The coronavirus pandemic forced Broadway theaters to shut down. Without any shows, artists are turning to Clubhouse, an audio app often used for networking and virtual panels, to create free full-length musicals.
Clubhouse to take over Broadway?
Clubhouse, which is still in beta testing, is an invitation-only app with hundreds of audio chat rooms, where its millions of users can talk about different subjects.
For Broadway fans, it has provided a platform for actors and artists around the world to connect and get their musical fix, according to CNN.
While audio drama is not a new concept, Clubhouse users have used their own creative backgrounds to revolutionize the app experience, as noted by Billboard.com.
One famous Clubhouse room, "The Cotton Club", was created and led by singer-songwriter Bomani X. The room resembled a real-life jazz club experience where people virtually mingle and designated users act as the club's bartender and DJ.
Participants were required to change their profile photos to a black-and-white image of their favorite jazz musician, tapping into Clubhouse's visual capabilities that are limited to user profile photos.
On December 2020, Noelle Chestnut Whitmore worked on a Clubhouse-based "Lion King: The Musical," connecting with other artists who were interested in pursuing musical opportunities on the app, and it was not long before the creators saw the benefits.
The famous musical went live on Clubhouse on Dec. 26, 2020, with afternoon and evening performances. The production followed the 1994 movie script of "The Lion King" word-for-word.
There was also an added original narration done by Mir Harris, a creative strategist who starred in and produced the musical, in order to compensate for the lack of visual components in the performance.
"Lion King: The Musical" immediately took off, serving as the impetus for other Clubhouse performances, including "Dreamgirls," and "The Wiz." The musicals revived a century-old form of entertainment, which is radio drama.
What makes Clubhouse different
While numerous platforms lend themselves to creative use cases for artists, Clubhouse differentiates itself by placing an emphasis on feedback from users, who can recommend features and products that they want to see on the app.
Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, the founders of Clubhouse, hold town hall meetings in a Clubhouse room every Sunday, a conversation that is open to all users until the room hits its capacity of 8,000 people.
Users who do not make the cut create overflow rooms so additional people can listen to a live recording of the meeting, according to Forbes.
Whitmore stated that the Clubhouse admin tell them what is being rolled out, and they could submit questions on a weekly basis or live to talk about things or suggest product features, and that is not normal for most platforms.
Whitmore added that as creators, they get to influence the app, and what the future of the app is, and it is something that creators have never seen before.
Although the audio experience is not comparable to what audience members would experience at in-person shows, with Broadway, theaters, and music venues closed, artists are still making it work. A lot of what artists and creators do now has been relegated online.
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Written by Sieeka Khan