Miss Broadway musicals? Try Clubhouse – WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports

(CNN) – With Broadway theaters closed during the pandemic, artists are turning to Clubhouse, a lively audio app often used on networks and virtual panels to create free full-length musicals.

Still in beta testing, Clubhouse is an invite-only app and hundreds of audio chat rooms that allow millions of users to speak on a wide variety of topics. For Broadway fans, it provides a platform for actors and artists around the world to socialize and hone their performing arts. And while radio play isn’t a new concept, clubhouse users have used their own creative backgrounds to revolutionize the app experience.

On her first day with the app in September 2020, Noelle Chestnut Whitmore, who had just been absent from her marketing job as a music festival, joined a clubhouse room called The Cotton Club. Designed and managed by singer-songwriter Bomani X, the space resembled a real jazz club experience, with people talking virtually and certain users acting as the club’s bartenders and DJs. Participants were required to change their profile photos to a black and white picture of their favorite jazz musician, using Clubhouse’s visual features limited to user profile photos.

Whitmore’s “Cotton Club” experience inspired her to find her own way to get creative. Within two months, she began working on a clubhouse-based Lion King: The Musical to connect with other artists interested in taking advantage of musical opportunities in the app, and it wasn’t long before she saw the benefits. She was during a panel of the music industry that Whitmore was hosting associated with the CEO of Geojam, a reward-based music platform, in her current position as the company’s Chief Marketing Officer.

The musical went live in the clubhouse on December 26th with afternoon and evening performances. The Production followed that in 1994 Script of “The Lion King” word for word, with an additional original story by Mir Harris – a creative strategist who starred in and produced the musical – to make up for the lack of visual components in the performance.

“Lion King: The Musical” started and was the impetus for other clubhouse appearances, including “The Wiz” and “Dreamgirls”. The musicals have revived a centuries-old form of entertainment: the radio play.

“Audio theater was the standard for our grandparents,” said Sherita Carthon, the casting and creative director of The Wiz at the clubhouse. “With the drop-in audio app, we used the spirit of times gone by to open the imagination of our audience through images and sound.” Listeners came from Germany and Afghanistan, said Carthon.

“There’s no way for a local theater production to get that reach,” she said.

While many platforms lend themselves to creative use cases for artists, Clubhouse differs in that the focus is on getting feedback from the users who can recommend functions and products that they would like to see in the app.

Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, the founders of the app, Have town hall meetings in a clubhouse room every Sunday, a conversation that is open to all users until the room reaches its capacity of 8,000 people. Users who do not make the cut create overflow rooms so that additional people can listen to a live recording of the meeting.

“They tell us what’s going on and we could ask questions weekly or talk live about things or suggest product features and that’s definitely not normal for most platforms,” ​​said Whitmore. “We as developers can influence the app and the future of the app, and I’ve never seen that before.”

Whitmore held auditions for “The Lion King” in clubhouse rooms with more than 50 people from countries including The United States, United Kingdom, and Canada are giving it a try and vying for roles in the musical.

When it was finally showtime, the cast of the “Lion King” started the audio performance by turning their profile picture into a red curtain like the one used in theaters. As soon as the music started, the performers changed their profile pictures and the icons switched to the corresponding character pictures. Around 5,000 people tuned in for each show – the maximum allowed in a clubhouse space that has grown since then.

The performance received rave reviews on Twitter, with fanfare extending beyond the clubhouse. During the show’s afternoon debut, #TheLionKingCH was a trending topic on Twitter. “Wasn’t it nice? Hats off to director @noellechesnutw and every talented person who brought joy through #LionKingCH today. A great indie production, ”tweeted film director Ana DuVernay after hearing the show at the clubhouse. “Strong and convincing performance. The crew was on point. You all did that! Black Excellence on @joinClubhouse. Jus ‘sayin’. “

And while the audio experience is nothing like what viewers would experience at in-person shows when Broadway, theaters, and music venues are closed, Artists make it work. “A lot of what we do now has been banned from the Internet,” said Elle.Morris, music director of “Dreamgirls”.

Leroy Church, Elle Morris’ cast member, was the casting and artistic director for “Dreamgirls” at the clubhouse but was part of the Broadway cast of “The Lion King” prior to the pandemic. Church said putting a musical together on the audio app showed how to “bridge the gap to create a digital theater space” and get creative when personal Broadway shows return.

In March, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he expected Broadway and Off-Broadway to return by September 2021.

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