Podcast Episode 100 Transcript – David Stone
Ken: Hello, everybody, and welcome to a very special episode of ‘The Producer’s Perspective Podcast.’ You know why? So two reasons – First, this is our 100th episode. Insert trumpet sounds here. It has been almost two years since I asked myself, “I wonder if the leaders of our industry would come talk to me about the business, and let me record it.” Obviously, they have, and we have had 99 of them so far. And I have loved them so much. I have learned so much in this process and based on the number of subscribers and listeners out, there you have all enjoyed them as much as I have. So thank you so much for helping us get to 100. Second reason today’s episode is very special is because of our guest today. He is, without a doubt, one of the best independent producers out there, and I have been after him to do this podcast for a while. And he finally agreed. Please welcome to the podcast Broadway producer David Stone. Welcome David.
David: Hi Ken.
Ken: So David is a producer of ‘Spelling Bee,’ ‘Three Days of Rain’ with Julia Roberts, the Pulitzer Prize winning ‘Next to Normal,’ ‘If / Then,’ and the upcoming ‘War Paint’ with Patti and Christine. I only have to say their first names. And he is also the producer that little show you have never heard of, one that has been one of the highest grossing shows on Broadway for over a decade, ‘Wicked.’ So, David, before ‘Wicked,’ how did you get started in the theater?
David: I started really young. I went to a performing arts summer camp called ‘French Woods,’ and a lot of people that I work with now, I actually met when I was a kid. And it was really– you know, I knew then that this was my group, this was my tribe, and this was who I needed to be with. You know, we are sitting here actually the morning after the morning where the election actually didn’t go the way we thought and hoped, and I was reminded last night— especially— I went to see Christine and chat with– do her Broadway concert, and it was the right place to be. She was very aware of the moment. Jason Brown whom I actually went to camp with wrote a song for this moment and how we were feeling. And I think that this group– it’s cliché to talk about the theater community, but it is. And I have every bit of strength I have, in this business, is because of the people that have lifted me up and moved me forward. And I am so lucky that I got to be, that I got to grow up in this community. And yesterday and last night really proved that. We have taken care of each other, and especially through these next few years, we have to.
Ken: What was, besides being in that tribe when you were a kid, what was specifically about the theater that you were drawn to, and why producing? If you were– you were an actor?
David: I was an actor and a director. And I did a lot of plays and musicals— and even through college— and I didn’t think that I wanted to live the life of an actor, not necessarily. I thought it was a rough road, and I didn’t think that I was talented enough. But I got a job while I was at an internship, in between my junior and senior years of college, at Jujamcyn theaters. I was doing an independent study on that in my senior year, and that is why I did this internship. And it was this summer that a guy named Dick Wolf was leaving, and Rocco Landesman was coming in. So I got to see this real sea change of new Broadway happening when Rocco came in— it’s not new Broadway. It was a long time ago now. It is 29 years, but then when I was graduating, Howard Logart, who was the General Manager there, introduced me to few offices. And I got a couple of job offers, but I decided I wanted to work in commercial theater. And I worked with Barry and Fran Weissler right out of college, and I got to learn at an old-fashioned apprenticeship. I really got to see every side of it. I worked probably 14 hours a day, and I had no life. But I really– they took me under their wings and taught me, and I learned a lot of things to do and of course, as you do with mentor’s or parents, a lot of things not to do and things that I would do differently. And it wasn’t that I got bit by the bug, because that probably happened earlier, is that I understood that this was a place for me in producing. That I could– that I could express myself through the shows that I did, but also that, you know, I thought I would be good at.
Ken: Any great advice you got way back in the day that you still remember– that you still quote Barry or Rocco?
David: No, I think it wasn’t so much advice as I watched what– the way Barry knew every detail, and the way Fran talked to the creative teams and asked. I think that, you know, I can draw a straight line from the way Barry would market shows and think about how to communicate what he wanted to say by the show to the public. So there is a straight line that I could draw from learning that from him to, specifically, to ‘The Vagina Monologues’ or ‘Wicked’ and how to sort of push something out into the world.
Ken: In a sentence what is a producer’s job?
