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5 Shows that Standout at This Year’s NYMF.

It’s NYMF time, people!

That’s right, the world’s biggest and best musical theater festival is about ready to raise the curtain on its 14th season, with performances on a whole bunch of new musicals set to begin on July 10th.

And with no Fringe Festival in NYC this year, NYMF is one of the few shots you musical theater bingers have to satisfy your craving for new musicals and the emerging artists that created them.

As a Broadway Producer, I’m always scanning the catalogs of festivals like this. They’re like research reports for someone who runs a hedge fund.  They give me a quick glance of what and who is coming up in the world.  And maybe, just maybe, I might find something worth investing some time (and some resources) in.  (Note to festival participants – it’s not just your show you’re presenting…it’s you as an artist.  Just because your show doesn’t get picked up, doesn’t mean you won’t get picked up.)

Several years ago, I started sharing the shows that jumped out at me from the NYMF catalog to help you understand what works from a marketing perspective at the festival level, and exactly what attracts a guy like me.

Now, a disclaimer…all Producers are different.  What stands out to me may not stand out to others.  And, remember, my picks below aren’t what I think are the best shows at this year’s NYMF (because I haven’t seen any of them)…but rather they are the marketing standouts, for the reasons I mention below.  Oh, and I only looked at the full productions.

So with no further blog-dieu, here’s a glimpse into what gets my Producer sense tingling…

Here are my picks for the 5 Shows That Standout at This Year’s New York Musical Festival.

  1. Freedom Riders: The Civil Rights Musical(Winner of the 2016 Beta Musical Award)

I included the parenthesis in the title here because that’s exactly what got me intrigued about this musical. Honestly, I had to Google to discover that the Beta Musical Award is an award given by NYMF…but it didn’t matter.  They had me at “Winner!”  If I’ve seen one consistent thing at focus groups over the years it’s that audiences (and Producers) love when a show has won an award… any award…even when they don’t know what that award is.  The Takeaway here is to enter any contest you can because a win will help you stand out from the competition.

  1. A Wall Apart 

Putting a celebrity in your show is a terrific insurance policy.  It gets attention from people like me, and from audiences alike.  Not only do audiences want to see that celebrity, but there’s also a bit of Authority/Social Proof principle at play (“Hey, if that person is associated with this show, then it has to be good”).

And as we’ve learned over the past few years with shows like Kinky Boots and Waitress, a celebrity doesn’t have to be in the show to spark curiosity . . . a celeb can also be on the creative team.

A Wall Apart is written by Graham Russell of Air Supply fame.  And that makes the show stand out. (Graham, I pre-apologize for the Air Supply joke in Gettin’ The Band Back Together.)

Does it mean that the show will work?  Nope.  It’s just an insurance policy and a marketing magnet.  Because in the past few years, we’ve also learned that no matter how big the celeb on the team (Last Ship, anyone?), the show needs to be something people want to see or it will sink.

  1.  The Time Machine

You know what’s amazing?  There isn’t already a major musical treatment of this classic novel by H.G. Wells.  That means there’s a major hole in the market, and the authors of this version want to fill it.  The Time Machine has a terrific brand, a perfect blend of fantasy and reality that make for a terrific musical (think Wicked, Phantom, etc.), and huge potential in the subsidiary market.  What high school wouldn’t want to do The Time Machine?  

Because producing on Broadway has gotten riskier, today’s Broadway Producers have to look long and hard at a project’s downstream revenue potential (stock and amateur, foreign licensing, movie potential, etc.) before signing up. The Time Machine has this in spades, and it made me take notice.

(Disclaimer – my GM Office is managing this show – which you might think is a conflict, but it’s actually another reason that it stands out.  GM offices are more discerning than you think, and like Producers, only take on shows that they think have bright futures.)

  1. Ben, Virginia, and Me 

Making musicals about historical characters is “in.”  There are three reasons why:

1) Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton.
2) No underlying rights needed.
3) Real-life stories are being consumed in record numbers  (documentaries on Netflix, HBO, etc.).

Ben, Virginia, and Me chose to capitalize on this craze and they chose a man whose life was a big, splashy musical:  Liberace.

And whenever a subject matter for a musical has performance built into the story, it makes for a much easier transition to the stage (Phantom, Billy Elliot, Jersey Boys, A Chorus Line, etc.).  This show has a big fur coat to fill, but I was curious for sure.

  1. The Goree All-Girl String Band 

Here’s the tagline that immediately follows the title in the NYMF catalog for Goree:  

From behind bars to country music stars.

Right away, that’s odd.  It doesn’t make sense.  And that’s what we call contrast.  

And out of contrast is born…comedy.

It reminds me of how I used to pitch a show that appeared at NYMF 13 years ago:  It’s a Catholic Boy Band that sings songs like “Girl You Make Me Wanna Wait.”  (There are all sorts of contrast in that, right?)

Goree had me at the tagline, but I’m also a big fan of this type of Forever Plaid-like musical (Plaid is what inspired Altar Boyz, by the way – since I had performed in it four times and directed it twice).  Why?  Small musicals can be done at any theater anywhere in the world.  Miss Saigon can’t.

So there they are!  This year’s five shows!  (In addition to the above, a couple of honorable mentions to Numbers Nerdsand Matthew McConaughey Vs. The Devil.)

But wait…we’re not done yet.  It’s YOUR turn now. Click here to visit the list of shows at this year’s NYMF and then tell me what stands out to you!  Put ’em in the comment section below.

And then, buy tickets to one of ’em. At least.  Support new musical theater.  That’s the only way we guarantee its survival.