Sure you get a refund if an above-the-title star is out, but what about . . .

Although it’s not a publicized policy (and why isn’t it again?), if a star that is billed above-the-title in a Broadway show is out due to illness, vacation or a b.s. claim of mercury poisoning, a ticket holder is entitled to a full refund or exchange.

But in today’s social media-infused world, a chorus boy could have more twitter followers than an above-the-title star, and could have quite the die-hard fan girl following.  What happens when one of our avid Broadway theatergoers buys a ticket to a show to see that chorus boy, or that chorus girl, or a certain actor playing a secondary character, and that actor is out.  Do we offer them a refund?

No.  Or more appropriately . . . NEIN!

This isn’t a hypothetical situation, by the way.  I got an email recently from a young lady who bought tickets to see a certain Tony Award winning musical for the 4th time, just because she wanted to see a specific replacement actor in a small role – because she had followed him for years.  He was out, and she was out $140 smackeroos.  And this was a girl who had seen the show three times already!

Isn’t she the type we should be rewarding, not penalizing?

Why are we drawing the line above the title?  If you buy a ticket to see a specific element of that production and that element doesn’t appear, shouldn’t you get some recompense?

Ok, maybe you shouldn’t get a refund (our business, like our perishable inventory sister biz, the airline industry, might spring a leak with an open refund policy), but what’s the harm in an exchange?

Especially when you are not getting what you paid for?

Instead, it has been our policy to send the audience member home with a feeling of disappointment, or worse, the feeling of, “Next time I won’t buy my tickets in advance . . . I’ll just wait until the last minute to make sure everyone that I want to see is in the show that day.”

If any cast member is out, we should allow an exchange.

Wait a minute.  That’s not what I wanted to say at all.  Now that I think about it . . .

For any reason, whatsoever, we should allow an exchange.

The no refunds/no exchange policy is a thing of the 70s.  It’s time we join the rest of the best retailers in the world . . . and it’s time we lead the way in the entertainment industry (wouldn’t that be a change – us leading the way), and offer exchanges for our customers when they want one.

We ask them to risk so much when they buy that ticket.  It’s time we reduced that risk just a smidge.

And maybe they’ll reward us for buying more often . . . and more in advance.


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Fun on a Friday: Ever wonder what Marlon Brandon put in his Bio?

Sometimes I think choosing what to put in your bio for a new show can be more stressful than the opening itself!  Do you include that Off Off Broadway show?  Do you thank your parents?  Do you add a ILYKD???

A little known fact – the reason that actor bios in Playbills are so short is that every show gets a set amount of pages from Playbill for free, and once those pages are used up, the Producer gets charged.  Take a big show with a big cast, and a lot of Producers, and you’ve added an unbudgeted expense to your weekly nut.  No good.  And that’s why you see so many 30 word bios.  And that’s why so many people stress out about ’em.

A fun little website called Trivia Happy wondered if some future famous actors stressed out about their first bios, so they dug ’em up and posted ’em here.   Included were the likes of Al Pacino, Charlton Heston, John Travolta and .  . . Marlon Brando’s, which went something like this:

Marlon Brando (Stanley Kowalski) made his first appearance on Broadway three seasons ago as Nels in “I Remember Mama.” He went from that to a leading role in Maxwell Anderson’s “Truckline Cafe” when he was first singled out by the critics for his performance in the role of Sage. Also impressed was Guthrie McClintic, who chose him to play Marchbanks in Katharine Cornell’s revival of “Candida.” He next appeared in Ben Hecht’s “A Flag is Born.” Born in Omaha, Neb., Brando spent his school years in Evanston, Ill., California and Minnesota. The choice of the stage as a career had never entered his mind until after he had come to New York and spent several months engaged in such odd jobs as running an elevator and operating a switchboard. When he did decide to go on stage he spent a year studying with Stella Adler and followed that with a summer season of stock at Sayville, L.I. It was there that a New York actors’ agent saw him and helped him get his first acting job with “I remember Mama.

Read the other actors’ bios here.

And then start working on your bio.  And yes, include the Off Broadway show, your parents, your website, and ILY2.


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What do you do when you lose the best actor of our generation?

Unfortunately, in the six years of writing this blog, I’ve done more “farewell” blogs than I would like to.  I’ve lost friends.  I’ve lost associates.  I’ve lost people that I’ve never met, but who influenced my life daily.

And yesterday, we all lost someone who I consider to be the greatest . . . absolutely the Jackie-Gleason like greatest . . . actor of my generation.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was my generation’s Brando, Pacino, De Niro . . . you know, those guys whose last name is awe inspiring all by itself.  He was an enormous talent, making us laugh (I still chuckle just thinking about his “Make it rain!” character in the sloppy comedy, Along Came Polly), and making us cry (people doubted his ability to tap into the pathos of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesmanbut he found a well deeper than most actors could ever even dream about).

Look at the versatility . . . from his breakthrough minuscule performance of a sniveling prep school kid in Scent of a Woman to his Oscar winning performance in Capote.