David: A producer’s job is to be the small business owner of a small business, but also to be the cheerleader, and a psychiatrist, and Jewish mother, and everything to do with making sure the artists have what they need to make something great. And then taking it, and I don’t mean ‘exploiting’ in a bad way, but exploiting it and pushing it out into the world.
Ken: Has that changed since you were an apprentice back until what you do today?
David: No, I think there are– the essential job of producing is the same. I think there are many more people that are producers. There are always, you know, one or two lead producers on a show, and that hasn’t changed. I think the size of things, the numbers involved are obviously very different, and the shows make more money than ever before. They lose more money than ever before. The risks are just greater, but the process is still I think the same.
Ken: What was your first show that you produced?
David: I produced show when I was 27. I produced ‘Family Secrets’ which ran Off-Broadway in the Westside Theater for about a year and a half and then toured. And my first Broadway show was a year after that, which was ‘What’s Wrong With This Picture?’ John Martin who had just come off ‘Sight Unseen,’ and Joe Mantello was just leaving ‘Angels in America’ as an actor, and this was his first Broadway show. Faith Prince had just won the Tony Award for ‘Guys and Dolls.’ I had this little Off-Broadway hit– and it closed in a week.
Ken: A week?
David: A week.
Ken: So your first show, you come out– you come out to bat, and you smack it out of the park and Off-Broadway wise.
David: Yeah. Yeah.
Ken: And then you got to graduate to the bigger leagues. How did you feel after that show closed in a week? What was that like for you?
David: Well, I talked with the theater community. The morning the reviews came out– and they were terrible. I got calls from Joel Grey, and Jimmy Nederlander, and Arthur Laurents, and James Lapine, people that I had worked with, Jimmy, who was an investor to the show and works at the Brooks Atkinson Theater. And they all said, “Now you are producing.” And Jimmy said, “It is easy to have a hit. It is easy to have a flop. The hardest thing to do is to have a hit after a flop. You have to get back up and do that.” I had a hit, and I had a flop, so I have to keep going. But knowing that that actually is what made me part of the club was interesting. You know failure is– I don’t love the word failure, but ‘not success,’ anyway, is common in this business when 7 of 10 shows don’t recoup. And people aren’t as afraid of failures as they are [inaudible]. So I think that it didn’t– it made me want to continue knowing that these are the people that are supporting me and have had it themselves.
Ken: You obviously found a great number of hits after that, and we were going to get to the big ones. But ‘The Vagina Monologues’ which was not too far after that. How was it?
David: That was in ’99. In between these first two shows I did ‘Full Gallop,’ I did ‘The Santaland Diaries,’ and I did ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ on Broadway with Natalie Portman when she was 16 and James Lapine directed that. And then ‘Fully Committed’ and ‘The Vagina Monologues’ were both in ’99.
Ken: Lots of Off-Broadway. Why? Why were you focused on that?
David: Because I– this was when commercial Off-Broadway was still healthy, and you and I have talked about this before, but you know you could make a living, a good living in many cases doing commercial Off-Broadway. And I kept going from Off-Broadway to Broadway, and then it didn’t work. So I ran back to Off-Broadway, and it did work. And then I probably did go to Broadway, and then finally I did. So I haven’t been back to Off-Broadway in a while, but I miss it. And the happiest I think I ever was, you know, doing the ‘The Vagina Monologues’ because it was this enormous financial success, artistic success that changed the culture. We had one seven companies across the country, and no one even knew in the industry that this was happening this way. And we were just under the radar in a way that Broadway can’t be. Broadway, the scrutiny is so high, and this was– it was fun. And we were raising tens of millions of dollars for charity through V-Day, and in a small way, changing the culture and changing the world. And I have never had something that was both as much fun, and it meant so much.
Ken: One of the things that I really admire about what you do, and some of the other top tier independent producers do in this business, is that you are very good at so many aspects of what a producer needs to do– creative development, marketing. You and the touring market, what you did with ‘The Vagina Monologues,’ and of course, ‘Wicked’ later, so you have a renaissance number of skills. If you could only pick one of those skills, you are going to lose everything, and you could only keep one of them going forward, which one would you keep. In other words, what is the most important thing for a producer today?
