Why I decided to be a Producer on . . .

Last week, I tweased (tweeted + teased) that I’d be signing up to produce a show on Broadway this spring.

And that show is . . . Kinky Boots!

I’m thrilled to be playing a part in bringing this brand spankin’ new musical to Broadway, fresh from its very successful Chicago tryout last Fall.

A tryout that I saw and fell in love with, right?

Nope.  I didn’t see it.

So why am I producing it?

Since this blog is about opening up the Broadway process, I thought I’d explain my process.

Well, of course I’ve read the script (3x through) and of course I’ve let other folks I  know and trust read the script (3 friends actually), and of course I’ve done the same with the music, and the reviews and all the materials that I could get my hands on, and even talked to a bunch of theatergoers who did see that tryout.

And of course everything I looked at and everything I read was all great.

But what really inspired me to get involved with Kinky Boots was the first W.

What the W is the first W?

See, my decision making process (and the one that I teach in this seminar), involves taking a cue from journalism school and asking myself the Five Ws:  Who, What, When, Where, Why (. . . and the 6th bonus H of “How Much”).

I go through every W and make a list of the reasons to get involved (or not).  And in the case of Kinky, I didn’t have to get past the first W:  Who.

Let me start at the top.  Daryl Roth and Hal Luftig (who I learned so much from when I was the Company Manger of his Thoroughly Modern Millie) are two of the classiest Producers I know, with a great eye for great art as well as an eye on the bottom line, to ensure that investors are constantly top of mind.

Then we get to those writers . . . like the Tony Award winning Harvey Fierstein (who is one of the few authors that could make a living just from writing books to musicals) and the Grammy Award winning Cyndi Lauper (!) who even when she was writing pop hits, she was also writing story songs with characters.

And then, put them with Master Director-Choreographer Jerry Mitchell who I’ve known since my days as a PA on the Pre-Broadway tour of Grease (that starred Rosie O’Donnell, a pre-Will & Grace Megan Mullaly, and more), who not only knows how to tell a great story on stage, but knows how to make a musical move with incredible style.  And, like the others on the team, Jerry is just a great human being (how much has the Jerry-inspired Broadway Bares donated to BC/EFA again?)

Oh, and then there’s the star Billy Porter, who I heard blow the roof off the joint when JRB’s Songs from a New World was developing.  He too was in that Grease, and when I watched him on stage at the age of 20, I remember thinking, “I’d pay money to see that guy perform anytime, anywhere.”  And I think other people will think that too.

I could go on and on with more of those Ws, but I think you get the point, which is this . . .

Early in my career I was pitching a show to a mentor of mine and I said, “So, will you invest in this project?”  And he said, “Ken, I don’t invest in projects.  I invest in people.”

Kinky Boots is an incredible project . . . but I’m going to produce it first and foremost because of its incredible people.

As always, I’ll keep you updated as this process continues.

Oh, and you can get your Kinky Boots tickets here.


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



– Come to my Producer’s Perspective social on 12/20!  Click here to RSVP!

– Win 2 tickets to see Grace on Broadway.  Click here!

  • Tamra says:

    I flew to Chicago to see this, very exciting!

  • Steven U says:

    Billy Porter is amazing! He was in my production of Dreamgirls in LA and won an Ovation Award for his performance.

  • Congrats, Ken. This one is interesting. I keep wishing Cyndi Lauper was in it. I remember a PBS special where she played an usher singing “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and she was awesome. Harvey Fierstein was in that special too, singing “Do You Love Me?” I wonder if that’s where they met.

  • YAY! I already have my tickets and can’t wait…tried to get to Chicago, but no luck. I often make theatre-going decisions based on “Who”…but not just the actors…the creative team as well; e.g., I knew I’d love the music in Pippin w/Charlie at the helm 🙂 And a choreographer I love will be a deciding factor too… All the best with your “new shoes” :)!

  • Margie says:


    So don’t we get to invest with you on this?

  • Christine Ward says:

    Congratulations Ken! Looking forward to reading about your journey on this blog and seeing the show!
    Christine Ward (Danny Ward’s mom- Godspell Cast of 2032)

  • Brian Estwick says:

    out of full respect i’d have to differ quite strongly with your philosophy and methodology for picking producer projects – and here is my argument:
    deciding to back projects based upon personalities and individuals – regardless of their level of talent and integrity – is exceedingly risky as examples abound – both in theater and in film – where exceptional individuals – again, in talent and/or integrity – get caught up for myriad reasons in projects which turn out to be extremely unsuccessful – this happens more often than you might think – i certainly am in concert with you on always trying to work with solid people in both talent and integrity – however a)that can blind one to the actual nature of the project, in terms of its quality and possibility of success and b)it dilutes what in my view is THE important focus point of the top-level producer: selecting the PROJECT which is most likely to reap the rewards sought, be they financial, creative, popular or whatever…you’ll understand, of course, that i say this with complete respect – but i would highly suggest, in this particular case and others like it, that, IN ADDITION to your appropriate concern for the quality of the persons involved, that you actually see the show and therefore make an even better, more personally accurate determination of whether or not the show will be, in your view, a success.. .quite frankly, sometimes the most successful, acclaimed shows come out of, regrettably, some not-so-enjoyed working relationships – in other words, are we looking for great friends and associates or to produce great shows? it’s great when these two things combine into single experiences but, at least in my view, though the former is pleasant and enjoyed, the latter is the producers real goal…thanks BAE

  • Brian P says:

    Congratulations. Saw Kinky Boots in Chicago and enjoyed it a lot. I suspect you’ll be successful at selling this show on Broadway.

    PS – I hope you keep the “turn off your cell phone” bit at the beginning of the show – the best one yet.

  • Clair Sedore says:

    I agree totally with your thought processes, it is indeed the people one should invest in, although audiences sometimes let producers down, like with Member of the Wedding, the wonderful Fierstein musical, which did not last long due to lack of people. Part of the reason of course is the high prices especially when the entire evening lasts about 90 minutes. Also loved your Thoroughly Modern Millie…sure wish you all the best with Kinky Boots, and if I had money yours is the type of investments I would make.
    All best wishes for a joyous holiday season,
    Clair Sedore

  • Andrew says:

    I may have to agree with Brian on this one. On paper, everything looks great. These are truly some “heavy hitters” in the Broadway community on the artistic and production side. My concern with this project is the timing. It is yet another film turned into a musical. Broadway just visited the similarly themed “La Cage Aux Folles” and “Priscilla Queen of the Desert.” Are we ready now for more people in drag giving us a story of tolerance and acceptance? For your sake, I hope so.

  • Michael says:

    Seems like this would have brought you right into a project like “The Anarchist”. Just sayin’.

  • LOVED the movie. It had “this would make a great stage musical” written all over it already! Congrats to everyone involved.

  • Cass levey says:

    This story is inspiring and I love that someone once told you to invest in people.

    I am reading more and more of this blog and it is helping me remember why I am in theater in the first place.

    I am now going to go look into Kinky Boots. I have only heard whispers about it but hearing your story behind believing in it has made me want to learn about it.

    Your passion is very infectious and wonderful!!

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