Who Needs a Super Bowl Ad? Skittles Ups the Ante With a Broadway Musical

For the many who’ve grumbled that Broadway is just too industrial and the only a few griping that it isn’t industrial sufficient, Skittles has a present for you.

On Sunday, simply earlier than the Super Bowl, Skittles, the tasty ellipsoid confection, will current “Skittles Commercial: The Broadway Musical.” A half-hour present, with songs by Drew Gasparini (“Smash”) and a ebook by the playwright Will Eno and the copywriter Nathaniel Lawlor, it should play Town Hall — simply as soon as — for a paying viewers of 1,500. (Town Hall is just not precisely a Broadway theater, however nonetheless.) While some teaser advertisements have aired, the present itself gained’t be broadcast.

“Skittles Commercial” stars Michael C. Hall, a longtime collaborator of Mr. Eno’s (“The Realistic Joneses,” “Thom Pain”). After a run by means of at a Greenwich Village rehearsal house final week, I requested Mr. Hall whether or not he was afraid that showing in a sweet industrial may cheapen his actorly credibility.

“Obviously not afraid enough,” he stated. “I mean, I don’t know. I just thought it was weird.”

It is bizarre. Deliberately. Two years in the past, Mars, the father or mother firm of Skittles, got here to the promoting company DDB Worldwide and defined that whereas a Super Bowl advert is in fact prestigious, it doesn’t do a lot for sweet gross sales. As Ari Weiss, DDB’s North American chief American artistic officer defined after the rehearsal, folks purchase snacks for Super Bowl events in the days main as much as the recreation, not throughout it. Mars challenged the company to invent an advert that might create a dialog earlier than the recreation.

Last 12 months, DDB developed a marketing campaign known as “Exclusive the Rainbow,” wherein they produced a multimillion-dollar, Super Bowl-style advert for only one 17-year-old Skittles fan, livestreaming his response. The advert was a success; it even gained a Clio award. But, as Mr. Weiss defined: “The last beat was invisible. We showed it to one kid, and no one else got to enjoy it.”

Mr. Weiss stated he wrestled with make an advert that was at the least a little extra seen, but additionally “equally as absurd or more absurd.” His reply: Put on a present.

“Skittles Commercial” is a wonky callback to the industrial musical, a ’50s, ’60s, ’70s phenomenon wherein Broadway songwriting groups created mini musicals for the likes of General Electric and J.C. Penney, introducing new merchandise to the gross sales pressure through tune and dance. The Skittles model, which bought out in simply a few days, is excruciatingly self-referential, metatheatrical to the max. It explores, as Mr. Weiss defined, “the role of commercialism in America” and “why celebrities participate in marketing.” The huge quantity is known as “Advertising Ruins Everything.”

“We’re hoping to make a really entertaining piece that interrogates the very fact that we’re doing it,” Mr. Weiss stated.

Once Mr. Weiss had a idea, he and his crew started to search for collaborators. They went to Broadway reveals and purchased a stack of latest performs at the now-shuttered Drama Book Shop, a stack that included a couple by Mr. Eno. The DDB crew felt Mr. Eno’s model — “a bit off-kilter in a really funny and dry way,” Mr. Weiss stated — was a good match for Skittles.

When the challenge was defined to Mr. Eno, “I wasn’t sure if it was a new and strange idea I really jibed with or a terrible one that I wasn’t fully understanding yet,” he wrote in an electronic mail. But he signed on anyway. “I genuinely like Skittles.”

Mr. Eno steered the director Sarah Benson, an artist greatest identified for defiantly noncommercial work like “Blasted” and “Fairview.” Though additionally a Skittles fanatic, Ms. Benson had by no means envisioned herself directing a industrial. “I hope that this is the only time that this happens,” she stated, talking after rehearsal. But she discovered the strangeness of the piece — its metadrama, its ephemerality — “genuinely creatively exciting.”

Mr. Hall stars as Michael C. Hall, an actor with an equivalent résumé who feels conflicted about starring in a Skittles industrial. His first tune: “This Might Have Been a Bad Idea.” I requested Mr. Hall how shut this character felt to his actual self. He considered it for a whereas, beginning solutions after which stopping. “I can’t believe I’m trying to seriously consider answering this kind of question about this commercial,” he stated.

The first teasers have already aired, and the original cast recording, plus a bonus monitor, has already been made obtainable on Spotify. But nobody concerned is aware of how the viewers members — a few of whom paid $200 for premium seats, a value that minute-per-minute beats the value of top-tier seats for “Hamilton” — will react. “I have no idea,” Ms. Benson stated. (I’ve seen a run-through, and I don’t know both.)

“It is by design and definition an unrepeatable, once-in-a-lifetime event and sometimes those things are good,” Mr. Eno wrote.

In the meantime, everybody appears to be having fun with the course of. The temper in the rehearsal room verged on the giddy, enhanced — perhaps — by the Skittles on the snack desk. “It is kind of really fun to work on this,” stated Mr. Hall, who has by no means made a industrial earlier than. “It’s liberating to be released from any preoccupation with whether or not what you’re doing is profound.”

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