 During a light moment in Disney's "The Lion King," Zazu the bird is supposed to sing a cheerful but trite tune, prompting a groan of recognition from the audience. On Broadway, that song is "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." In Australia, it's the country's familiar "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport." On a Shanghai stint, it was a ubiquitous Chinese ad jingle. In Germany, the bird sings the "Heidi" theme song, then yodels.

And a bit about "design for exporting":

Even at home, Broadway shows today are typically designed with a global audience in mind. About 1 in 5 theatergoers were international visitors in the 2008-09 season, the highest proportion on record, according to the most recent data available from the Broadway League. 

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