Why I’m Producing Groundhog Day AND The Play That Goes Wrong on Broadway.
If you’ve followed my blog or my Broadway producing career over the years then you know that in addition to my lead producing efforts (Spring Awakening, It’s Only A Play, Godspell, etc.), I always attach myself to one or two other projects per year as a Co-Producer (Kinky Boots, You’re Welcome America, Blithe Spirit, etc.). (A Co-Producer, for those of you who don’t know, is like being a Board Member of a Company or Non-Profit . . . and the Lead Producer is the Chairman of the Board. The Co’s support the lead through fundraising and some counsel, but the Lead . . . well, uh, leads.)
I made it part of my company’s business plan to co-produce shows each year even after I started lead producing for a variety of reasons, including giving my investors a chance to invest in diversified offers that I think are very attractive, as well as giving me a chance to work with Lead Producer partners that I respect and know I can learn from.
This year, I’ve chosen two shows to co-produce that you might think are very different, but are actually quite similar. And I’ve done in the past, I thought I’d give you a peek into my producing process to hear why I’ve signed on to these two specifically.
I love me some Tim Minchin.
I fell in love with him and his unique talent (never mind unique hair) when he and I were sharing a theater at New World Stages. I was producing My First Time. He had the crowd howling each night with his supremely funny story songs in his one-man show. When I saw him perform, I remember thinking (amidst the laugh-crying) that he had a musical in him. And years later, out popped Matilda, which was one of the smartest pieces of musical theater I’ve ever seen (and a recouper!).
When I heard he was doing Groundhog Day, I asked for the producing papers right away. And then add to it Matthew Warchus, who is one of the best stagers of theater (and especially comedy) on the planet (the aforementioned Matilda, of course, along with, God of Carnage, Boeing Boeing and more). And then throw in Andy Karl who was one of the original stars of Altar Boyz and I knew it would be a laugh-a-palooza. When I saw Andy audition for me years ago, I knew right away that he was destined to hold a big Broadway stage by himself one day. He played a rock star back in my show then. He is one now.
Add to that the great brand of the movie, and the leadership of Lia Vollack at Columbia Live Stage, Andre Ptaszynski and the involvement of the prestigious Old Vic and who wouldn’t want to produce it.
But what put me over the top when I was doing my due diligence on whether or not to pull the trigger and offer it to my investors, was me doing some old school competitive analysis.
I took a look at all the other Broadway musicals coming in this season . . . from Natasha, Pierre to Come From Away to Dear Evan Hansen and more. There are some good ones on the boards this year for sure. But there wasn’t a big time musical comedy in the bunch.
Groundhog Day stands out as one of the only musical comedies in the group. That’s a market differentiator.
That was the cherry on top of it all for me, and I was in. And I hope you’ll be in by grabbing a ticket.
To get single tickets for Groundhog Day, click here.
To get group tickets for Groundhog Day, click here.
To learn more about it, click here.
I decided to produce The Play That Goes Wrong because of my rule of three.
Because I’m invited to see a lot of shows, I usually don’t go see anything not already on my radar unless at least three people tell me to see it.
Well, three people went out of their way to tell me I should see The Play That Goes Wrong. And it was playing 3,500 miles away . . . in London!
Now word-of-mouth that crosses an ocean is pretty palpable, wouldn’t you say?
A rule is a rule, so I grabbed my passport, hopped a flight and checked out the show.
And after I saw it, I went home and emailed about a hundred people and told them to go see it. No matter where they lived in the world.
We all know that word-of-mouth is what sells tickets, and I was living proof this show had it, and then some.
It didn’t hurt that the show also had great reviews, has been running for three years in the West End, oh and it also won the 2015 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy (the UK Tony) as well as the BroadwayWorld UK award and the WhatsOnStage Award.
In case you don’t know what the show is about, it’s the story of a British community theater-like troupe that puts on a play . . . and well, things go wrong. Really wrong.
And plays about putting on plays (The Producers, Noises Off, etc.) are always big hits with audiences, so I jumped on the team, which was lead by one of the best independent producers working in the biz, Lead Producer Kevin McCollum and his British partner who got the play to go RIGHT in the West End, Kenny Wax.
(And it didn’t hurt that this was yet another comedy . . . in a year when I think our audiences need some laughter to take them away from their Facebook feeds.)
To get single tickets for The Play That Goes Wrong, click here.
To get group tickets for The Play That Goes Wrong, click here.
So there you have it . . . one play, one musical. No big stars. Just big laughs. And all the reasons that I’m co-producing them both this year.
There’s another test I ask myself that sums up my entire show screening process–thought. I always ask myself right before I sign the contract, “Would you want to buy a ticket to see these shows, Ken?”
The answer was a big time yes.
And I hope you do too.
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