David: I still think it’s making the right choice, and I have come in on some shows late in the process where I have just seen something and said, “Great! I’ll move it from here to there, and we’ll just do it.” And some I’ve come in the middle of the process, when they’re already writing, in some of the early stages and commissioned it. But it is the most fun to shape a show. But, you know, the thing that I have always been confused by, within the industry, is how many people say to me, “So, you know, what are you working on?” and I say, “Well, you know I have lots of ‘Wickeds’ all around the world”. “Yeah, but what are you doing? What are you working on?” “Well I work on ‘Wicked.’ It takes most of my days still.” So even when I do these new shows, and I have to, because if I was only running a show and only running ‘Wicked’ around the world, then it would– that would– you know I’d fall into a rut. But if I do new shows and using that side of my brain, it helps the ‘Wicked’ side of my brain and running the show helps the being in production side. But I think there is not enough respect given, and this is not just like justifying my day, but I think that there is not enough respect given to– to what it is to run the show. And that is the name of the game is running a show. That is where the profit is. That is where the people’s employment is: the responsibility I feel for all the people who work in ‘Wicked’ week after week after week around the country and around the world. It is fun. It is more glamorous to open shows but you got to pay just as much attention to it.
Ken: That is the big difference of course between us and movies, right? They shoot a movie, they put it out there, and then that producer doesn’t have to worry about whether the actor show up every day or what the costume replacement is.
David: Yeah. You know one of the things– and Marc Platt is my producing partner on ‘Wicked’ is primarily a film producer, and he– I mean he’s stayed involved as I talk to him through these details of ‘Wicked’ as it is going on all these years. But he has loved the movies, you know, turning the move in and then moving on to the next you know it is sort of it is exactly the opposite. There is never turning in, if we do our job well it is never over.
Ken: So one of the other things that I don’t think people realize about producers is the number of other projects that we may be working on that they may never hear about. So over the last 10 to 20 years how many projects have you had in development that have stopped or have never seen the light of day?
David: I have actually not done a lot of things that never saw the light of day. I have had situations where I have done something, you know, I did ‘Dogfight’ at Second Stage, and it got nice reviews. It certainly has been done elsewhere but not good enough, I felt, to justify the move to Broadway right then– which broke my heart. I have had shows that I couldn’t continue for some reasons that other people have taken over. I have had, you know, even a play that we were going to do that it didn’t come quite together in the way that we needed it to. So we made sure the play got done elsewhere, and it has now been licensed all over. And so I have been lucky that I have not had a lot of things that just stopped and didn’t get on stage. But there have been a few things that haven’t gone all the way to Broadway that you may ever heard off that I might have produced.
Ken: You said it right there, and absolutely, that was what I wanted to zero in on: it is so important, again something you do, obviously, so well, because you are able to separate the emotion and the business. ‘Dogfight’ broke your heart, and I saw a wonderful show– and broke your heart. But you were able to say this should not go on. What is it that allows you to say, “Okay this project isn’t right for Broadway.” How do you access that?
David: Well I think it is different for each, and it is trying to be rational when it is an emotional decision. I felt after ‘Next to Normal’ that I had done something where I said, to the sort of the critics, “Yeah, I hear you, and I am going to take everything you say into consideration. And we are going to fix this show, but I know this show is not done yet. And I am going to prove it.” I couldn’t do that two times in a row. I felt that I couldn’t say on ‘Dogfight,’ “Yeah, well I did that on ‘Next to Normal,’ and it worked out. Okay now, you know, the mixed reviews– I am going to prove you wrong.” I felt like—And another person would have been able to just say, “Yes, let us go. Let us keep working on it to make it better.” But I felt I actually was maybe too aware of what I had just done with ‘Next to Normal.’ That I felt that I, David, could do it two times in a row. But I did say to everyone, that because of the subject matter being a little– making people uneasy, that we had to get this one, you know, really as close to perfect as we could. And while you think we did get it pretty close to perfect that wasn’t the response. So I didn’t think that, you know, you don’t want to turn a success– and it was a success at Second Stage. You don’t want to turn it, I think, into a failure by moving it to Broadway and knowing it wasn’t going to work. Having said that, you know– that’s what I said on ‘Dogfight.’ I believe that was the right thing. But you know ‘Next to Normal,’ moving backwards for a second, you know, that was a success to a degree at Second Stage. And we took the risk of continuing not knowing if we would actually kill its reputation by our continuing to work, and that’s obviously not what happened. But that was a risk.
