5 Shows I want to see at the NYMF.

I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for The New York Musical Theatre Festival.

The NYMF was our midwife on Altar Boyz, and without her, it would have been an even tougher birth than it was.

Our baby is almost 5 years old now (tear, tear).  It seems like just yesterday that Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan and Abe were taking their first few steps at The Puerto Rican Travelling Theatre (remember when Cheyenne Jackson played Matthew?).

You’ll have to excuse me.  When the new NYMF shows start their pre-festival roll out every September, I get pretty nostalgic . . . AND excited.   Altar Boyz was ‘blessed’ with such good fortune after the NYMF, as was N2N, TOS and a whole bunch of other great abbreviated titles. There is such possibility each and every year!  Going to see NYMF shows is like going to Florida for baseball’s spring training    . . . everyone is wondering who the breakout player is going to be?

I decided to cruise through the NYMF catalog this year and dog-ear some shows that caught my attention, just like I did for the Fringe.

In alpha order, here are the shows to keep your eye on, IMPO (in-my-producer-opinion).

1.  Fantasy Football: The Musical?

Fantasy Football wins the award for the most press received by any festival show ever.  Thanks to this super clever idea that juxtaposes two worlds that seemingly don’t go together (musical theater and football), FF has gotten themselves on CNBC, and in Sports Illustrated, ESPN Magazine, The LA Times, The Philadelphia Enquirer and more.  Will a musical theater fan go to a musical about football?  Will a football fan go to a musical?  Those questions remain, but I for one will be in the audience eager to find out the answer.

2.  Fat Camp

One year after winning the Outstanding Musical award at the Fringe, the writers of Perez Hilton Saves The Universe are back with something that feels more commercial, yet surely still has a comic bite.  Broadway vets like Sarah Saltzberg and Clarke Thorell are just a couple members of the high-profile cast.  It’s also directed by Alex Timbers (of The Piven Monologues fame).  They’ve even got some of the ROA producers on board already.  Summer may be over, but Camp season may be just beginning.

3.  F#@king Up Everything

I hate the title.  Scratch that. I love the title, but it’s a pitchman’s worst nightmare (or does that make it your greatest asset?).  Regardless of the amount of cussing in the title – or in the show – something feels indie-cool about FUE.  Combine that with its simple rock and roll girl-meets-boy story, and I’m curious.

4.  Hurricane

We had 5 people onstage for our NYMF show. Hurricane has almost 30.  I often tell festival producers to produce small shows, because they come off better.  Well, in true “embrace your flaw” fashion, the Hurricane producers have come out saying they are proud to present a show with “the biggest cast ever seen on a NYMF stage.”  There are Broadway vets, kids, and even a couple of ghosts.  Oh, and I’ve gotten three unsolicited recommendations to see this show.  There’s some sort of storm brewing . . . and I want to see what it is.

5.  Judas & Me

I’ve been a fan of Matt Sklar and Chad Beguelin since I heard their demo to The Rhythm Club a decade ago.  They’ve since gotten The Wedding Singer on the boards, and are also the writers of the much anticipated Elf movie-to-musical. They’ve taken a detour from big, fat, commercial shows to write a small and quirky musical about a Messiah.  In lesser hands, I’d steer clear . . . but this I wanna see . . . and hear.

What are you seeing?  I hope you’re seeing at least one.  If you wanna be a producer, the NYMF is where you need to be.  The next generation of shows and artists are all here showing their wares.  Even if you’re not ready to pick up a show on your own yet, you should go . . . and play Fantasy Broadway.  Ask yourself, “Which show would you produce?”

Pick one.

Write it down.

Then watch what happens with that show over the next year.

And then you’ll think, “That could have been my kid.”

Get tickets to NYMF here.

I’m not on their List yet, but at least I’m on their website!

I was asked to write a byline for Forbes that was published this week.  It’s about how I believe one of the greatest challenges for entrepreneurs is finding time to continue creating once their business has gotten off the ground.

This challenge is an especially tough one for theater producers because launching a product is only the beginning.  Getting it to run, and run, and run, takes time and energy, which prevents you from creating new product.

Forbes wanted some of my tips on how to make sure you focus on the important stuff.

Read the article here.

When Forbes asked me to write the article, I told them I didn’t want to be paid…I just wanted the personal emails of all the people on their Big List.  Investor jackpot, right?  What’s a 15 million dollar musical to someone worth a billion bucks!?!

For some reason, they refused to give me the emails.

That’s too bad for those Big Listers, because I’d add some bucks to those billions!  Come on, Christy Walton, you Wal-Mart heiress, you.  Wanna have some fun on Broadway?

 

Who was the first Broadway discounter?

Have you ever wondered where it all began?

