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Screw helping the NFL, Taylor Swift could save Broadway next

Laura Wheatman Hill   

Screw helping the NFL, Taylor Swift could save Broadway next
  • Taylor Swift has economic power that's impacted the NFL, local tourism, and Hollywood.
  • She filed to trademark "Female Rage: The Musical," which has some thinking she might make a musical.

Taylor Swift has such a major influence on the American economy she might just be able to revitalize Broadway.

When Swift filed to trademark the phrase "Female Rage: The Musical" on May 11, fans began to wonder if she just might shift her talents to musical theater next.

And if she did, it could be major.

This year, the pop star reportedly helped the NFL generate hundreds of millions of dollars by dating tight end Travis Kelce and attending Chiefs games. Kelce jersey sales reportedly spiked 400%, viewership went up for games she attended, and Chiefs' ticket sales jumped.

Her ongoing global Eras Tour infused local economies with tourism dollars worldwide and the tour's concert movie gave Hollywood a nice boost, making a $123-million splash at the global box office.

Let's be clear — Swift's trademark could just be tied to merchandise or filming related to the Eras Tour since "Female Rage: The Musical" is what she's nicknamed the new "The Tortured Poets Department" section of her tour.

But a Broadway show isn't too far out of the realm of possibility for the pop star — and the industry could use some of her economic magic.

Broadway needs a new era

Broadway — and live theater, by extension — has been limping along the past few years, especially following damage done by COVID-19. Audiences still haven't returned to the theaters in full force.

According to a report from The Broadway League, the 2022 to 2023 Broadway season sold about 17% fewer tickets than the last full pre-COVID season, 2018 to 2019.

This spring is jam-packed with a new lineup of Broadway shows, but the musicals may not run for long.

In the past few months, Britney Spears' jukebox musical "Once Upon A One More Time" closed after three months, art musical "Lempicka" closed after one month, and neurodivergent coming-of-age musical "How to Dance in Ohio" closed after just 99 performances.

Even the longest-running Broadway show, "Phantom of the Opera," closed in 2023 after 35 years, in part due to declining ticket sales.

Meanwhile, the US is struggling with inflation and high costs of living — and Broadway tickets can be prohibitively expensive at $130 a pop on average.

"Inflation skyrocketed and we don't have our audiences fully back, so it's a tough time," Katharine Quinn, Broadway marketer and producer for shows like "The Great Gatsby," told Business Insider.

Plus, visitors aren't quite flocking to NYC like they did a few years ago. The laws rolled out earlier this year that essentially banned short-term rentals in NYC probably haven't made it easier to visit, either.

To save Broadway, a "big, giant disruption needs to happen. A different model needs to happen, a different juggernaut musical needs to happen — one written by Taylor Swift would be fabulous," Quinn said.

Swift is more than ready for Broadway — and the Eras Tour is proof

Attending one of Swift's concerts on the Eras Tour is already pretty close to seeing a Broadway show.

"The Eras Tour isn't a concert — it's essentially Broadway. It is a stage show from the moment you enter the Swiftie-verse; it's like an immersive theatrical experience," Quinn told BI.

Swift uses choreography, lighting, and other elements used in professional theater throughout each three-hour concert.

Elaborate transitions between each "era" of her music often use interactive projections, like snakes and water, and changing physical set pieces, like trees and a massive house that Swift sings from the rooftop of.

She's also mastered the costume change, wearing about 16 different outfits a night.

The choreography style changes throughout the concert, too, with modern dance, vaudeville, and hip-hop all represented, much like the various shows on Broadway.

Deborah Rayne, an NYC-based actor, writer, and producer, has gone viral on TikTok for using her theater degree to help identify specific musical-theater references in the Eras Tour.

She told BI the staging of Swift's "Female Rage: The Musical" set is especially "super musical-theater-coded throughout."

She said "I Can Do It With A Broken Heart" has choreography similar to Billy Flynn's numbers in "Chicago" and, at one point, Swift even changes into "character shoes," the basic sturdy heel used in many musicals.

Above all, Swift's performances have a significant emphasis on dramatic storytelling — and isn't that at the heart of any Broadway show?

Swift has options if she does head to Broadway

Swift could follow a few different paths to Broadway.

Rayne told BI a jukebox musical, where an artist's previously recorded songs are used to tell a story, would be Swift's "most logical first step" if she headed to Broadway.

In that case, Rayne thinks Swift would produce, not act, and the show could get her a Tony, taking her one step closer to winning an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony). Swift currently has an Emmy and 14 Grammys.

Quinn agreed that Swift might want an EGOT, but said it could be easier for the star to get a Tony by producing a Broadway show, much like how actor Angelina Jolie is producing "The Outsiders."

In fact, she said, she'd be shocked if Swift's first foray into Broadway was a jukebox musical.

"If she's gonna do it, it's gonna be her show," she added, speculating a Swift Broadway debut would actually feature original compositions much like how artist Sara Bareilles adapted the "Waitress" movie into an original musical.

But no matter what show Swift eventually works on, tying her name to a musical could be enough to give Broadway a much-needed boost.

"What we really need is the next hot mega-musical that meets the moment that we're in. No marketer, no artist — maybe besides Beyoncé — could probably achieve that the way Taylor Swift could," Quinn said.

After all, with the highest-grossing tour and highest-grossing concert movie under her belt, she's proven her fans will continue to show up for her with their wallets in tow.

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