Learn How To Write A Musical In Person from The Man Who Wrote The Book On It.

One of the first pieces of advice I give to writers struggling to improve their scripts is simple . . .

Read Jack Viertel’s The Secret Life of the American Musical.

It’s a genius book that breaks down the structure of the classic American musical.  It diagnoses problems in your own scripts by demonstrating how the masters did it.

I re-read it every year.

I’m also lucky enough to call Jack a peer and a friend.  And recently, while we were jawing over a new musical I was working on, I got to thinking . . . the book is great and all, but hearing him talk in person is priceless for anyone looking to get better.  And aren’t we all?

Since my mission is to help people like you get your shows off the ground, I asked Jack if he’d ever teach a LIVE workshop for my readers.

And he said yes.

So we’re doing it!

On Sunday, December 8th, from 2-6 PM, Mr. Jack Viertel, Broadway Producer, Writer, former Critic, now head of Encores (for a little while longer anyway) and so much more, will be teaching an intensive workshop on the structure of a musical.

It’s a four-hour class that will be split in two parts.  The first will be Jack deconstructing a musical for you like he does in his book, but more in-depth.

The second part . . . and oh this is where the fun begins . . . we’re hiring two Broadway Actors to play Julie Jordan and Billy Bigelow and they’re going to perform the famous “If I Loved You” scene.  Jack will go through it line by line, starting and stopping, to demonstrate why it is one of the most perfect scenes there is in all of musical theater . . . and how knowing why it’s so good, will help you write classic scenes of your own.

There will be time for questions, and a big networking opp as well.  So come!

This is a small workshop for the serious minded students of musical theater, so seats are limited.  Click here and get one today.

Whether you are a Producer, Director or of course, a writer . . . your career will thank you for it.

And I will see you there, and I can’t wait to learn more from this Musical Whisperer.

Date: December 8th

Time: 2pm-6pm

Location: Theater District

Elena Shaddow (The Visit, The Bridges of Madison County, The King and I – National Tour) will be performing in the scene from Carousel along with another performer to be announced.

What Disney Plus Could Mean To Us.

The streaming world will never be the same.

On November 12th, Disney will launch its own Disney streaming service, Disney + taking its Disney Channel roots to an on-demand pay-per-month subscription model for all of its titles . . . from the Mickey Mouse Club to Marvel to The Star War Series.

All of it.  In one place.

And more importantly, NOT in other places.

Yep, Netflix will no longer carry Marvel, Disney and Star Wars movies by the end of this year.

Which means if you’ve got a young one in your family (like a certain Broadway blogger you know and hopefully love), you’ll be pickin’ up Disney Plus faster than you can say M-I-C.

What’s drawn my attention to this model is that Disney is willing to give up the major distribution networks, like Netflix, for its direct-to-consumer model.  They’re skipping the middle man to speak straight to their customers.

They don’t want to sell their content to someone else, who sells it again to their customers.

No, no . . . Disney wants to sell its content STRAIGHT to its customers.

Because why not?

Well, the reason why it hasn’t is that Hollywood never had a direct-to-consumer option before the internet.  Disney had to go through 3rd parties . . . whether that was movie theaters, or television networks (until they bought their own), etc.

But not anymore.

Disney will now handle the sales transactions (netting higher margins) and get all the important customer data . . . not only knowing who is buying its stuff, but more importantly what its customers are buying . . . which will help influence their content creation in the future.

Why is this relevant to the theater?

We don’t sell straight to our customers.  We go through 3rd parties too.

And as a marketing person, it’s one of the things that drives me nuts.  In fact, people often ask me my “Genie Question” from my podcast, and what I’d ask the Genie from Aladdin to wish for on Broadway?

Simple.

I wish we could be our own cash register.

It would create more (and better) competition.  There would be better marketing.  And yes, I firmly believe, higher grosses.  And Broadway wouldn’t only be for the white-hot hits that sell no matter how they are sold.  Shows that might be important but not commercial could have a better shot at grinding out a run.

Disney is proving that a direct-to-consumer model is the wave of the . . . well . . . the present.  Broadway is ten years behind everyone else. But I’m predicting a big change in how tickets are sold on Broadway over the next ten years.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to speak to our customers directly to tell them all about it.

– – – – –

Our conference is just TWO weeks away!  AGH!  You coming?  I hope so.  Click here.

Broadway Grosses w/e 10/27/2019: Ticket sales are getting spooky heading into Halloween

Last week’s overall grosses slipped just slightly more than 1% to $34M while attendance dipped 3% to 278k. 

After five years on Broadway, Beautiful played its final performance to SRO crowds and had its best box office week since the 2014 holidays. Carole King looks to pass her baton to Tina Turner as the show based on her life plays to sold out houses at the Lunt-Fontanne.

David Byrne’s American Utopia had a nearly $300k jump over last week bringing in $910k for only six performances. It’s now on sale through February 2020.

