Three new audiences that could come to the theater this year.

Audience development isn’t about education, enrichment, etc.  Audience development is about product.

The education, enrichment, etc. can be what leads audiences to the water, but it doesn’t make them drink. What makes them get drunk on the experience of theatergoing is the product itself.

This season, there’s a show on its way that has the ability to tap into three brand new audiences who may not have been interested in seeing a Broadway show, save for this one.

That show is . . . The Man Know As Spider.

Who are those audiences?




Head on over to Midtown Comics on 40th Street in NYC and look around.  Think many of those guys have even thought of going to a Broadway show before?  The comic book industry is a huge one, and expect a lot of these readers to be intrigued enough to walk up a few blocks to see how their favorite webbed crusader is ‘handled.’  I’d bet money that they’ll be as critical as Star Wars fans were of Jar Jar Binks, but, they’ll still go.  And they’ll talk about it.  And some will like it.  And hopefully, for us, they’ll go see something else as a result.


2.  U2 FANS


U2 has fans in the millions, and since the band came of age in the 80s, many of those fans are reaching that prime theater-going demographic, and have more disposable income than they did when the fell in love with the band (although probably not as much as they had 2 years ago . . . thank you sub-primers and derivatives traders).  When these folks come to town and hear that there is a musical composed by what they believe is one of the greatest bands ever created, they’ll go, whether it’s about Spider-Man or EucalyptusTree-Man.




Size matters.  Whether you’re talking about the Largest Ball of Twine or the Biggest Broadway Musical in history, both draw tourists.  People will go see Spider-Man just because of its sheer mammoth-osity.  It has the potential to be an destination because of its sheer size, not unlike the Empire State Building.  People love to be able to tell their friends that they’ve seen the biggest of anything; The Grand Canyon, The Grand Tetons, people love Grand.  And people may make sure they see the show, in order to be able to tell people that they’ve seen what could be the “grandest” thing ever on a Broadway stage.
A lot of people have been asking me my thoughts on Spider-Man and its $42.5 million dollar budget, which reports say include $7.5 million for the renovation of the theater alone (that’s more than we spent on 13!).  I usually answer by saying that the story of Spider-Man reminds me of the movie version of Titanic.  It was delayed 6 months. It was wildly over budget and ended up being the most expensive movie ever made.  James Cameron was offering to turn in his royalties.  The media said that the movie could mean the downfall of both Fox AND Paramount.


And then it opened and it became the highest grossing movie of all time.


So you never know what could happen, although I do think it’s important to remind everyone involved that the distribution of a theatrical production is just a wee bit different than the distribution of film.


Spider-Man on Broadway is unprecedented.  It doesn’t seem to make sense on paper, but then again, I remember when Wicked was in rehearsals and one of the stars said to me, “I don’t know, Ken, this show is either going to be the biggest flops of all time, or the biggest success.”  We all know what happened there.


Regardless of what happens, Spider-Man has the potential to develop some new audiences for the rest of us, and for that, I applaud their unprecedent efforts and wish them Web Luck!

Oh no, you’ll never get the rights to . . .

I have a good female friend who is obsessed with The Notebook.  She watches it like three times a week.  I mean, it was like a teddy bear to a two year old.  She never went anywhere without it.  When I finally gave in and agreed to watch it with her, I didn’t know what she enjoyed more . . . watching it, or watching me watching it, just to see my reaction.

One day, when I told her I was looking for things to turn into musicals, she said, “You know what would make a beautiful musical?  The Notebook!”  Then she stopped and didn’t speak for like three minutes. I think she was imagining the duet that Noah and Allie would sing to each other right after Allie found out that Noah wrote her a letter a day while they were apart, even though the letters never got to her (if your eyes just got a little watery there, it’s not because you’ve been staring at your computer too long).

I sort of blew her off.  “Too big a movie and too big a book,” I thought, “No way anyone is getting the rights.  Maybe Cameron Mac or Disney, but unless you’ve got a Broadway pedigree and a bank full of bucks, there is no way that musical is going to happen.”

“But It would be sooooooooo good,” she said.  “Come on, let’s watch it again and I’ll show you.”

Well, look what I read todayThe Notebook is going to be a musical.  And it doesn’t have Cameron or Disney or even any New York Producers behind it.  An actress fell in love with it, probably watched it more often than my friend, and convinced the powers that be to give her the rights.  All because of her passion.

And she’s doing a workshop in October with the hopes that it will be the first step to a Broadway production.

You know what else is cool?  Just like White Noise, the workshop isn’t at The Old Globe or La Jolla or any of the usual tryout spots.  Oh no, they are doing this tryout at a community theater in North Carolina.

