From Screen To Stage & Far Beyond: Bringing New Content To Live Stages

2 Dope Queens
Josh Brasted / WireImage
– 2 Dope Queens
ComedianS Phoebe Robinson (L) and Jessica Williams of “2 Dope Queens” take the stage during the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival on June 10, 2017 in Manchester, Tenn.

With the advent of streaming, podcasting, the “jukebox musical” on Broadway and ever more platforms all needing content, many highly successful entertainment properties originally created for one platform – whether it be television, film, theatrical or concert stage, or podcast – are being repurposed for others.

Examples include Pollstar cover subject   “Schitt’s Creek” – a Canadian TV show that came to Netflix and has since been brought to the live stage – and “2 Dope Queens,” originally a podcast that moved to the live stage and filmed for HBO. 
The first leg of a live action tour starring a high-tech reimagining of “Scooby-Doo” with animatronic puppets, 3D mapping, projections and holograms – a far cry from the iconic, two-dimensional Saturday morning cartoon that debuted in 1969 – launches the first of 55 shows in March.
Podcasts making the leap from studio to the stage – and moving tickets – include “Pod Save America,” “My Dad Wrote A Porno” and “My Favorite Murder.” Those and others are proving successful in the live space. Theatrical productions like “Mamma Mia” are moving from Broadway subscription series in performing arts centers into venues more commonly associated with concerts such as The Anthem in Washington, D.C., and the Fox Theater in Atlanta.
Getting a production to translate from studio to soundstage to live theater takes more than just putting a desk with microphones, or actors recreating a scene, in the middle of a stage. But with vision, a creative team can develop a show with a life – and revenue streams – beyond its original format. 
“Schitt’s Creek: Up Close And Personal” (see cover story on page 20) is averaging sales of 4,147 tickets grossing $300,903 per show reported to Pollstar. It sold out a two-show engagement Oct. 18-19 at Denver’s Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre, moving 5,405 tickets for a gross of $400,500. 
“My Favorite Murder” is another podcast-to-stage production, and has averaged 2,611 tickets sold and $125,469 at venues like Smart Financial Center in Sugar Land, Texas, where it sold 6,034 tickets and grossed $322,697 for a May 3 show promoted by Live Nation.
The popular podcast “2 Dope Queens,” starring Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson, started life as a podcast recorded at New York City’s WNYC-FM before being picked up by HBO for two seasons. 
Williams and Robinson took the show to concert venues like Bowery Ballroom and Brooklyn Bowl before filming at Kings Theater in Brooklyn, N.Y., where it proved a winner for the 3,100-capacity venue and its general manager, Tyler Bates, who spoke to Pollstar about the challenges and rewards of the cross-pollenization of entertainment.
“The format of their podcast was standup meets the two of them being hilarious and having a guest person that they interviewed,” Bates explains. 
“I think [Kings Theater] really worked for what they wanted to do because they factored the whole venue into the creative vision.” 
For “2 Dope Queens,” that meant working out camera angles for TV and installing LED screens to fill out a stage and creating an intimate atmosphere for ticketbuyers in the last row – and, of course, show off the venue.
“That’s when HBO comes in with their crew and co-producer,” Bates says. “They say they don’t want to do audience shots, unless they are big audience shots. You watch these comedy specials and it’s all closeups of people who are laughing at the punch line of the jokes. ‘We don’t want any of that,’ they said. ‘We want to show the audience, we want to show the venue and we want it to be big and grand and people can see what’s happening on stage.’”
The basic concept of a live podcast may have roots in the Golden Age of radio that featured live audio broadcasts of stage performance, on here it is reversed. Bringing a classic cartoon like “Scooby-Doo! And The City Of Gold,” requires a completely different aesthetic and presentation, planned years before the first rehearsal. 
Scooby Doo
– Scooby Doo
Ella Louise Allaire and Martin Lord Ferguson with Scooby-Doo
Unlike a television or film production where a story builds to a conclusion, a theatrical program requires grabbing the audience’s attention right away, says Ella Louise Allaire, the founder and president of Monlove, the production design company and puppet shop creating a traveling world for Scooby-Doo. 
“The audience is important because it is right in front of you,” Allaire explains. “The first 10 minutes are crucial because you have to captivate the attention of the audience, to bring them into your journey and tell them your story in a way that will attach them to their seats and wanting more.”
Allaire says the “Scooby-Doo” production will, of necessity, share less traditional stage décor with typical theatrical or other stage productions. For one thing, all that tech 
“allows us to have more sets; we can have 20 different environments. When we used to go to opera, there would be one set for the first act and another set for the second act. But we are able to have more environments and to take the audience on the journey as well.” 