Ken: Let’s talk about that a little bit because I was going to ask you about it because it was another– such a unique, a unique model of producing that for those of us on the side went, “Whoa!” That you were at Second Stage with ‘Next to Normal,’ it got decent reviews, right? But…
David: They were encouraging, or at least, that’s what I read. And I remember after the reviews, specifically,, Ben Brantley of the ‘New York Times,’ you know, he said, “This is the future of the American musical theater.” But he also said some very critical things, and he was right. And these were things we had been talking about and just couldn’t quite get Tom and Brian to shift fast enough at Second Stage. And so I remember meeting with the cast and the creative team at the rehearsal studio at Second Stage after the reviews, and saying, “We are not going to go to Broadway.” And everyone was sad. But I said, “But I feel like we are not done. We should keep working on the show, and it will probably never come back to New York.” Because no show had been in New York, left New York, and come back to New York. And I said, “So that’s off the table. So let us not even think about that. Let’s just finish the show and put it out into the world and know that we have made the show that we intended to make.” And frankly, only ‘Wicked’ allowed me to have the freedom to say something like that. If I didn’t have ‘Wicked’ and the security of that, I wouldn’t have been able to say, “Let’s keep going on this fool’s errand.” And in fact, when ‘Next to Normal’ won the Pulitzer Prize. Ultimately. by this strange, circuitous route and taking the pressure off. The first calls I made after Tom and Brian and Michael Greif— was to Stephen Schwartz and Joe Mantello and Marc Platt– to thank them for allowing me to continue to do this sort of deal.
Ken: Well that seems like a perfect segue into the big green monster. Let’s talk a little bit about ‘Wicked’ and how it came about and why you were like, “This one. I am going to do this project. This seems like something that I want to do, and it is interesting to me.”
David: Well, I have been friends with Stephen Schwartz since the late ‘80s. I was 23 when I met him. And I met Marc Platt when he was running Universal, and I was doing ‘The Diary of Anne Frank.’ And he wanted to maybe do a movie, not necessarily a production, but a movie using the script. Anyway, I met him in the mid ‘90s, and then when Stephen and Marc and Winnie started working on the show, Stephen and Marc said, “As soon as we have a reading, you come, you should be a part of this.” So I knew what was happening even though I hadn’t seen anything yet, but I went to the reading. And I knew I would be delighted by the show because it was about the Wicked Witch of the West before she becomes the Wicked Witch of the West. And it sounded like fun, and it was all those things. But then later in the show, when ‘For Good’ was sung— I— that’s where I knew that I had to be part of that. Because when something surprises you and when it exceeds your expectations, when, you know, it both matched what I knew I would get and then gave me so much more, then I understood that I wanted to be a part of it. I have to say, you know, I know I’ve spend a lot of time in my career on marketing—I think I get a lot of credit— which I am grateful for, for marketing shows, but I don’t ever think about how to market a show until much later. Until, you know, I just assume that if we all like it and we’re smart people with good taste and we like it then everyone else will like it, too. And then you start to later say, “Okay, well who is this for and how we can communicate this.” But first you have to feel it yourself, and every time I have done something thinking, “Oh, this is going to work, and I know how to make money on this.” I fail. And every time I have done something that I just love that, that I’ll figure it out later. It’s worked. And that has to mean something. Because if, as I said earlier, one of the main things that a producer does is to communicate passion for this show to the world, well then they have to have a passion for the show. And I have tried now to just follow my gut in the things that I like and feel, then, I will know how to target it.
Ken: So I told this story before. I was at Angus, the old watering hole for Broadway. When you were in rehearsals for the out of town tryout for ‘Wicked,’ and Norbert Leo Butz like saddled up to the table— I forget who was there, Brooks Ashmanskas I think because— it was like a crazy group. And we said, “Hey. what are you doing?” He said like, “Oh, I am in rehearsals for ‘Wicked.’” And we were all like, “Oh great. How’s it going? How’s it going?” And Norbert said, “This is either is going to be the biggest hit that anyone has seen or the biggest flop that anyone has ever seen.” How was that period for you? Was there really a sense of, “Oh what is going on?” How was the development?
