This fall, live theater is returning to New York, and its stars are returning to the subway. Literally, in the case of many who have to get to Times Square for work, and figuratively, in a new MTA campaign that brings together characters from some of the most distinctive Broadway shows currently running.
The ads re-create an image and revive the tagline from a well-remembered 1977 ad that announced the subway was “the only sure way to make it to Broadway” and featured the likes of Eartha Kitt, Carol Channing, and characters from Grease and Annie. The new version goes with long-running juggernauts Phantom and Chicago as well as newer hits Six and Dear Evan Hansen.
“The original came out at a time when Times Square was kind of an unsavory place to visit and was done to encourage people to see a show,” said Nick Pramik, a managing partner at RPM who rebooted the campaign alongside creative director Steven Tartick. Now, as theaters reopen after the COVID-19 crisis and audiences are once again hesitant about heading back into theaters and trains, they felt it would be an apt theme to revisit. “We thought it was a similar time in history, albeit under completely different circumstances, and thank goodness the MTA agreed.”
Pramik and Tartick had first seen the original poster thanks to Time Out New York critic Adam Feldman, who shared it on Twitter this March, inspiring a hunt to identify the actors in the original. For the 2021 version, RPM gathered seven different productions for a cocktail of new shows and classics. “It’s nice that the most recent new musical that’s opened on Broadway is in the mix,” Tartick said, “and the longest-running Broadway musical is.”
The ads will start to show up on commutes in the second week of November, appearing for at least four weeks on digital screens as well as 1,000 posters arrayed across the subway, LIRR, and Metro-North. Everything was shot inside the disused Bowery station in lower Manhattan, a favorite spot for film and TV shoots.