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Queens man makes a name for others

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The "he" in this case is Bill Coyle, a lifelong Jackson Heights resident and one of the city's most successful theatrical publicists. Though still a boyish 38 years old, Coyle has already racked up an impressive string of Broadway credits.He was the lead publicist for "The Producers" juggernaut that rewrote the record book for attendance and Tony Awards in 2001. Prior to that, he was publicist for part of the successful run of the musical "Chicago," and spent three years promoting everything from Shakespeare to new productions at the Public Theater. Today he splits his time between promoting such hits as "Movin'Out," and Bebe Neuwirth's new off-Broadway musical, "Here Lies Jenny."Part of the reason for Coyle's success no doubt is the seriousness, almost reverence with which he approaches his job. "I learned very early why publicity is so important, especially when it comes to the theater," said Coyle, in an interview with the TimesLedger at a cafŽ in the shadows of the St. James Theatre. "Once a show closes on Broadway it essentially doesn't exist anymore," Coyle said. "It's not like TV where there are reruns or a movie, where you rent a DVD. The only formal record of a play or a musical are the reviews, feature stories and press releases that are written about it. That publicity is also what makes it accessible to the mass culture."It is the job of the publicist to act as a liaison between the producers, director and actors in a production, and the media. A good publicist must give reporters enough information to allow them to do meaningful stories, while at the same time protecting the privacy and dignity of his clients. He must squeeze every feature story and photo op out of a hit like "The Producers" and minimize the damage when a show flops. Perhaps most challenging, he must figure out a way to repackage and reinvigorate a long-running show for the media, so that newly arrived actors get some ink."During my time doing ÔChicago' we went through a lot of Roxies and Velmas," Coyle said with a smile, recalling the two lead characters in the musical. Sandy Duncan and Charlotte d'Amboise played Roxie while Bebe Neuworth, Sharon Lawrence, Ruthie Henshall and Vickie Lewis all played Velma under Coyle's watch. "All of them are a little different and require special handling," he said. "And all of them expected and deserved some publicity."It is difficult for Coyle to remember a time in his life when he wasn't interested in the theater. The youngest child of Edward and Loretta Coyle, Bill tried to convince his mother to allow him to buck family tradition and go to the High School of the Performing Arts instead of Power Memorial Academy."She wanted me to go to this all-boys Catholic High School and all I wanted to do was study acting and dance on the top of taxi cabs," he joked. Coyle acquiesced to his mother's wishes, but knew in his heart that the stage would soon be his world. He enrolled in an acting and directing program at Marymount Manhattan College and landed a summer internship in the press office of the acclaimed Public Theater in the spring of 1995. Coyle was in heaven in his new job. By the time his internship was over, he had parlayed it into a full-time publicist job. "At the Public, you get the insider's view of the creative process," he said. "I was right there as something was being rehearsed. As the show's publicist you have access to everything and everybody." The experience taught him how to handle diverse personalities, and how to "get everything that everybody wants accomplished." After three years at the Public, he was recruited to join the Pete Sanders Group, a prominent local publicist, and took over publicity for "Chicago." He soon learned that pushing a Broadway hit has different pressures than doing publicity for a public theater."At the Public, even if a show doesn't get good reviews, you are still going to get your six weeks," he said. "My job was to help get people in the seats and to be a champion for the artists involved.""But on Broadway," he continued, "if a show doesn't make money it will close. That production is keeping a lot of people employed."No doubt, however, Coyle's most vivid memories so far in his career, are the three years he has spent as publicist of "The Producers" for the highly regarded public relations firm Barlow-Hartman. He oversaw the show's resounding critical acclaim and commercial success, its return after two dark days, post-Sept. 11, the end of Lane and Broderick's magical run, and their brief, sold-out return earlier this year. "That entire time is a complete blur in my life," he said. "I was so exhausted I used to tell people that I was going to quit and become a veterinarian. Howard Kissel of the Daily News still asks me if I am a vet yet."Not likely. Coyle is already mounting publicity for two new shows this fall.What he is not so sure about, however, is if he likes to be interviewed about his own life."This was harder than I expected," the professional mouthpiece said following a conversation with a reporter. "It's hard talking about yourself."

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