David: The development was great. Everyone saw the same show which is the most important thing because we were making the same show. And Stephen, Winnie and Marc and Joe were working really well to get it on. Once we went into actual rehearsal and San Francisco and tech and previews and we had our opening in San Francisco… And then in the summer between San Francisco and New York, I think it was well known that it was tense. I have an ulcer to prove it. It, it got… you know, and then once we open obviously, everybody’s loving each other. And I think my job because I was not as involved in the developing of the material as Marc really was—I was very involved. Joe was— a relationship with him from many years before— and obviously I brought him into this process, and he was involved in the design and the casting. But the development of the material was not as much me, but during that time, my job was very much to keep the process moving and make sure that everyone was playing nice, and talking to each other, and collaborating in a difficult time. And I think that musicals are collaborative but they are also often— there is great conflict. That is not necessarily a bad thing. I think wonderful things come out of conflict. Stephen was ready for conflict because earlier in his career that’s what had happened a lot, and you know that tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. But I think it was a part of it, you know, it was just, we knew, we were close, and it gets even more tense when you’re close. And then we really are fighting to make sure we’re doing this. We all wanted it to be the best it could be, and when you are far off the mark, it is not as tense because you know it is just not going to happen. So I think some of the bad stuff was because we all cared so much.
Ken: When was the moment you knew it was going to be a big fat hit?
David: There were really a series of moments. You know Stephen talks about, you know, we started the first preview on a Wednesday, and then not the very next morning because that is too fast, but by Friday morning, there was this line out the box office, down the block and around the corner in San Francisco. And Stephen and I came out of the hotel which was right next door, we were at the Clift and we were like, “What’s wrong?” And we realize that was the line to buy tickets. When this is all in 2003 before everyone bought their tickets online, on the internet. And that was one moment and– but the real– the first preview, when we understood how the audience felt about the show, when you are live. But the moment I understood that it was something even beyond that was, in 2004, New York hosted the Republican National Convention. And I mean I don’t know if you remember this but everyone ran out of town, no one was here except for the people from the convention, and every show collapsed. And this is, you know, a few months, after, you know, the Tonys, this was almost a year into the run, and we went up. And I looked at those– I didn’t understand, no one understood. We went up when no one was here, and that’s where I understood, “Oh, this is not something that we can explain. These sorts of things.”
Ken: Was that how far after opening was that?
David: Almost a year.
Ken: Almost a year?
David: This was end of August and we started previews the previous October.
Ken: And if I remember correctly you got some big reviews that– it wasn’t like it was the most amazing set of notices ever.
David: We hardly. We divided the critics, I’d like to say but this is not mixed. They weren’t like, “Oh, it is okay.” They were, they loved it or they hated it. We all know which ones really didn’t like it, but there are a lot of wonderful ones that came out of important, you know— ‘Time’ magazine and the ‘Wall Street Journal.’ Lots of places loved it, no one was really in the middle, but it was something that that took a lot of– you wanted to communicate through the marketing. The confidence we had in the show to stoke the word of mouth was clearly what we have. I mean we were doing numbers in previews that we didn’t expect to do really at all— and doing that in previews and even with those reviews did $500,000 that next day. And that was when $500,000 was like a million now. And so it was just that the advertising and marketing needed to express how confident we were in how good it was, and what a great time you, as an audience member were going to have, and so that’s what we did.
Ken: Let us talk a little bit more about reviews because you mentioned reviews and moving ‘Next to Normal’ like really looking at those. How important are they for shows in general and how much weight do you put on them?
David: I think reviews are still very important for non-star plays and smaller musicals because those things have to– to get a critical consensus, each individual review may not be as important, but when there is consensus from the press, that can really help discover those shows. ‘Next to Normal’ would not have existed on Broadway as long as it did without what Ben Brantley wrote in the ‘Times’ when it– when it opened in Broadway. For larger shows, branded kind of titles or star driven things plays or musicals they matter– it is not that they don’t matter it just that they become I think tools that you can use to create an entire campaign, but they are not the end of the discussion. They’re the beginning of the discussion.
