MATTEL MONEY MAKER: American Girl brings in tens of millions for toy company Mattel. Now the brand will be the basis of a touring theatrical concert. (Courtesy Gershwin Entertainment)
Of course, fans come first, but producer Todd Gershwin wanted the new American Girl live experience to be as easy as possible for venue operators hosting the tour, which launches in late September in Concord, New Hampshire.
American Girl Live! In Concert will bring the Mattel brand to life in a production that takes about four hours to load in and less than three to load out in 21 one-day engagements, culminating in Fayetteville, Arkansas. In between are dates in New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, Indianapolis and Atlanta, among others.
“When I came up with the idea, and knowing how challenging the last three years have been, we wanted to make this as easy as possible on the venues, their crew and our crew,” Gershwin said. “We’re hoping to reduce those load-in and load-out numbers when we really get into it. We were very cognizant of not biting off more than we could chew.”
That’s not to say fans of a brand that brings Mattel tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue will get short shrift when it comes to the musical theatrical production.
“We agreed very early on to make this as upbeat and fun as possible,” Gershwin said. “I like to use the term theatrical concert. Lots of music, lots of dancing, sort of American Girl meets Six. The idea is to celebrate the American Girl brand for fans who might be having their first concert experience. It’s a brand that has thrived for the last 35 years.”
The brand includes an extensive catalogue of songs that have been written for it over the years, he said.
“They gave us the opportunity to go into their catalogue and explore it and we’ve been overwhelmed in a great way by how much relevant and great music they already have,” Gershwin said. “The majority of the music will be the existing American Girl catalogue, but I have a feeling we’re going to end up inserting a few surprises. We’re putting a lot of our energy into the story, the music and the actors,” he said. “We want the girls and their moms in the audience to connect with our actors so we’re focusing on the content element in terms of the music, the dancing, the performances.”
Gershwin, a grand nephew of composers George and Ira Gershwin, said the production has been in the works for about a year.
“I was first introduced to the folks at Mattel during COVID and everything seemed to move slow in those days, but we’ve really been fast-tracking it and into it together for the last year,” he said.
There are six performers and a crew of 13 or 14 that will mount the tour.
The show will rehearse in New York followed by a week of technical rehearsals in one of the early dates on the initial itinerary, either Concord or Boston, Gershwin said.
Venues and dates will be announced soon, he said, but the idea was to put the show into theaters and performing arts centers with capacities between 1,500 and 2,500.
“We thought that would be perfect for the show,” Gershwin said. “Our thing was, let’s see during this first initial tour what the audience is and then we always adjust accordingly, but we’re really happy where we’ve we landed.”
The target audience is girls and their moms or guardians, Gershwin said.
“I think it’s going to be 8- to 12-year-olds with 9- and 10-year-olds being the sweet spot,” he said.
Tickets went on sale to the general public on June 16. They’re priced differently in each city, but generally start at $29.
“We want to make this as affordable as we can,” Gershwin said, adding that promoters are helping determine the right price from market to market. “We always have a $29 ticket and it goes up from there. I’d always rather underprice it and have as large an audience as possible.”