The Trouble with Enron

by Smartie on May 13, 2010

The Guardian critic Michael Billington was peeved over the premature closing of Enron on Broadway. Most of his wrath was directed at New York Times critic Ben Brantley, for giving the show an “obtuse and hostile” review.

But Ben Brantley did not close Enron. The producers did.

As has been lamented in endless newspapers and blog posts, the power of the critics is waning. If the producers of Enron saw the Times review and decided to close the show, they clearly lacked confidence in their marketing.

The Addams Family got dreadful reviews, yet has “boffo” box office. And Off Broadway, where marketing budgets are pretty much non existent in comparison, Transport Group’s The Boys in the Band was extended after a Brantley pan.

Of course, The Addams Family is chock full of those lovable weirdos that captured our hearts on television and film. But the national American scandal that gave Enron (the company) household name status failed to capture anyone’s hearts, and therein lies part of the problem.

To bring in a show about a financial catastrophe 10 years after the fact, while New York is still in the throws of a massive recession caused by Big Finance companies like AIG and Goldman Sachs, seems like a showbiz financial catastrophe waiting to happen.

And even though Mr. Billington feels like we could learn from seeing Enron in the wake of all this creative accounting, I would wager that the general population is simply exhausted from these corporate cogs clogging up our personal machines. The financial problems are much more deeply rooted than Americans living large off our home equity loans. There is a serious inequality between the haves-way-to-much and the rest of us.

I don’t much feel like plopping down $100 to witness vaudevillian-style financial shenanigans play out on stage for a social or political critique of capitalism or big business. I suspect that many other ticket buyers felt the same way.

Enron‘s marketing did absolutely nothing to confront and address this 300 pound gorilla. Did they understand the real challenge of getting ticket buyers to poney up the cash to see a show about a financial disaster in the wake of the biggest financial crisis since the 1930s? At Broadway prices?

Without the proper marketing in place to address this fundamental and significant issue, I am not sure that a rave from Brantley would have given enough of a desired result to keep that show running.

PS: I really loved reading Jason Zinoman’s own take on Enron and his very smart response to Mr. Billington’s post in Vanity Fair. Highly recommended!

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Follow Friday: 28 May 2010 – 2am
May 28, 2010 at 6:32 pm

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Diane May 13, 2010 at 4:14 pm

If you really want to learn about Financial Shenanigans, check out the new book by that title from the “ Sherlock Holmes of Accounting,” giving you the tools you need to stay a step ahead of the crooks. I guess the creative accounting The Producers does well on Broadway….not the real world stuff of Enron.

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