One. Singular sensational vision.

I was lunching at Orso the other day (doesn’t that sound posh?) and my dining partner-in-posh made an astute observation that I thought you all should hear/read.

We were discussing how the recent trend of granting more and more producers seats at the decision-making table may be having a detrimental effect on the shows being produced.  In most cases, more voices, equal more noise, and less action.  Lead Producers can spend hours upon hours massaging egos, managing expectations and more, rather than thinking about how to market their shows better, or negotiating better deals with vendors, and so on.

It was then that my lunchmate spoke up and said, “When you think about it . . . the most successful shows ever have had one clearly defined Producer with one clearly defined vision.”

We proceeded to rattle off some titles that quickly verified his theory.

I wanted to test it out a little more specifically before presenting it to you.  So, I went to the Wikipedia entry form the longest running shows of all time.

Here are the top 10.

  1. Phantom of the Opera
  2. Cats
  3. Les Miz
  4. A Chorus Line
  5. Oh, Calcutta!
  6. Chicago
  7. The Lion King
  8. Beauty and the Beast
  9. Rent
  10. Miss Saigon

And before you can say “multi-billion dollar grosses,” here are their corresponding Producers:

  1. Cameron Mackintosh
  2. Cameron Mackintosh
  3. Cameron Mackintosh
  4. Joe Papp
  5. Hillard Elkins
  6. Barry & Fran Weissler
  7. Disney
  8. Disney
  9. Kevin McCollum & Jeffrey Seller
  10. Cameron Mackintosh

You see what I mean?  With the exception of the exception (Calcutta), this list of 10 is a collection of strong, visionary, leaders who may take a few people along for the ride, but they never let anyone else even get close to the wheel.

And I would argue that it’s that determination and visionary fortitude that helped get their show one this Wiki-list.

There are even more examples of this trend with big hit shows that haven’t cracked this top 10 yet:  Mamma Mia and Judy Craymer, Jersey Boys and Michael David, and Wicked and David Stone.

So for those of you out there desperate for partners at an early stage of developing your project, be careful.

Look, I know what it’s like to need money.  But just remember, if you take it, you may have to sacrifice more than you want to in exchange.  And by doing so, you may just short-change your show.

And then you’ll never get a table at Orso!

  • Kevin McAnarney says:

    These are the producers of “Oh Calcutta”
    Produced by Hillard Elkins, Norman Kean and Robert S. Fishko
    And it was mainly Norman Kean who kept it runnning and setting the record.

  • A singular vision, yes. A singular producer vision? Maybe not.
    Except for the Disney shows, I believe these are all writer/composer generated projects.
    I think the basic point is good though: nothing great is ever created by a large committee. Singular writer vision, singular director vision, and yes singular producer vision all working on something they are passionate about is probably the right path. Unless one of them is mostly passionate about their ego. : )

  • Rachel says:

    I’d let Cameron Mackintosh treat me to a nice posh lunch at Orso (and not even during the summer-long restaurant “week”).

  • Agree with Jay, here. The fewer hands in the pot, the better; and while this is true well beyond the commercial theatre, it’s (obviously) easier to have a cohesive vision of a show with fewer, rather than more, people.
    – Tim Childs

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