She Loves Me, the acclaimed Broadway musical revival starring Laura Benanti and Jane Krakowski, will make musical theater history on Thursday, June 30, when the online streaming service Broadway HD broadcasts the show live from the Studio 54 theater in New York City.
The event marks the first time a live performance of a Broadway show will be streamed on the internet — a huge step forward for the theater industry, which has always been notoriously reluctant to allow cameras anywhere near the stage. (As a result, bootlegging has long been a thorn in the industry’s side.)
But last year, all that changed with the runaway success of #Ham4Ham, a series of short live performances by the cast of Hamilton that challenged the industry’s longstanding practices by explicitly encouraging Hamilton fans to film and stream.
Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda instigated #Ham4Ham for the huge audiences waiting in line for the Hamilton ticket lottery outside the Richard Rodgers Theatre. For most of 2015, #Ham4Ham brought Broadway directly to fans. The thrice-weekly #Ham4Ham shows were recorded and instantly shared with thousands of people by die-hard fans who were live on site, to an audience that was mainly made up of huge Hamilton fans longing for any access to the performance. Partly as a result of the accessibility of the #Ham4Ham shows, Hamilton ballooned in popularity.
The impact of #Ham4Ham on the rest of Broadway has been profound. At the 2016 Tony Awards, the American Theatre Wing paid tribute to the #Ham4Ham shows by having each nominated musical cast do a short performance in front of the theater for the live audience outside.
And increasingly, the industry has been experimenting with the possibilities of tapping into social media and other online opportunities. The recent trend of live broadcasting special musical theater performances, like Fox’s live-streamed Grease and NBC’s live streams of The Wiz, Peter Pan, and The Sound of Music, has also helped open the door for Broadway’s outreach to the internet.
When Broadway HD set up shop last year as a new streaming subscription service, it specifically targeted theater-loving internet users. Broadway HD was designed to bring Broadway and West End shows to streaming users with no direct access to live theater — in essence, to be a sort of Netflix or Hulu for theater fans.
But until now, because of Broadway’s reticence to engage with live streaming, Broadway HD has only been able to offer short interviews and prerecorded professional tapings of shows, some of them decades old.
She Loves Me is a great production to serve as a test for Broadway’s dalliance with the internet. The musical is based on a 19th-century play that yields a famous rom-com plot: Two co-workers who hate each other begin an anonymous correspondence with each other that could be blossoming into love. The story has been remade into one famous movie after another, from the vintage classic The Shop Around the Corner to the Judy Garland flick In the Good Old Summertime to Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail.
Featuring a score by Fiddler on the Roof duo Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, She Loves Me has been successfully revived on Broadway by the Roundabout Theatre Company on two separate occasions, both times to critical acclaim and commercial success. The current revival recently nabbed eight Tony nominations, though it ultimately only won one award (Best Set Design) and lost the Best Revival trophy to The Color Purple.
She Loves Me is one of the few productions of the 2015-’16 Broadway season that doesn’t currently have a closing date. If the Broadway HD stream can garner a large viewership — and, even better, boost ticket sales for the live production — it will be a huge step toward debunking Broadway’s long-held belief that providing content to theater fans over the internet will give them no incentive to buy tickets for the live performance. That certainly hasn’t been the case with Hamilton.
And if all goes well, it’s likely that more musicals might tentatively follow She Loves Me’s lead and finally help bring Broadway to the internet.
To watch the She Loves Me live stream, subscribers to Broadway HD can tune in at 8 pm Eastern on Thursday, June 30 — when the curtain goes up on Broadway — by visiting the Broadway HD website or accessing the service through Apple TV or Roku. Viewers without a Broadway HD account can watch the live stream for $9.99.
Update: She Loves Me has a closing date of July 10th.