What started the discounting phenomenon?  And more importantly . . . who started it?
Was it The Geislers, the geniuses behind BroadwayBox.com?  Was it TDF, the org. behind the TKTS booth?
Was it David Merrick, The Abominable Showman? (a must read, btw)

While all of the above had major impacts on the distribution of Broadway tickets over the last century, one guy beat them all to the slashing-prices punch . . . and he did it in the 19th century.

That guy was a Hungarian immigrant named Joseph Leblang . . . and he started it all in 1894!
Joe had a tobacco shop on 30th Street and he got free tickets in exchange for putting up show posters in his window. Well, smarty-pants Joe started selling those passes for cash.  And since it was all profit to him, he sold them at less than full price.
I’m sure the shows weren’t too happy about him undercutting their full price at first (just like we’re not happy when a full price buyer stumbles upon BroadwayBox when googling the name of a show), but when he started moving an enormous volume of tickets, they started sending him extras to sell!  He started putting people in the street to bark for business, and even had flyers like the one on this page.
Sound familiar?  It’s the basic model of the TKTS booth, which started almost 80 years later.
Joe took something that was handed to him, and turned it into a business. At the same time, he revolutionized an industry.
The irony is that a zillion other shop owners were given those free tickets.  They all could have done the same thing.  They all could have made that money . . . and more importantly . . . made that significant impact.
Opportunities are out there.  You just have to keep your eyes open, and then act on them.
For a full description of how Joe did it, read this great article on NYTix.com.

Broadway Grosses w/e 9/20/09

Show
Name
GrossGross TotalAttn %Cap Avg Pd Adm
A STEADY RAIN $1,167,954 8,570 100.02% $136.28
AFTER MISS JULIE $98,091 3,512 94.92% $27.93
BILLY ELLIOT: THE MUSICAL $1,342,233 11,370 100.02% $118.05
BURN THE FLOOR $346,946 5,545 66.39% $62.57
BYE BYE BIRDIE $589,285 7,982 97.25% $73.83
CHICAGO $535,545 7,129 82.51% $75.12
GOD OF CARNAGE $973,607 8,784 101.86% $110.84
HAIR $781,734 9,192 81.37% $85.05
HAMLET $575,881 5,655 68.81% $101.84
IN THE HEIGHTS $577,946 7,289 66.75% $79.29
JERSEY BOYS $1,126,009 9,896 101.23% $113.78
MAMMA MIA! $958,245 11,231 93.72% $85.32
MARY POPPINS $528,334 7,621 53.01% $69.33
NEXT TO NORMAL $360,964 5,495 88.97% $65.69
ROCK OF AGES $566,425 7,100 89.02% $79.78
SHREK THE MUSICAL $451,274 7,409 53.44% $60.91
SOUTH PACIFIC $646,966 6,695 80.39% $96.63
SUPERIOR DONUTS $187,238 4,961 82.19% $37.74
THE 39 STEPS $184,010 2,860 60.70% $64.34
THE LION KING $1,123,205 11,369 85.92% $98.80
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $789,708 10,979 84.98% $71.93
THE ROYAL FAMILY $148,558 3,633 69.87% $40.89
WEST SIDE STORY $1,014,276 10,676 78.64% $95.01
WICKED $1,441,683 14,207 98.17% $101.48
TOTALS $16,516,116 189,160 82.51% $81.35

I wrote a blog about Jeremy Piven. My lawyers told me to not to post it.

Last week I had the pleasure, along with the other Speed-the-Plow producers, of seeing the cathartic production The Piven Monologues:  A Collection of Internet Comments Related to the Controversy Surrounding Jeremy Piven’s Abrupt Exit from the Broadway Production of Speed-the-Plow Due to the Alleged Illness of Mercury Poisoning from Over-Consumption of Sushi down at Joe’s Pub.

What was interesting to me about the production, besides my personal connection to the material, and my fondness for the work of its wunderkind director, Alex Timbers, was that the dialogue was made up entirely of actual comments about the sushi scandal, taken from internet chatter on websites of all different shapes and sizes (a similar construct to My First Time, which I have another personal connection to).
It was another example of what I call “Theater 2.0.”
And the good news is that this playlet was more fun than a fish fry.
Unfortunately, the party pooper (also known as Piven) ended the fun the next day when he slapped The Public with a cease and desist letter, threatening to sue.
Sigh.
I wrote a long blog about my feelings regardingThe Piv’s premature e-lawsuit-ulation, and where exactly I think he ranks on the douche-o-meter.
Unfortunately, my lawyers advised me not to post it.
So, I’ll just say this . . .
To the writers of The Piven Monologues:
It would give me great pleasure to produce your show . . . but only if we do it in LA.
And we can give the proceeds to this charity.
Give me a call.
(In true “The show must go on even in the face of legal action” style, The Public is going ahead with the second performance of The Piven Monologues.  More info here.)
Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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