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).

Enjoy!

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!

 

(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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15 Responses to My Top 10 Broadway Moments from 2011

  1. Michael DiGaetano says:

    I was quite taken by the final performance of La Cage with Doug and Kelsey. It was very emotional. When the stars made their first entrances, the audience stood and both men had to pause, gather themselves and re-enter. It shows that a family really is formed during a long run.

  2. Andrea says:

    The “Chicago Facebook Fan Day” was truly a treat. I didn’t expect to enjoy the long-running musical as much as I did. The fact that other Broadway shows have not caught on to this whole “Facebook” thing astounds me. Not only did I see a great show (in exchange for telling 10 of my facebook friends), but the producers had the last laugh because I’m STILL telling my friends about it!

  3. Eric Grunin says:

    Sondheim has been quoted as saying that he intends to see Porgy and Bess.

  4. San D says:

    War Horse at Lincoln Center. Oh what fantasy a few bits of cane and leather can make. I was blown away by the horses, and the production.

  5. Ascottfalk says:

    Are you forgetting about THE 39 STEPS re-opening Off-Broadway for an extended run, after running at three different Broadway venues (The AA, the Cort, and the Helen Hayes)? The show ran for three years, minus a brief hiatus or 3, two years of that on Broadway and 9 months at New World Stages.

  6. Sue says:

    I was a lucky winner of a ticket to “Chicago the Musical Facebook Fan Day” last January. And then I wrote a brief essay and was awarded VIP status!! Along with 11 other VIPs, all Broadway fanatics, we were treated to lunch at B. Smith’s with Chicago stars Bianca Marroquin and Tony-nominated Colman Domingo (for Scottsboro Boys). Some of Barry Weisler’s staff came along as well, to photograph us and hand out goody bags. We were taken by limousine to the Chicago performance where we had our red carpet moment. Then we were led to our VIP seats. I sat directly behind Chita Rivera! We all became FB friends and are planning our first reunion. I filled an entire scrapbook with the memories of that event.

  7. Bryan David says:

    “ 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.”
    -Ken Davenport; Davenport Theatricals (“GODSPELL”)
    “I’m waiting for a small, artistic, play to try it next.” Really? A small artistic play you say?
    Humm…
    “Wilde About Me!” ©
    The Life, Loves & Lawsuits
    of:
    Oscar Wilde! ™
    © Copyright 2010 Bryan David/Brandon Kress
    All Rights Reserved
    http://www.myspace.com/wildaboutme05

  8. Bruce says:

    I saw 18 Broadway shows in 2011 and have only one thing to say…”FOLLIES.”

  9. bobby lee says:

    I’ve enjoyed BC/EFA’s BROADWAY BACKWARDS every year — but the 2011 edition was, for me, the best yet. It was in a smaller venue than before (the Longacre) but the relative intimacy made each number land even more potently. Also, the direction and musicianship (pacing, stage management, conducting, the band, arrangements) were exceptionally good. And the piece de resistance for me was Tony Yazbeck’s performance of “Music and the Mirror” from A CHORUS LINE. He did it full out, including the verbatim dialogue with Zach and no noticeable adjustment in the choreography — and it was done in a perfectly straightforward manner (no camping it up or winking at the audience). It was absolutely thrilling to see a man do that number (for the first time ever?).
    And let’s give a shout out in general to all the fundraisers that BC/EFA puts on throughout the year (Gypsy of the Year, Broadway Barks, Broadway Bares, Easter Bonnet, et al). They all seem to get better every year — and raise more $$$ each year as well.
    P.S. Re your #5: When you’re referring in abbreviated way to Coca Cola it’s always capital “C” Coke. Lower case coke is short for cocaine. (Lower case “c” for generic cola is OK, however :=)

  10. Ksenia Roshchakovsky says:

    Seeing BENGAL TIGER AT THE BAGHDAD ZOO by Rajiv Joseph on Broadway. It was magical, hilarious and poignant. Opening night was capped off by seeing my friend onstage hugging his cast and director at curtain call.

  11. Evelyn says:

    The shows I saw this year were phenomenal, but for me, there’s only one item on my best of this year–the Godspell flash mob! What a hoot! We made history and had the time of our lives. A big shoutout to all you fellow mobsters!

  12. David Merrick Jr says:

    Ken, you mean seven digits for FOLLIES, not six.

  13. Cam says:

    I saw a lot of shows this year: operas, musicals, symphonys, ballets. The show I saw that was Broadway was Rock of Ages in Seattle. I thought it was a lot of fun!

  14. terryholzman says:

    Unfortunately I couldn’t get to Broadway this year from LA and had to live Broadway vicariously through friends and reviews. But I did have a “Broadway moment” and that was being part of the crowd-funded revival of “Godspell” and what fun it was reading all of Ken’s blogs/emails about the progress of the show and being a small part of something big. “Godspell” is at the top of my list when I do get to NYC in spring 2012.

  15. John Kunich says:

    My vote goes to Douglas Hodge, whose incandescent performance of “I Am What I Am” night after night outshone all the lights on Broadway. If I have a second vote, it is for the cast of “Wicked,” who, through all the changes in personnel, always transformed their audience for the better, and for good. My third vote (seriously???) is for Daniel Radcliffe, who defied the ancient axiom about never letting them see you sweat, and poured himself with exuberant joy into his splendid realization of J. Pierpont Finch. Daniel, I believe in you.

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