In defense of all the names above our titles.

I thought we were done with these jokes.

But just the other day I heard an industry pro . . . a writer, mind you . . . make a “How many names above-the-title does it take to produce a Broadway show?” type crack.

And look, I get it.  There are some shows that have a small army of names up there.  And that’s a lot different from the early days of Broadway where one Merrick-like name sat on top of a title like a crown.

Why did this all come about?

The answer is as simple as who is going to win the Tony Award for Best Musical this year.  Ticket prices have gotten a lot more expensive since the days of Merrick.  And so have Broadway shows.

More expense means more risk.  More risk means Broadway Producers have had to add value for larger investors to get them to write bigger checks.  That value has come in the form of a title, which means Tony Award eligibility, and so on.

The “show heard ’round the world” that had everyone talking about this topic (and crackin’ one-liners) was actually the original Spring Awakening.  Because of the subject matter, the unique nature of the show itself, and that scene where sex between teenagers was actually simulated on stage (nudity included), Spring Awakening was a risky, risky endeavor.  So the Producers gave some titles away to make sure that show actually saw a Broadway stage.

Now let me ask you . . . wasn’t it worth having a few more names on the Playbill to ensure that Spring Awakening was born?  Would that jokester I referenced at the top of this blog rather that the show didn’t happen altogether?

We shouldn’t be making jokes about those folks who are taking such great risk to make sure great art gets done.  We should be thanking them, praising them, and doing whatever we can to make sure they continue to invest in and support what we do.  There are other industries and art forms that would be happy to welcome those folks to their worlds who are a lot more embracing than we are.

So let me take this opportunity to say thank you to all of the folks that have been above my titles . . . and to all the folks who have been above the titles of any Broadway show.  Thank you.

And if you’re producing a show, I don’t care how many names you have above your title (and if you’re producing a Broadway show, sometimes it can actually help to have more names – if more of them are Tony Voters!) . . . but I do care about one thing in regards to those names.

Which I’ll talk about tomorrow.


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  • Frank says:

    I admire you for trying to defend this practice, but I’m still not buying what you’re selling.

    It makes logical sense that everyone wants credit for the work that they do, heck… that’s the whole reason that Playbills even exist, but seriously, there is no need to clutter more what is already an over saturated space. If it is completely necessary as you claim, then the system would appear to be broken. It’s become more about having your name on what may or may not be the next big thing, so that you can parley that into your next gig.

  • I rather agree with Frank on this one–everyone wants credit; but I do want to point out that “Spring Awakening” was born not on Broadway, but with fierce success at the Atlantic Theatre.

  • Randy says:

    Those people existed in the Golden Age of Broadway, as well. I believe they were called “Angels” and they loved theatre (and all sorts of arts) and were happy to apply their wealth to the promotion and support of it…as investors. I would love to have the financial wherewithal to help (significantly) fund theatre. And I would know that what I was doing was being an investor, not a producer. There is a distinct difference. I does seem like ego-stroking with titles has become de rigueur. I’m not in the room when these deals are made, so I don’t know, but that is the perception.

  • RICK says:

    ……And if you’re producing a show, I don’t care how many names you have above your title

    Ken, I would be happy, content, and elated,… to just have that problem …with my Musical!!…Just saying!…

  • Randy says:

    Just looked back at your 2014 post re: the discussions about possibly having two different types of Tony awards for different levels of producer. I see now that above the title credits go to people who are not merely investors as I was thinking, but who serve as financial aggregators. I still maintain, though, that such a function alone, though vital, does not warrant full “Producer” credit.

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