Secret-1A distinguished member of the press recently asked me for my thoughts on developing product for Broadway, and the ingredients that make a million-dollar-a-week-show.

While sure, I’m a big believer in market research, and understanding who your audience is, and what they want to see, and trying to meet and exceed their expectations.

The big secret to creating a gi-normous, box-office busting, Broadway smash?

Ready?

There is none.

Anyone who tells you they can sit down and write a hit is full of something that rhymes with hit but doesn’t smell as good.

You just can’t do it.  People can tell you that they can engineer it, but they’re wrong.

You think Da Vinci sat down and said, “I’m going to paint a picture of a woman with a half-smirk that people will talk about for centuries!”

You think Hemingway sat down and said, “Yep.  An Old Man.  The Sea.  Better open up the cash drawer and make some room, because this one is going to be a gusher.”

You think R&H sat down and said, “Oh yeah, this Oklahoma thing is going to make us so much money we’re going to be able to buy . . . well . . . Oklahoma!”

Artists write what they love, and what they want other people to love.  They write what they are passionate about.  Period.

And a Producer has to do the same thing.  While sure, it’s hard when you’ve got people’s jobs on the line (including yours), to not think about “what could I produce that would be a hit?”  But since that never works, why bother?

Here’s my mission.

Produce like Da Vinci painted.  Like Hemingway wrote.  Like R&H dreamed.  Produce what you love, what inspires you, and what you want to inspire others.  You’ll be proud, instead of pandering.

And whether or not people it’s a “hit”, when you’re done with one project, find another one and do it again.

 

(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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11 Responses to The secret to producing a big fat hit Broadway show.

  1. Amy says:

    You said it. Again.

  2. Landon Shaw says:

    You are simply amazing! I love your blog and think you are simply the best. I certainly hope I have the honor and pleasure of working with you someday VERY soon!

  3. Cam says:

    Well you could do that, but none of their creations made them much if any money during their lifetime. The majority were poor all their lives unless they had a rich father to fund them including Van Gogh.
    What you could do though is invite someone like me to your reading worshop because I’m just as realistic as Stephen when it comes to smash hits. I’m a pretty good writer too. :-)

  4. MomsThoughts says:

    I am curious to know how often or to what extent a producer will get involved in the creative aspect of a show? Do producers completely trust the creative genius of the playwright or does a producer have influence in this? Is it ever appropriate to interfere with an artists art? Or does the producer have to have absolute faith in the artists/creators vision?

  5. Matt says:

    Amen, brother!

  6. Just when I think I’m going to give up on my dreams of producing theater I read one of your post and it puts me back on track. When are you coming to chicago again or doing a webcast of one of your seminars?.

  7. Right on the nail, Ken! It’s reassuring to know that there are people who understand that art is only art if it comes from the heart. I recall an interview with Tomi Ungerer, the brilliant writer and illustrator of children’s books, in which the interviewer asked him how he went about aiming a book for a particular age-group, like, say five-year-olds, as opposed to three-year-olds. Ungerer replied something like: “I don’t know what you are talking about. I write every book for myself, and if someone else likes it, that’s wonderful.” This pronouncement of his resonates with me. And clearly with you. Thanks for bringing it back into focus.

  8. Barbara Beckley says:

    Perfect. You are brilliant.

  9. John Kunich says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Ken. As Bob Dylan said long ago, “You can’t please everyone, so you might as well please yourself.” I think that if you do exactly that, writing something that thrills you to your core, what you produce will have the best possible chance of moving others as well. That’s the closest I’ve ever found to a genuine and effective secret in creativity.

  10. RICHARD SEFF says:

    KEN YOU ARE SO RIGHT. SOME OF THE BIGGEST HITS LOOKED LIKE THE BIGGEST LOSERS JUST BEFORE THEY OPENED. I.E.
    ‘ANY WEDNESDAY’, ‘BYE BYE BIRDIE’, ‘THE GREEN PASTURES’, ‘ANGEL STREET’ (ADVANCE SALE ABOUT $50 WHEN IT OPENED TWO DAYS BEFORE PEARL HARBOR). WHICH IS WHY I CONTINUE TO LOVE ‘SHINE!’ THE MUSICAL, AND WISH ONLY THAT YOU SHARED OUR VISION. YOUR COMMENTS WERE ON THE NOSE, AND WELCOME.

  11. Matt says:

    You found the secret Ken….
    Passion!
    Thanks for the reminder.

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