My New Year’s Resolution – what’s yours?

Let me be one of the first to wish you all a Happy New Year!

I love New Year’s.  It’s my favorite holiday, and probably the favorite holiday of most entrepreneurs out there. It represents a new beginning, a chance to take stock of where you are, and make plans (aka resolutions) about where you want to go.

I’m a big resolution setter.  I set a whole ton of ’em for the shows and projects that I’m working on, as well as the shows and projects I want to be working on for the next year.  I throw some personal ones in there as well (drink less coke, eat less Wendy’s – good luck to me!), because I also know that a more balanced personal life leads to a more successful professional life.

This year, I’m also setting another resolution.  And here it is.

I resolve to produce something I wouldn’t normally produce.  I’m going to take a risk on something that might not be my cup of tea, because that’s the only way I’ll learn, the only way I’ll diversify, and the only way I’ll broaden my own artistic horizons.

I don’t know what it’ll be.  I don’t know if it’ll even make it to a stage this year.  But I will do something . . . different.  I’m going to produce outside of my comfort zone.

What’s your resolution?


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Who is the Producer of the Year? WINNER ANNOUNCED!


We had a record number of votes in this year’s POTY contest, and it was a very, very tight race (reminded me of the Millie vs. Urinetown Tony battle royale in 2002).

But the winner, with no recount necessary, is . . . none other than . . .

Superhero Producer, Michael Cohl!

Congratulations, Michael.  The readers have spoken (well, e-checked a box, actually), and your work in getting Spider-Man through the forest of bad buzz, across the finish line, and into the million dollar club has made you the Broadway Producer of the Year.

Thanks to everyone that voted!

Let the handicapping for next year’s race begin!


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My Top 10 Broadway Moments from 2011

It’s that time of year . . . for Champagne Toasts, New Year’s Resolutions and Top 10 Lists!  So here’s mine!

The following is a list of my top 10 Broadway Moments from the past drama-filled year (That’s the one constant about our constantly changing biz – great drama is both on and off the stage).


1.  The 6th Spider-Man Delay

When Spidey delayed its opening for the 6th time to June 14th, it pushed itself out of the running for the Tony Award or even a nomination.  Poor Spider-Man, right?  Maybe not.  Last Spring was one of the most crowded I’ve ever seen for new musicals, and with all the negative press, I think Spider-Man would have been home crying while watching The Notebook on Tony Night, instead of celebrating at The Beacon Theater.  But with the delay, they’ve actually positioned themselves for a better shot at a nom for the show, especially since it has proven to be a box office winner (although it still may take a few decades to recoup).  The big question . . . was this smart spider strategy, or just plain luck?

2.  The C Word in Song

Whenever someone tells you that you can’t do something, look them straight in the eye and say, “Nothing is impossible.  The C word was used in a song on a Broadway stage!”  I mean, did we ever think this would happen?  And did you ever imagine that a show using the C word 147 times would go on to win Best Musical?  Not me.  But the Book of Mormon proved us all wrong and stretched Broadway’s boundaries at the same time.  It was a F#*$&ing watershed moment.

3.  Sondheim gets POed about Porgy.

Do you think Steve had any idea what would come of that letter he wrote to the editor of the NY Times tearing apart the new production of Porgy and Bess for playing with a masterpiece?  My insider sources tell me there were a few moments when the Producers actually thought about pulling the plug on the Broadway engagement as a result of the brouhaha.  But they soldiered on, as good Producers should when they believe in the product they have and the artists that are putting it together.  And so far, their WOM and their grosses have rewarded them.  My big question . . . will Steve go to opening night?  Will he go at all?

4.  Hugh Jackman for President

Who cares if he’s not a citizen?  I’m convinced that if Hugh Jackman were delivering an address before congress he’d have Republicans and Democrats all singing, “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” together in about 30 seconds.  He’s one of our biggest draws, our biggest talents, and our biggest ambassadors.  He’s a cool kid, and he loves Broadway.  Thanks for spending a few weeks with us, Hugh.  Come back soon.  I’m pretty positive you’ll be on Top Ten lists for every year that you step foot in NYC.

5.  Look who’s in the $1MM club!

Wicked, Lion King . . . wait a second . . . is that . . . Follies?  A Stephen Sondheim musical?  And it’s not starring Lindsay Lohan or The Prime Minister of Bulgaria?  The commercial success of Follies surprised a lot of folks this year, including me.  I certainly did a double take the first time I saw those six figures on the weekly Broadway grosses.   And the second, and the third times, I spit out my coke.  Big time props to all involved for this very memorable moment.