Ken: You know so few producers out there will ever work on a show that runs for 10, 15 or 20 years or more. What is that– how does that differ for you? Like what kind of thinking do you do when you sit down and an ad meeting now it is not like thinking like, “How we are going to get to next week.”
David: We actually, I know this sounds vaguely Stalin, but we have 5 year plans which they had in the Soviet Union in the ‘50s. But we will talk about, “This is what we are going to– this is the sort of message this year and the sort of big ideas for this year. The kind of media to buy and the kinds of things we want to communicate in television or– and then this is what we do next year and this year.” We are not thinking– we don’t have a 10 year plan. Tthat is too far-thinking, the world changes too fast, but we have general ideas of the kinds of campaigns we are going to do for the next few years. And I have had that since about two or three years in, when we understood that we needed to think more than just what was right in front of us. And yet when I do other shows, you know, I certainly didn’t have longer term plans for ‘Spelling Bee’ or ‘Next to Normal’ or ‘If/Then’ or ‘War Paint’ where you are just you are opening the show and run it as long as you can, but here, we know, we are going to be here. So we have to– it is a different kind of thinking.
Ken: So, David you have been working in this business for about 30 years now, as you look out over Broadway, how do you think we are doing?
David: I think we are in like a second golden age. We can call it something else. We can call it a platinum age, but, you know, I mean it is not that I take for granted, you know, 1943 to 1964 from ‘Oklahoma’ to what ‘Fiddler’ or ‘Dolly.’ That was extraordinary, and there were all these shows coming year after year But if you look at— let’s start it with ‘Rent’, ‘Chicago’,’ Lion King’ and go these 20 years, with a couple of years that are exceptions, every year we have one, two, sometimes three things that are for the ages. It is not either wildly successful like ‘Mamma Mia’ or things that are going to be looked at and studied for years and years like ‘Spring Awakening’ and ‘Fun Home’ and ‘Next to Normal’ things that change the form. And sometimes you have things that both largely successful and change the form like you know like ‘Rent’ did and ‘Hamilton’. So I think many years from now we will look at this and say we were lucky to be a part of this time.
Ken: And you are very active on the road. How is the road doing? What do you think? How is that synergy going?
David: The road is very healthy right now and I think that ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Wicked’ and ‘Book of Mormon’ and now ‘Hamilton’’s going to start touring— are the corner stones of that. They are always you know the big shows on the road. You know, I think the problem on the road is the middle. The big shows do phenomenally well—numbers that weren’t even imaginable when the tour of ‘Wicked’ started And the smaller shows tour very well: ‘Next to Normal’, ‘Spelling Bee’, ‘Avenue Q’— ‘Fun Home’ is touring well. The problem is the shows that aren’t really branded, that aren’t blockbusters, that cost a little too much, and that is why this tiered system has and the set contract have gone into effect. They’re the only way those kinds of shows can get out because the economic structure of the road is not really built for kind of middle of the road shows.
Ken: I don’t know if you remember this but when you were at Barry and Fran’s office I think you had your own independent– did you have an office there for a while?
David: Yeah at little tiny office next to Fran.
Ken: Yeah, next to Fran. I know that because I was Charlotte Wilcox’s manager’s assistant, and it was nice to walk by and go, “Oh, that guy is doing it right there.” What advice would you give to someone like I was back then, trying to get going today which is very different than it was when I started, when you started?
David: Well I still think and I know this is controversial because I know that a lot of people think that the best way to start producing is to be on these producing teams of 60, 70, 80 people; and yes, what is good about that is that you can develop investors and get them into successful shows, and then they will be loyal to you when you have your own show. Except that I think it just puts off having your own show, and, you know, it is easy for me to say this or for you because we started, and you still have found a way to make commercial Off-Broadway work but it is getting harder and harder. But it was easy for us to do these shows because they weren’t as expensive, and we could even at young ages, do them ourselves. But being in a room of that many people you don’t learn anything and billing with that many people doesn’t put you forward. So I would say, as crazy as it sounds, try to find your own projects and find a way to get it on. And that may not make as much economic sense and may not make a living doing that, but I think it is the only way you are going to learn. You have to learn by doing. You can’t learn by going to one meeting every two months with all these people in the room where people just present to you something. So I know I am speaking to a specific audience when I say that, but I think it is a rabbit hole.