It’s “Give Props” week here at The Producers Perspective. Yesterday, Hair, and today, Bethany Joy Galeotti, the girl who got The Notebook.

And I write this blog to remind myself that no matter how difficult things may seem, it never hurts to ask the question.  The irony is that it took me the same amount of time to come up with a reason why I couldn’t get the rights to The Notebook, as it would have to call someone and actually ask for the rights to The Notebook! 

Now I gotta go.  There’s a 1-800-FLOWERS site with my name on it.  I gotta send a big bouquet of flowers to a friend that is going to be pretty peeved when she hears that this is happening and I’m not attached.

Oh, and guess where I’ll be in October.

The Producers of Hair did what?

Back when I was in the middle of my ATPAM apprenticeship and studying for my NMAM exam (the test that gets you your company management stripes and a piece of the annuity fund), I learned that the #1 rule of managing a show was . . . never cancel a performance!

We were always pushed to come up with creative solutions to problems to prevent mass refunds due to canceling.

For example . . .

Q:  What do you do if your production of Oklahoma is performing outside at The Muny and the temperature has dropped below the approved AEA temp for performing?

A:  Turn up the lights to full to heat up the stage!  Or put space heaters next to the footlights!  Hold the curtain to see if things warm up (not a good idea if it’s at night)!

Q:  What do you do if your one truck of scenery on your bus and truck of Cats jackknifes in Toledo and you’re in Pittsburgh and 8 hours from curtain?

A:  Do a concert version!  Dress the stage with spare “junkyard”-type items!  Have any other theaters nearby done the show recently that you could ask for some spare set pieces?

There were no right or wrong answers (obviously).  It was all about training the mind to think outside the proscenium.  And it worked.

So here’s another one . . .

Q:  What do you do when one of your Tony nominated principal actors is an activist for the gay marriage movement and wants to take a show off and march on Washington?

A:  Well, you cancel the show, so the whole cast can go, of course.

(insert head shaking that make your lips go bu-bu-bu-bu-bu-bu-bu-bu-bu here)

Yep, you read that right.  And that’s exactly what the Producers of Hair did.  They listened to the passion of their employees, realized that the show had already surpassed their wildest expectations in terms of financial success, and gave up about $50k worth of profit.  They have, of course, benefited from the press, which they will receive even more of on the day they walk down Constitution Avenue.

So I’m sending out my Kudos to the Producers, the Creative Team, the Cast and Mr. Creel himself.  Guys and Gals, if this were an ATPAM exam, you would have gotten this question wrong.  But sometimes, doing something wrong is the only way to ACE an even more important test.

Oh, and let this be a lesson to all of us (including me) that generalize.  Not all actors have egos.  Not all stagehands watch TV while they work.

And not all Producers are greedy.

5 More things I learned about Las Vegas.

I’ve written about Vegas before, having spent several months working there as the Company Manager of Chicago at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, and having spent many hours there hunched over a poker table.