6.  Did you even know it was up for negotiation?

The Actors’ Equity – Broadway League contract was negotiated and ratified with such little fanfare that a lot of folks didn’t even know it was happening.  My contacts who lined the walls of these proceedings told me it was mostly smooth sailing through the proceedings, and they credited both sides for understanding the challenges that both were facing in the coming years and remembering that we all needed to win in order for the industry to prosper.  A peaceful negotiation with positive results for all definitely gets on my 10 Best list.

7.  Broadway doesn’t just mean Broadway.

Million Dollar Quartet and Rent followed the Avenue Q model in 2011 and opened Off-Broadway at New World Stages.  Ladies and Gentlemen, we officially have a trend.  A trend, by the way, which is responsible for employing hundreds of people and entertaining thousands.  I’m waiting for a small, artistic, play to try it next.

8.  Not so funny.  But maybe smart.

The much anticipated Broadway revival of Funny Girl surprised everyone this year by pulling the plug even before their LA engagement.  But with a $12mm revival and one of the most crowded revival seasons in recent history, this could have been a very shrewd business move.  It’s hard to cancel a show, especially since as theater people we’re all so emotionally attached to what we produce.  But you have to look at the landscape, and use your gut.  If you don’t think it’s going to work out, then it’s best you wait for a better time and focus on something else.

9.  The Tony Awards move Uptown, and they were actually good!

Thanks to a Kick-A performance by host Neil Patrick Harris, and the more intimate venue, this year’s broadcast was first class.  Ratings remained relatively flat over the prior year, but hey, that’s like breaking even in Vegas – it’s a win in my book!

10.  Godspell opens on Broadway.

This one is personal.  🙂  Godspell, the first ever crowd-funded Broadway musical, opened in November, thanks to the hard work and support of hundreds and hundreds of people from all over the world.


What was your biggest Broadway memory from 2011?  Comment below!


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But Mom, Chicago has it! Why can’t we?

Yessiree, that sound you hear is me whining so hard you serve me with a glass of chablis and a side of brie.

I know, I know, a whiner is not very flattering, but look at what one of my Chicago-born staffers found right off the Magnificent Mile in Chi-town!  When you see it, you’ll be whining too!

Yep, that’s right, downtown Chicago has Ticketmaster ATMs (Automated Ticket Machines).  Aren’t they pretty?  Easy to use and easy to put in any location, these machines not only make purchasing tickets for theater easier, but their simple existence helps remind people that live theater exists.  It helps keep buying a ticket to the theater “top of mind”.

I want one!  I want one!

But NYC shouldn’t have one.

We should have several.

Imagine ATMs like these in locations like Rockefeller Plaza, Empire State Building, the Staten Island Ferry, subway stations, NYU, big hotels,  etc.  This could be one of the easiest ways to sell more tickets and at the prices we want.  Put full price tickets in more places than discount tickets, and slowly but surely, we might start to gain some traction.

And speaking of traction . . . putting official ticketing sources in more places, and slowly but surely, we might also make a dent in the broker business that has been scooping up customers off the web faster than we can say “service fee”.

I know this idea makes some people nervous . . . but honestly, this is a simple one that will sell us more tickets.  And I’m not even saying these suckers should be in box offices, so no jobs are threatened.

But they should be around the city.  And when they add to our bottom line, we can all toast with a real glass of wine.


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Movies down. Broadway up.

I’ll admit it, sometimes I get a little jealous of our sister industry out there in La-La Land.  After all, it’s easy to think that Hollywood’s older but smaller brother known as Broadway has it a lot tougher in today’s economic and cultural market.

But do we?

According to the end of year figures released from Tinseltown, they’ve got trouble with a capital B that stands for Box Office.

According to this NY Times article, Hollywood’s gross box office receipts are down $500 mil, or about 4.5%.  And attendance has dropped a gruesome 5.3%, which, combined with the 6% drop the industry saw in 2010, equals a double digit drop that makes our recent attendance woes seem trivial.

A 10% drop in attendance in 2 years?  Somebody should lose their job over that.

Why the decline?  There are a lot of reasons, of course, and I’m not an expert on the business of film.  But from a bird’s-eye view, I chalk it up to a lack of scarcity.  Movies are everywhere now.  You can download, stream, rip, drip just about anything . . . . on your TV, laptop, iPhone, iPad, kneepad . . . whenever, wherever.  The two dimensional form of entertainment is here in abundance.  The market is saturated.

You know what isn’t everywhere?

Broadway.  Live entertainment.  First class, limited seating, a different experience every night, theater.

Sure, all of the things I just mentioned above are the same things that make our industry so challenging.  But they are also what make it more rare.

And maybe, just maybe, the unfortunate decline in the stock price of Hollywood means that what we’re selling is on the way up.

I’m bullish Broadway.  The Producer’s Perspective says:  Strong Buy.


(Got a comment?  I love ’em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)



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