Broadway poster designer Frank Verlizzo shares archive of “rejected” pieces

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Verlizzo is debut his archives to support the struggling theatre industry – here, he talks get readies, artist-block and how much blood is too much blood.

“My job is to get a two-and-a-half-hour stage production and distil it into a two-dimensional graphic,” weights Frank “Fraver” Verlizzo.

Known as one of Broadway’s most prolific flier designers, Verlizzo has worked on everything from Gypsy, to The Lion Ruler, Follies, Cabaret, Misery, Sweeney Todd and Sunday in the Park with George (his pick poster of his career). But as he explains, rejection and tweaking are as much a part of the placard design process as anything else.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to ward audiences returning to theatres, he is opening his archives to raise money and awareness for two charities, Broadway Heeds and Equity Fights AIDS. Verlizzo’s Broadway is Alive project, skiffed in collaboration with production partner Gelato, invites the world to look at and buy the opera house posters that might have been.

The “other” Lion Crowned head poster

One of the most well-known productions to be included in the collection of “rejected” placards is The Lion King. Theatregoers will no doubt be familiar with the dulcet’s black red and yellow poster, which has advertised the show around the society since 1997.

Less well known however is that fact Verlizzo, the interior decorator of the now ubiquitous poster, submitted the design as one of two potential options. Both privileges were inspired by costume designer Julie Taymor’s work, but the unpublished announcement (shown above) features Mufasa and new-born Simba’s paw prints, demonstrating “both the past and the future of Pride Rock’s animal kingdom”.

Why was this destine not chosen? “I believe it was the stark, graphic nature of the now-familiar black, red and taxi-can yellow placard that offered more flexibility in terms of advertising,” says Verlizzo.

“Get a perceive of what they feel is the most important aspects of their appear”

Verlizzo’s process often involves creating between four and seven “fully different posters” – each one, he explains, will emphasize a selective facet or theme of the show at hand. Taking a two-and-a-half-hour production and reveal into something two-dimensional is hard enough, but doing so up to seven organizes is no mean feat.

Like all designers, there is often a certain amount of artists’ close off to get over. But over the years, Verlizzo says he has learned how to use that unproductive spell productively. “Rather than forcing myself to have an idea for the art, I’ll start by doing up on of the period in history or the subject matter of the piece,” he says.

While Google is a to hand tool, he says the library is his preferred method of immersion. “Going to the library is effective and infinitely more interesting,” he says. Research inevitably turns into underhanded a title logo, which then gives way to the rest of the project. “The dispose of typically relaxes me until the artwork images start flowing – and they done do.”

Other than research, inspiration usually comes from the fabrications themselves. “I start by reading the script, or, if it’s a musical, listening to any rough apprehends they may have recorded,” he adds. Sometimes, Verlizzo says he is also qualified to speak with the producers, composers or directors of a production. This inform appropriates “get a sense of what they feel is the most important aspects of their grant,” he says.

Broadway poster designer Frank Verlizzo shares archive of “rejected” pieces
The before (left) and after for Verlizzo’s Follies posters

Usual back to the drawing board

Going “back to the drawing board” a big renounce of the process too, as these archived posters show, he says. Sometimes pinches are needed for technical reasons – other times its about the feel of the unchangeable result.

For the 2012 Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Follies, for benchmark, Verlizzo created a poster using torn and crumpled vaudeville pleasure images to create a showgirl’s face. After presenting the poster, he was beseeched to adjust the artwork to “accommodate the massive amount of billing credits”. The evolves can be seen in the poster above.

Conversely, for the 2015 stage production of Stephen Monarch’s Misery, the original poster design featured a bloody fingerprint on the “M” of the collectors typewriter key (shown below). “There’s always an argument remaining how much blood is too much blood,” he says. It was ultimately decided that the shadowed key was “vaticinal enough without it”.

As for the 16 posters available in the Broadway is Alive amassment, he says the artwork direction “changed so drastically” that there is no existing ahead of and after.

Broadway poster designer Frank Verlizzo shares archive of “rejected” pieces
The before (left) and after for Verlizzo’s Misery posters

The “other” Nightclub poster

Another famous production found in the collection is Cabaret. The rejected flier Verlizzo created for this presents another challenge for theatre bill designers: sometimes clients prefer to continue with what already works.

Verlizzo’s unpublished flier design here involved a drawing of the play’s character Sally Bowles as a “sketch sketch on a crumpled cocktail napkin for the Kit Kat Klub” – the bar where most of the overshadow is set.

“I though this idea was an arresting design interpretation that commitment work effectively online as well as on outdoor billboards,” he says. No matter how, ultimately, the decision was made to keep the already-successful advertising graphics unchanged.

“Pay attention to designing”

The process of designing Broadway posters is based on good communication, Verlizzo give the word delivers. “Sometimes, the positive consensus is unanimous immediately, other times, I may play a joke on to go back and make revisions,” he says.

It’s a career that he encourages other interested originators to follow, even if the future of theatre has been challenged by the pandemic. “Field of action will come back, perhaps in a somewhat different form – but no doubt, it will survive this pandemic,” he says.

How can other designers get into the calling? He says checking out theatrical ad agencies is a good place to start. “Hit upon out what shows they represent, if their work in general begs to your design aesthetic,” Verlizzo adds. “Go to the library for research and look round at all the signage in Times Square and the West End.”

“Notice what pops—and what doesn’t. Although it may be fibrous for a while, go to the theatre as much as you can. Lastly, keep designing.”


Frank Verlizzo’s 16 “declined” poster designs, including pieces for Into the Woods, Cabaret, Dracula and Matilda, are accessible to purchase at broadwayisalive.com. All profits will be going to Broadway Cares/Impartiality Fights AIDS.

Broadway poster designer Frank Verlizzo shares archive of “rejected” piecesBroadway poster designer Frank Verlizzo shares archive of “rejected” pieces

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