I like Vegas. Where else can you stare at a  beautiful nature-made mountainscape in one direction and a beautiful man-made pyramid with a shaft of light shooting out the top in the other.
Pyramids and pirate ships aside, it’s a tricky town, especially for Producers, with more live entertainment produced on and off the strip than anywhere else in the world.  Jersey Boys, Cirque, Hypnotists, Comedians, Strippers, Magicians, etc., you name it, and someone is producing it.
Whether or not they are making money, is another question entirely.
Every time I go out to that man-made-Mecca, I learn something new, and the trip I took this past week, was no exception (special thanks to the NATB and the Ticket Summit, who had me out to speak at their conferences, and therefore inspired the trip and this post – and put a few bucks in my pocket thanks to a Jack High flush against a set of 8s.).
Here are five more things I learned about Las Vegas:
1.  SIN IS IN.
When I first went to Vegas, The MGM Grand had a theme park, and New York New York was promoting its roller coaster.  “Bring the family” was the rallying cry.  There are still plenty of family friendly things to do in Vegas, but for the past several years, the “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” marketing-mantra has had its effect on live entertainment as well. The old fashioned sexy/topless Vegas revue is back in style.  The in-room hotel glossy mag advertising the “what to dos” while it town, featuring ad after ad of Crazy Horse, Zumanity, Jubilee, Bite, Thunder From Down Under, etc., etc.
And of course, the Vegas-Broadway love child, PeepShow directed by Jerry Mitchell, with songs by Andrew Lippa, starring Shoshana Bean and headlined by Holly ‘Hefner’ Madison (and yes, you to get to see her two talents – I’ll let you decide what those are).
Down a ways from the strip is where Vegas began.  It’s old school Vegas with it’s 99 cent shrimp cocktails, penny slots, and more. It’s cheaper. It’s off the beaten path.  It’s intimate and more personal.  Some would call it more “real”.
Sound like a familiar description? It’s exactly what Off-Broadway is.  And just like we try to tell tourists here about seeing an Off-Broadway show, downtown Vegas (or The Freemont Street Experience) tries to let visitors know that they haven’t really experienced Vegas unless they’ve come downtown at least once during their stay.
And I agree with them.  You haven’t lived until you’ve had a 99 cent shrimp cocktail and a deep fried twinkie.
Vegas doesn’t settle.  Revising a show after it opens is common place.  Le Reve (which I heard was revised twice), Chris Angel’s Believe, and many others have undergone changes well after the shows were “frozen”.  If audiences aren’t digging it, they bring back the team (or bring on a new team), and tweak it until it gets a better response.
If only we could do that here (The Scarlet Pimpernel tried it, but it didn’t take).
It makes sense that Vegas is willing to make these investments. For one, the shows are capitalized at much higher rates, so tossing in a few more bucks doesn’t mean as much.  And two, the shows are designed to run a lot longer and need to, so getting them just right is much more important.
There isn’t much that isn’t advertised on in Vegas.  Everything is a billboard:  slot machines, walls, giant mobile signs trucked up and down the strip, and even the urinals.  I would have snapped a photo of that urinal mini-board, but frankly, I was a little worried that if I whipped out a camera, the biker standing next to me would stop what he was doing and show me why I should always wear a helmet.
Vegas is non-stop excitement. There’s an energy that sweeps you up as soon as you step off the plane and keeps you going, no matter what the time and now matter how much money you lose.  And let’s face it, most people go there to gamble, get drunk, and do the things that you’re not supposed to do at home. It’s an adult theme park.  People who go to Vegas want to play.
And playing doesn’t mean sitting back and watching a “play”.  Every single thing I’ve ever seen in Vegas has some sort of interactive element. Headliners, illusionists, comedians, Cirque and their clowns, and so on.  The interactive element has to be there.  Let your audience sit back and relax, and they’ll start getting anxious about getting back to those tables, wishing they could be losing money rather than sitting through a show.  You better not even think about a fourth wall.
That’s one of the reasons that traditional musicals don’t work in Sin City, and the only ones that even have a shot are the mega-brands like Phantom, J. Boys, Mamma Mia, and Lion King (And I’d double-down that none of these shows are as successful in Vegas as they have been in other locations).
You know what else I learned about Vegas?  Every time I go, which is usually about 4 times a year since I worked there, it somehow makes you want to learn more.

Broadway Grosses w/e 7/19/09

New Page 1

Show Name GrossGross TotalAttn %Cap AvgPaidAm
9 TO 5 $662,361 8,624 66.91% $76.80
AVENUE Q $340,324 4,726 74.21% $72.01
BILLY ELLIOT: THE MUSICAL $1,443,565 11,370 100.02% $126.96
BLITHE SPIRIT $735,939 9,505 80.33% $77.43
CHICAGO $649,444 8,154 94.38% $79.65
GOD OF CARNAGE $989,245 8,815 102.21% $112.22
HAIR $1,107,181 11,362 100.58% $97.45
IN THE HEIGHTS $854,040 9,667 88.53% $88.35
JERSEY BOYS $1,147,932 9,897 101.24% $115.99
MAMMA MIA! $1,017,703 11,343 94.65% $89.72
MARY POPPINS $881,503 12,006 83.51% $73.42
MARY STUART $289,900 4,865 52.88% $59.59
NEXT TO NORMAL $445,512 5,626 91.09% $79.19
ROCK OF AGES $651,048 7,753 97.20% $83.97
SHREK THE MUSICAL $971,543 12,194 87.95% $79.67
SOUTH PACIFIC $802,183 7,801 93.67% $102.83
THE 39 STEPS $195,347 3,321 70.48% $58.82
THE LION KING $1,455,842 13,230 99.98% $110.04
THE LITTLE MERMAID $996,750 11,790 97.02% $84.54
THE NORMAN CONQUESTS $352,377 5,822 93.30% $60.53
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $978,563 12,421 96.14% $78.78
WEST SIDE STORY $1,314,443 13,125 96.68% $100.15
WICKED $1,634,385 14,472 100.00% $112.93
TOTALS $19,917,127 $217,889 89.70% $87.87