My theory on casting: someone for everyone.

Ken Davenport, Broadway, Off-Broadway, Theater, Theatre, Producer I was recently asked about my theory on casting shows, especially when considering stars.  Do I like one big blockbuster name?  Or do I like to cast a "package" of lesser known names, but more of them?  

In other words, if casting my show was like roulette, do I put my millions on one number, or do I spread it around?

Ideally, the way that I like to approach casting is the "buffet approach," which means there is someone in the cast that appeals to the many different demographics that might end up at my show.  The more groups I can appeal to, the more potential there is for ticket sales.

For example, let's say my lead actor is someone that appeals to the primary 45+ female Broadway demo.  I'm in great shape, right?  So when considering who I'll cast around that lead, I might look for someone that appeals to the husbands of those 45+ females.  So, when the female says to husband, "I wanna go see Ken's Show," the husband is more inclined to say yes.

But don't stop there. Maybe there's another name I can find that will appeal to a teen demographic.  And maybe someone that can appeal to the teen's grandmother.  And all of a sudden, I have a show that four people want to see, so the wife says, "Let's bring the whole family," and I've sold 4 tickets instead of 1.  

The buffet approach . . . where no one goes hungry because there's an actor to satisfy everyone.

Of course, all of this calculation about casting must occur after asking yourself the following and most important question about casting anyone . . .

"Will they be any good?"

Because at the end of the day, you may get butts in seats with a certain name or with a package of names, but if they disappoint their audience, you'll be disappointed when you see your grosses. 

 

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Comments
  • Tim Austin says:

    What are your thoughts on casting complete unknowns? Is this something that you do personally or do you cast around for “names” first and foremost?

  • rageoffstage says:

    And that’s how you ended up with Catherine Zeta-Jones instead of Hannah Waddingham in the transfer of ‘A little Night Music’. We find that the trouble with this approach in the UK is that many of the ‘names’ that are cast in the West End did not get their fame through having talent on the stage or even in Musicals. Hence the Lincoln Center production of South Pacific which is transferring to the UK will now star Samantha Womack, an actress who is well-known from TV here, most recently the soap EastEnders. Well, we’ve crossed that one off our to-do list. We have many talented musical theatre performers but due to the ‘franchise’ approach to musicals, they tend to remain anonymous, while inexperienced and less talented contestants in TV casting shows become the ‘names’ that sell a show. It’s all very well using star names, but how will you nurture the stars of the future when they never get a look-in. If you want a perfect illustration of where this can lead, see our post on the casting of the ‘Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert’. We’re with William Goldman on this one – ‘nobody knows anything’.

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Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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