My Top 10 Favorite Broadway Moments from 2016
I’ve never talked to so many people who were excited for a year to end before.
2016 was an odd one for sure. The number of celebrity deaths (RIP Carrie and Debbie), the bizarro-world election, Brexit . . . this year has been filled with such drama, if 2016 were a new play by Tony Kushner, Ben Brantley would call it “over-the-top” and “without any basis in reality!”
Despite all the mishegas, Broadway was able to pull through in a pretty remarkable way. There were a number of watershed moments that not only made our year better, but should make Broadway’s 2017 and beyond even stronger and more successful.
As I am wont to do this time of year, I looked back and came up with my Top 10 Favorite Broadway moments. And before the ball hits the Times Square ground, I wanted to share them with you.
And here they are . . . in no particular order!
10. Broadway wins the Battle Against the Bots
With a little help from the author of #X, Chuck Schumer, the best senatorial ally Broadway has ever had, won a battle against the bad guys in the secondary market when the use of Bots was outlawed on a Federal level (NY outlawed the use of bots earlier in the year). The war with ticket resellers is heating up thanks to the show that begins with H, but expect it to reach nuclear-like status when Harry Potter and Frozen hit our shores. This law is just one step closer to fair access to all.
9. New Play + No Stars + No Spectacle = Commercial Success!
If you or I had been presented with an investment prospectus for The Humans on Broadway, every thing about it would say to pass. Except for one thing – it was a terrific play that captured the minds of critics and audiences alike. And who knew, but that’s enough to get a show to recoup! The Humans will give Producers like me a show to point to as a sign that riskier fare can pay off . . . and that means more investors may just want to take a leap on the next new play, no star vehicle (if it can get a theater, is a whole other matter).
8. Don’t like our theater? We’ll rebuild it for you!
In one of the most creative moves of any Broadway business entity I’ve seen, The Ambassador Theatre Group agreed to spend millions upon millions to move out their current tenant at The Lyric Theatre and undergo a massive renovation/rescaling to secure Harry Potter as its tenant for the next, oh, few decades or so. Broadway can be very focused on the short term . . . it was nice to see a business look deep into the future and realize spending this kind of money would pay off (it’s no coincidence that ATG is owned by a private equity group that specializes in growing (and flipping) businesses).
7. The Tonys
We had a host with the most in James Corden, and a hit show that America couldn’t get enough of, which all added up to the biggest ratings we’ve seen for the Tony Awards since 2001. Every additional viewer we get for the biggest commercial Broadway has is another potential audience member (or 2 since they usually go in pairs), which is why this year’s telecast was so important. I don’t know how we top it, but it’ll be fun to try.
6. Ars Nova comes into its own.
Everyone knows Ars Nova as this terrific little Off Broadway theater that produces adventurous work (even though no one can ever find its petite venue as its so west you feel like you’re walking into the river). But before this year, the whispers throughout the industry were why, with such a creative group running AN, nothing ever moved on to big time success? Well, it finally happened . . . a few times. First, Bess Wohl’s beautifully quiet Small Mouth Sounds extended and transferred and extended again Off Broadway (with big time Producer names attached) and then Ars Nova hit it Broadway big time when Natasha Pierre, which it incubated from day one, opened up on Broadway with Josh Groban in the lead. Sure, there was a little skirmish along the way about their credit, but Ars Nova has officially arrived. Expect a lot more Broadway Producers to be trudging west to see what they’re cooking up next.
Every time you think this story is over, Hamilton does something else to remind you that we haven’t seen anything like it. Sure it won an armful of Tonys. But the success of Hamilton Mix Tape and now it’s 3.3 million dollar gross (in a week that isn’t even Broadway’s biggest of the year), is letting us all know that Hamilton has a lot more to say. And sure, while most Producers I know have this new disease I like to call “Hamiltonian-envyious,” we all know that a hit like this is the best audience development tool we have. Oh, and expect this week’s gross for the historic tuner to get up to about 3.9 . . . could it even hit even 4mm??? The watch is on.
4. The password is . . .
. . . Diversity. Following up a year that included a social campaign media that lambasted our sister industry called #OscarsSoWhite, Broadway reminded the world that we’ve always been a more inclusive industry and art form. With shows like The Color Purple, Shuffle Along, Spring Awakening, Eclipsed, and Waitress with its all female creative team, all vying for awards last June, it was a proud moment for everyone who worked in our biz. That said, we can’t rest on our asses about these issues. We’ve got a long way to go. True representation in our business and our art for everyone is not about what we do in a year. It’s about what we do in our lifetimes.
3. It’s the
economy kids, stupid.
We want a healthy and thriving theater in the next 100 years? It’s about arts education, no matter how unsexy that phrase may be. This year, Andrew Lloyd Webber stepped up to do his part by giving out a $1.3 million, three year grant, to “support theatre education opportunities for underserved young people and under-resourced public schools around the United States.” That’s right, public schools in the US! And this guy doesn’t even live here! Yes, yes, of course, I do work for the guy. But trust me, including his efforts here isn’t me sucking up. On the contrary. This is me showing you why I took the job. Wouldn’t you want to work for someone who cares about the future of the American theater this much?
2. Stream, stream, stream . . .
BroadwayHD, scored a big win this year when they streamed She Loves Me live from Studio 54. It was the first big Broadway show to hit screens all over the world while the show was running on Broadway and hopefully is a sign of more to come in the future (Holiday Inn was just announced). As you know, I’m a big believer in streaming thanks to my Daddy Long Legs experiment . . . and expect that next to investing in kids, this is the quickest way to get new audiences to Broadway.
1. We’ve got a new Chairman
You probably didn’t read about this one, because leadership changes at the Broadway League rarely make front page news, but back in November, Disney’s Tom Schumacher was elected as the new Chair-Elect of the Broadway League and will become the Chairman in December of 2017. Tom is widely considered one of the smartest guys in the
industry city. And obviously, Disney’s success since they jumped into our waters only 20 years or so ago is unparalleled. Arguably there isn’t an entertainment company in our universe that combines art and commerce better than Disney. To have one of its top minds help steer our biz is an exciting proposition to say the least.
And that’s it 2016! Peace out. You were a little @#$% at times, for sure. But you gave us some great memories, and some great moments . . . and now we’ll use those to springboard into ’17.
If you’ve got a favorite moment for 2016 that I missed, mention it in the comments below!
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