And I have no doubt we would have seen him back on Broadway soon enough.

But we won’t.

Because yesterday, Philip Seymour Hoffman, at the just-getting-good age of 46, who graduated from Tisch just one year after I arrived on campus, passed away.

He died suddenly, tragically, and also, like a character in a Eugene O’Neill drama . . . symbolically.

Rumor has it that he died with a needle in his arm.

It’s heart-crushingly sad.  And honestly, I couldn’t give a crap about the performances that we’ll be deprived of by Mr. Hoffman’s passing.  I’m more concerned about the children of Mr. Hoffman, who will be deprived of their father.  And what about his zillion friends, many of whom are in the Broadway industry, who will miss the “amazing man,” that they all say he was after working with him on shows like Salesman, Long Day’s Journey, and True West.

It also makes me incredibly mad.

People like Philip shouldn’t be dying.  And drugs like the ones found in his West Village apartment, that in some cases can be purchased online . . . are snuffing out lives way before their prime.

A few months ago we lost the barely-out-of-puberty Cory Monteith to an overdose.  And remember Heath Ledger.  Whitney Houston.  Amy Winehouse.

And we could keep going back . . . what about Chris Farley, Kurt Cobain, Lenny Bruce, John Belushi, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley . . .

Want more?

How about Amanda Bynes, Lindsay Lohan, or Justin Bieber.

Oh wait.  They’re not gone.  Thank God.

But they could be.

Philip explained that himself.  After he first kicked his habit in his early twenties, he said this about why he did it:

You get panicked . . . I was 22 and I got panicked for my life, it really was, it was just that. And I always think, ‘God, I have so much empathy for these young actors that are 19 and all of a sudden are beautiful and famous and rich.’ I’m like, ‘Oh my God. I’d be dead.’

Unfortunately, just one year ago he admitted to falling off a 23 year old wagon.  And yesterday, the beast of addiction tragically bested him.

What are we going to do to help those that get caught up in the dramatic cyclone that is fame and success in the entertainment industry?  (The NBA and the NFL have introduction seminars for their rookie players to help them enter their high dollars and high stakes world, maybe we should as well?)  What are we going to do to rid our cities of heroin bags labeled with cutsey names like ‘Ace of Spades’ and ‘Ace of Hearts’ that were found in Phillip’s apartment?  What are we going to do . . .

I’m going to start by making a donation to The Actors Fund.  They help those battling addiction in our industry.  And you can help The Actors Fund as well with a donation.

And if you have a friend or family member that’s battling this disease, help them get help.  Because blogs like this shouldn’t exist.


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Fun on a Friday: A departed friend reminds us about the strength of Show Biz.

We’ll get to the “fun” part of this Friday post in a paragraph or two, but this first bit ain’t so fun.

The world tragically lost the big boss, Mr. James Gandolfini, on Wednesday.  And I think we’re all still in shock that our modern day Godfather could go so young.

I worked with Mr. Gandolfini for a moment and a half, when I was on staff at the General Manager’s office of the Broadway adaptation of On The Waterfront in the early 90s.  Watching him in a itty-bitty role, I remember thinking, “That guy is good . . . too good . . . why am I watching him more than others, even when he’s not talking.”

And I wanted to work with him again, when I offered him the role of Jessep (the Jack Nicholson character) in A Few Good Men.  (He would have crushed it.)

Unfortunately, he won’t ever grace our stages again, which is another tragedy, since this is a guy that while terrific on the tube was a force of nature on the stage.

You’ll be missed, Boss.

So this fun on a Friday is dedicated to James Gandolfini.  Watch the clip below, which is a fantastic monologue from The Sopranos (there’s a tip for the actors out there – don’t just look to plays for your monologues – look to TV and movies as well).  

And when you watch all the way to the end, you’ll see why this video qualifies for a “F on a F” post – and you’ll pick up a little known mob fact that you can use when looking for investors in your shows as well.  Email subscribers, click this link if you can’t see the video.  (Oh, and thanks for that VIP industry reader out there who reminded me of this cool clip).


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Shaiman smashes Smash: A love story.

Here are my Top 2 reasons why I love Marc Shaiman:

  1. He’s ferociously talented.
  2. He’s ferocious about speaking his mind.

Maestro Marc has been involved with a few online public debates over the years  . . . I’ve agreed with him on some . . . and not on others . . . but one thing is for sure, I’ve learned so much from every single one.

And his latest is no exception.

His “What Went Wrong with Smash” essay (which you can read here) is a masterclass in songwriting.  It talks about the inspiration and impetus for so many of the songs that appeared in the show, as well as how the songs were modified along the way thanks to the collaborative process . . . sometimes for better, and sometimes for, well, the opposite of better.

Marc is a smart dude, and he starts his post with the acknowledgement that Smash didn’t work.  And then he digs in to try and understand why.

That kind of acknowledgement and analysis is how we, as artists and producers, learn, so that the next time we do something, we have a better shot at success.

Read his article here.


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