Ken: Yeah. I just totally agree with that. You know I think that people are trying to think, “I may win a Tony Award. I may win a Tony Award.” which I know something that you are being on the membership, head of the membership committee at the League is something that you talk a lot about. And that is fine if that is what you want, but if you want a career in producing that is– I started doing three Off-Broadway shows and I knew that I could do it myself because I knew there was more upside in a long term for myself that way. Are you excited about ‘War Paint’?
David: Very. I have been working on it for six years so I am happy it is ready. And, you know, again, it is the old fashioned way to do these whether it is off-Broadway and then moving to Broadway, or commercial tryout into Broadway, or regional theater into Broadway, but learning with the show in front of an audience and saying, “Oh, all of this worked. We were right. These things didn’t. We have to fix it.”—Giving yourself time to do it, having the right creative team who knows that, you know, writing for the theater is really rewriting—certainly for musicals. And then having these amazing stars and perhaps, even a moment, where people want to talk about powerful women, and what they have to sacrifice in order to succeed, and how they are judged differently than men, I don’t know. That feels timely today.
Ken: Okay. We will go to my last question on that very insightful note which is normally you may know is my Genie Question but for today I’m going to call it the Wizard Question.
David: Oh, thank you.
Ken: Just for you. We are going to imagine that the Wizard of Oz comes to you and said, “David, you have made incredible contributions to the theater. All across the globe aspiring whole generations to get involved in the theater. What is the one thing that really pisses you off about Broadway working on Broadway makes you mad that gets you screaming into your phone”. I have heard you yell a few times, it is not pretty but what makes you do that that you would ask the Wizard to wish away?
David: Well I’m not gonna get mad about this. It just it breaks my heart that our greatest creators are some of them, the younger generations, I don’t think you see this with Stephen Sondheim or Stephen Schwartz, you know, they do one show at a time. But I get concerned that our newer creators are biting off more than they can chew. It is distracting. I know people who are doing nine shows at one time, and I don’t think it makes the best work. And I would wish that they– their agents by the way some of them agree that this is not necessarily the way to go, but these younger artists would focus. You know, Lin wasn’t writing five other shows when he was writing ‘Hamilton’, he was writing ‘Hamilton.’ And then you do the next show, and I think that is still– I think that is the right way.
Ken: You think that that is true for producers as well? Should we have more or less?
David: Well– you know—(laughs) I do– I mean, I have, as I’ve said I did ‘Wicked’ and then I do one thing at a time. But that is just because I probably have an undiagnosed case of OCD, and I need to know every single detail of everything I am doing. But I don’t know necessarily healthy, and I think it is okay to do, as a producer, to do more than one thing at a time– as you know if you are putting a lot of eggs in one basket. If you only focus on one show, and if it doesn’t get on, then you spent years doing it. And by the way, same for the artists. I am not saying they should do only one, but maybe they shouldn’t do nine and the same for the producers.
Ken: Yeah. I mean I will give you a compliment that you won’t give yourself there, and I was looking at your IBDB page before this and saying like, “Oh you know David isn’t one of the producers that has 100 credits out there, but the success rate is so high.” And I think that there is a methodology to making sure that you don’t spread yourself too thin and focus because these are– they take a lot of time and a lot of care, and obviously you give that to your shows.
David: Thank you.
Ken: So thank you so much for doing the 100th episode of the podcast. Thanks to all of you for listening, and sincerely thank you for getting us to a 100. By the way we talked about ‘Wicked,’ and we have a podcast of Stephen Schwartz and Joe Mantello. So go and listen to those they are fantastic, as well. Thanks again, David. Thanks to all of you. We will see you next time. Don’t forget finish your holiday shopping today. Save yourselves some time, get ‘Be a Broadway Star’ the bestselling Broadway-themed gift at www.amazon.com. Visit www.beabroadwaystar.com today.