Martin Lord Ferguson is Allaire’s partner at Monlove, which has produced or consulted productions ranging from the live family hit “Ice Age” to Cirque du Soleil to the Olympic Games opening and closing ceremonies in Vancouver, B.C, and Sochi, Russia. He tells Pollstar that while there are 20-plus sets, the technology that transports Scooby and friends to South America also allows the entire production to travel in just three trucks – words likely to be music to a promoter, manager and  facility manager’s ears.
“You have to find little tricks to make [set] transitions seamless. We don’t do blackouts in the show. We go from one scene to another. We create ways to transition that are artistic; but we’re not using the traditional Broadway-type thing where you just cut the lights and, when the lights open back up, you’re suddenly somewhere else,” Ferguson says. 
Sound design is drastically different for each platform. Just as the advent of FM radio and stereo broadcasting changed listening habits for a generation of listeners accustomed to hearing music on tinny transistor or car radio speakers, advances in technology of computer, television and movie theatre sound systems means sound differs profoundly from that in a live venue, and must be accounted for.
Harvey Mason Jr., who became chairman of The Recording Academy in June, has written and produced music from Broadway to the silver screen with “Dreamgirls,” “Sparkle,” “Pitch Perfect” and other stage-to-screen efforts as well as for artists including Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake.
“They’re all completely different from each other,” Mason emphasizes. “Now, you also have to consider streaming. As entertainment evolves and music becomes a larger part of the entertainment landscape, people have to figure out how to produce music across platforms and consider the different ways that people are consuming music. Most people, in my experience, are doing multiple versions so we’re not trying to make one version that works for all platforms.”
Whether sound is being engineered for delivery by earbud at the gym, through massive speakers flown over an arena stage or in 5.1 Surround Sound in a movie palace, the dynamics of space come into play.  
Harvey Mason Jr.
Alison Buck / WireImage / The Recording Academy
– Harvey Mason Jr.
Harvey Mason Jr. attends The Recording Academy
“If you’re doing something for the big screen then you are taking into consideration a theater sound system with a different dynamic ability that has more low-end range, and you can separate sounds from each other more efficiently because you have so much more space,” Mason says. “In a film, you have the opportunity to add or move sounds around the spectrum and stay out of the way of what you want the artist to concentrate on, whether it’s an instrumentalist or a vocalist or a portion of the movie that’s happening on screen.
“Live sound is just a whole different exercise,” Mason continues. “With live, you’re dealing with front-of-house sound and, depending on what the venue is, you’re constantly battling with the equalization within the facility – whether it’s a room or an arena. Streaming and television are also distinctly different. In TV, we don’t tend to use a lot of low-end because it doesn’t translate.  Most people’s television sets can’t handle a lot of low-end or subharmonic sound because it doesn’t come through.”
Regardless of the different platforms available to take a successful production from one medium to another, whether on screen or onstage, success or failure will rely on the care given to the vision of the artist that made the property a hit to begin with.
“The challenge is to try to respect the original elements in the music that made it so successful and also respect the audience that loved the original,” Mason says. “We took ‘Dreamgirls’ from stage show to movie to record. 
“What you want to do is make sure you are highlighting the things that made it so cool and special originally but then you have to do things that will make audiences today gravitate towards it.”
The same can be said for “Scooby-Doo! And The City Of Gold.” The 21st century tech is designed to freshen the look and sound of a much-loved, 50-year-old cartoon without stripping it of the charm that made it endure for three generations and counting. 
“As an arranger you have to walk that fine line between what made the music so special in the original version and then make it contemporary and relevant to today’s audience,” Mason says. 
Looking ahead, Bates says the format has worked well for Kings Theater and he’s looking forward to booking more podcast-originating programming including “My Dad Wrote A Porno” and “My Favorite Murder.” 
He also sees potential for the best podcasts to fill arenas.
“The format of conversation is at the dawn of where I think it’s going,” Bates predicts. 
“I don’t know if I’ve seen an arena one yet. If ‘Pod Save America’ goes out, say in October or maybe during the primaries, if they hit the market just right they could go to the arenas.“
Bates acknowledges that podcasting wasn’t really a very big thing five years ago. Even streaming wasn’t really a viable platform for monetization but today there’s a multitude of subscription services available on the consumer side. 
And on the business side, “It’s great,” Bates says, “because they will need the content.” s