Stephen Cook, TCG Entertainment CEO, on the set of “MasterChef Junior Live.” (Courtesy TCG Entertainment)

TCG Entertainment takes “MasterChef Junior Live” on the road

TCG Entertainment, the production company behind the Cirque Musica family shows and genre-bending symphony shows like “A Night of Symphonic Hip Hop” opens its first non-musical touring show, “MasterChef Junior Live,” on Thursday at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet, Ill.

VenuesNow spoke to Stephen Cook, president and CEO of TCG Entertainment, about the new direction for the 10-year-old company.

“MasterChef Junior Live” is your first non-musical production. How did it happen?
We’ve been primarily focused on shows where we owned the IP for almost 10 years now. About 1 ½ years ago we started looking at shows we could license. We went to EndemolShine North America, who own the MasterChef concept. We knew we wanted to do something with MasterChef but were open to it being the classic version of the TV show or the MasterChef Junior version. My kids convinced me to do the kids version because they love it and all their friends watch it.

Is producing a non-music show a challenge for someone associated with acrobats and orchestras?
This is different, for sure. This is not at all like a rock ‘n’ rock show. It’s cooking racks and ovens and cooking stations and lots of food.

How will the stage show work?
We have a host, Casey Shane, who will move things along. The main focus is on four popular past contestants from the TV show — Malia Brauer, Matthew Smith, Evan Estrada and Jasmine Stewart — and they’ll do cooking demonstrations. There will be a “mystery box” of ingredients, one of the most popular parts of the TV show, and there will also be audience participation. We’ll pull people from the audience to be sous chefs. There will be Q&A sessions and there will be some “mess’”as well. The last part of the show is a cupcake eating contest and it gets messy, just like on the show. The show will run 90 minutes.

Will there be video?
Yes. Video is an important part of this. We have an introduction from Gordon Ramsey. There will be cameras over the cooking stations so the audience can see the kids cooking.

How is the tour structured?
We’re going out for three weeks and performing in 16 cities, including Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and San Antonio. We’ll do one performance in each city; as a general rule, that’s what the venues want. We can load in in a day, do the show, and load out. The rooms we are playing are between 1,300 and 2,000 capacity. We decided early on that an initial three-week run was a good way to see if it works and the fans buy tickets. So far, it’s working and we’re looking to add more dates.

Will you have to travel with a large caravan to get all the stoves and kitchen equipment from city to city?
We built it to travel light. The ovens and stoves, racks, pantries, cooking stations and herbs all fit into one truck and we buy our food on the ground. The equipment is also safe and friendly — no open flames. We use only electric burners. Safety is our main concern.

Is there merchandise available?
A lot of merchandise and all of it will be unique to the tour. We partnered with Araca on the merch. There will be aprons, oven mitts, posters, T-shirts, hats and a cookbook.

How much are tickets?
Tickets are around $35 to $40. There’s also a VIP upgrade that will get you a signed cookbook and a meet and greet before the show. We’re capping it at 50 people.

Is this a new road for TCG?
We want to be the go-to source for producing family shows whether it’s with music or without music. We’re comfortable working with our own IP and other IP. We’re developing relationships with all the studios and starting to roll out productions with MasterChef Junior Live. We’re definitely not abandoning our signature Cirque shows or own symphonic shows, but we’re being aggressive about looking to license great properties.

What are the challenges of working with a partner and their IP?
You have to really understand what their job is — and that’s to make money and protect their brand. In my previous life I was the brand manager and I get it. We’re there to elevate the brand. In this case, Endemol has been a super partner. They’ve been supportive through the entire process and they’ve run commercials during the television show, which is great.

Are you working on other licensed properties right now?
Yes. But none I can announce yet. Stay tuned.