Thursday, March 28, 2013


I've followed the international musical fandom long enough to know that fans around the globe get annoyed when theatres handle their PR less than perfectly. From inaccurate cast lists to social media responsibles who get outsmarted by fans... Mistakes happen, but they or, in some unfortunate cases, sheer laziness can be very irritating from a fan's perspective. We just want to know who is cast and if there are any understudies on!

Some recent events have made me think about good and bad musical PR in general, and Finnish musical PR especially. Here come my two cents on that, concentrating on a certain recent issue...

In Finland, the average musical is kept a secret as long as possible. It's always a nice day in spring when Helsingin kaupunginteatteri, the home of some of our biggest musical productions, releases their musical of the fall. There are never any teasers beforehand. But when the announcement comes, it comes with a bang, with a press release and promo photos. Same with many other theatres: the upcoming productions are shrouded in secrecy until the big day when all the info is out at once.

Usually, the mysteries annoy me. Would there be some harm in announcing the upcoming productions a bit earlier? The theatres know, so why can't the fans? It's almost painful to wait and speculate!

Strangely enough, watching Åbo Svenska Teater releasing info about their upcoming production of Jesus Christ Superstar, I've started to appreciate the usual customs more.

I love Åbo Svenska Teater. It's Finland's oldest theatre, a lovely place full of athmosphere. I also love the musicals they do. Everything I've seen there so far has been great. What's more, the people working at ÅST have been complete sweethearts towards me and my friends, and I'm grateful for that.

However, I've developed a strong dislike towards the way they handle their PR.

There have been some mishaps of the most annoying sort during the time I've known the theatre. When Les Misérables was still playing, ÅST made an announcement: the production would be extended once more. They added that all the leads would stay in their roles. A good day for a fan! But a bit of a punch in the stomach when I later found out the actor playing Enjolras would change. Tears in my eyes and all. Not a main role enough, apparently the actor change was notified on the theatre's website only a week before the production closed. What's more, waiting for the cast of Hair last year was slightly nervewracking. They started selling the tickets in March but released the cast a while later. In August.

And now there's Jesus Christ Superstar. We found out about JCS because the name of the musical was mentioned in a job advertisement someone found by accident. That was two months ago. To this day, there hasn't been a press release. We don't know the director or the premiere date. No idea when tickets will be available for purchase. Instead, we've been served a weird string of little updates, culminating this week in a local newspaper announcing the lead Alexander Lycke and the theatre not answering any questions about the rest of the cast.

I know Finland is a small country and the number of devoted theatre fans is tiny. But the little group there is would appreciate precise information.

I suspect there are theatregoes who don't care about casting. Some just want to have a good night at the theatre and don't remember the name of the lead the next day. But for the fans, like me and my friends, the casting news are important. We have our favourite actors and we are dying to hear what they're up to. We've been refreshing the ÅST Facebook again and again ever since they said they'd release the JCS cast before Easter.

Sure, partially, they did. But it's not nice to leave things hanging halfway, like announcing a Jesus but not a Judas. It's even worse when our questions aren't answered, not even with a "we can't tell yet." I'm sure the people who take care of the social media are busy, and it must feel like there are more important things to do than to answer some crazed fans' questions. But, on the other hand, the crazed fans are the people who won't shut up about the shows around the internet and in their everyday lives...

It's sometimes weird how little fuss theatres make about their musical actors. In many cases only the cast members famous for something else than doing musicals get hyped about. Maybe a musical actor could also be a star around here, like Peter Jöback is in Sweden. Where is our Finnish household name? Maria Ylipää comes the closest. But why, for example, isn't Helsingin kaupunginteatteri advertising Tuukka Leppänen (just cast as the lead in their production of Doctor Zhivago) as the supernova of stage charisma he is? Or, again, ÅST. Why aren't they making a big deal of bringing Alexander Lycke back, why have they drowned that piece of news in unrelated FB updates? Even the saleswoman at a local convenience store fangirled Alex with me back when Les Mis was playing. No grounds for any hype there?

I don't mean to say all Finnish theatre and musical PR is awful. Most of it is not. Tampereen Teatteri, for example, especially with their upcoming production of Les Misérables, has been doing a good job. I disagree with most of the things they're doing with the production... Which means they've released enough precise info for me to be able to disagree!

I just wish every Finnish theatre would understand that enthusiastic theatre fans actually exist. And that we want to know what's going on.

Link tip: this blog is for reviews and musings. For anyone interested in news about Finnish musical theatre, I try my best to update the news tag at my side blog, Fuck Yeah, Finnish Musical Theatre!. Maybe give it a follow.


  1. It's so shame there isn't that many musicals in Oulu, though Jesus Christ Superstar on this week. Only two shows, actually.

    Maybe I should start musical travelling because live theatre is way better than movie adaptions.

    Anyways, nothing to comment on this subject you wrote about, but I wanted to leave my note because I read the text and it was interesting :)

    1. Aw, thanks, glad to hear you thought this was interesting! :)

      It's a shame indeed there aren't many musicals in some Finnish cities... But glad you got to see JCS! And I always support musical travelling, it's pretty much my #1 hobby... ;)

  2. Hei todella hyviä pointteja ja laitan nämä myös korvan taakse (itsekin teatterimarkkinointia työkseni tehneenä). Näissä jutuissa toki vaikuttavat myös kaikenlaiset sopimus- yms. neuvottelut, jotka saattavat venyä yllättävänkin pitkään. Lisäksi markkinointisosaston on ihan turha sanoa mistään mitään (lehdistötiedote), ellei ole myös jotain pressikuvia annettavana ja mahdollisesti myös tekijöitä haastateltavana. Voi olla, etteivät produktioiden visuaalisuudesta vastaavat henkilöt ole vielä ehtineet muilta projekteiltaan miettimään uutta juttua, mikä viivästyttää kuvien ottamista, tai muutkin tekijät ovat vielä kiinni muissa hommissa. Toki tässä on monilla petrattavaa, mutta markkinonnin puolellakin ollaan riippuvaisia niin monen asian/ajan/henkilön loksahtamisesta kohdilleen, että joskus homma ei mene ihan täydellisesti... :) Mä kyllä veikkaan, että Tuukka Leppänen tulee olemaan _jokaisen_ naistenlehden kannessa ens syksynä. Koska ne HKT:n pressikuvat, joissa oltiin taljoilla ilman vaatteita - huhhuh... ;)

    1. Kiitos kommentista! Ymmärrettäväähän se on, että kun pelataan monen muuttujan kanssa, toisinaan ei mene kaikki ihan putkeen. Se on vain inhimillistä, että joskus tulee mokia – mutta säännöllisesti toistuva sählinki on sitten asia erikseen...

      Mutta toivottavasti olet oikeassa Tuukan suhteen! Onhan se nyt jo tosiaan ihme, jos naistenlehdet eivät vieläkään jaksa noteerata...