You can find the rest of the figures below, courtesy of The Broadway League:

Show Name Gross  TotalAttn  %Capacity AvgPdAdm
AIN’T TOO PROUD $1,530,810.16                  11,082 97.28% $138.13
ALADDIN $1,242,732.00                  13,225 95.72% $93.97
AMERICAN UTOPIA $910,605.76                    5,744 99.62% $158.53
BEAUTIFUL $1,209,465.40                    8,258 100.61% $146.46
BEETLEJUICE $1,079,678.50                  11,254 94.22% $95.94
BETRAYAL $678,448.70                    6,399 77.21% $106.02
CHICAGO $667,723.90                    7,858 90.95% $84.97
COME FROM AWAY $1,000,793.40                    8,526 101.89% $117.38
DEAR EVAN HANSEN $1,071,494.37                    7,971 101.26% $134.42
DERREN BROWN: SECRET $340,648.00                    4,437 62.39% $76.77
FREESTYLE LOVE SUPREME $685,578.00                    5,428 88.69% $126.30
FROZEN $948,568.10                  12,247 90.91% $77.45
HADESTOWN $1,395,853.50                    7,444 101.36% $187.51
HAMILTON $2,965,824.00                  10,753 101.52% $275.81
HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD, PARTS ONE AND TWO $1,001,780.00                  12,976 100.00% $77.20
LINDA VISTA $240,198.42                    3,090 66.03% $77.73
MEAN GIRLS $790,542.75                    8,862 90.43% $89.21
MOULIN ROUGE! $2,197,947.00                  10,494 100.75% $209.45
OKLAHOMA! $469,965.06                    4,364 83.79% $107.69
SLAVE PLAY $471,769.50                    5,469 86.21% $86.26
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,073,830.90                    8,456 100.96% $126.99
THE GREAT SOCIETY $404,145.00                    5,097 60.11% $79.29
THE HEIGHT OF THE STORM $335,445.00                    3,739 72.69% $89.72
THE INHERITANCE $602,019.00                    5,377 73.30% $111.96
THE LIGHTNING THIEF $173,120.00                    3,368 39.24% $51.40
THE LION KING $1,999,095.00                  12,924 95.25% $154.68
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $881,182.62                  10,130 78.89% $86.99
THE ROSE TATTOO $488,029.80                    5,321 92.25% $91.72
THE SOUND INSIDE $544,698.00                    5,710 71.52% $95.39
TINA – THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL $1,371,009.00                  10,346 100.00% $132.52
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD $2,217,401.16                  11,679 101.73% $189.86
TOOTSIE $866,273.80                    9,112 71.10% $95.07
WAITRESS $640,981.70                    7,124 85.22% $89.97
WICKED $1,486,184.50                  13,823 95.62% $107.52
TOTALS $33,983,842.00           278,087 87.31% $116.77
+/- THIS WEEK LAST SEASON +$849,857.87      
PERCENTAGE +/- THIS WEEK LAST SEASON 2.56%      

Today’s blog was guest-written by Ryan Conway, President of Architect Theatrical. Find out more here!

Podcast Episode 199: Tony Award-Winner And All Around Inspiration Ali Stroker

There have been just a few times during the 199 episodes of my podcast that I’ve wished it was video, so you could see what I see.

Watching Ali Stroker’s joy-filled smile as she talks about living out her dreams is at the top of that list.

But many of you saw that smile already when you watched her hold her Tony Award up high this past June, when she won for her turn as Ado Annie in Oklahoma!.

What’s truly amazing about Ali, is that her smile seemingly never leaves her face, even when she talks about her struggles after the accident that confined her to a wheelchair since the age of two.  That’s right, when most kids are just learning how to walk, she was told she wasn’t going to anymore.

But as you’ll hear in this incredible episode, thanks to a pair of parents cut right out of the “perfect parenting handbook”, she turned that trauma around, and turned it into a ferocious energy, drive and will to succeed, no matter effin’ what.

And guess, what . . . despite having to work harder than most of us . . . it worked.

This is where I’d usually put some bullet points of key points Ali makes during our discussion.

I’m skipping that this week, because everything she says is so inspirational and so important.

Enjoy.

And advocate for access for all!

  • Click here to listen on our site!
  • Listen to it on iTunes here. (And if you like the podcast, give it a great review while you’re there!)
  • Download it here.

This week’s #SongWriterOfTheWeek is Carmel Dean. Featuring the song “The BeanStalk” from the musical Renascence and written by Edna St. Vincent Millay and Dick Scanlan. The full album is available on iTunes and Spotify.

This episode is sponsored by Curtain Call! Curtain Call is the platform for all theatre professionals; onstage or backstage, creative or cast, producer or theatre. You can network easily AND look for work. You can view and apply for jobs directly through the platform. Just go to curtaincallonline.com to sign up. They also have an awesome Instagram page – with incredible photography @curtaincall.

3 Ways To Get Broadway Producers to Enhance Shows At Your Regional Theater.

I had the great pleasure of speaking at the NAMT conference this week on the subject of enhancement deals and how they work, and more importantly how they can work better.  (By the way, if you’re a Producer or Theater or well, anyone interested in the development of new musicals, you should join NAMT.  It’s a terrific org and, well, there just aren’t many out there for people interested in developing and producing new musical work.)

Less than half of the theaters in the room who attended the panel had actually had an enhanced show at their theater, so the question came up about what Broadway Producers look for when choosing a place to try out a show.

It’s a timely question for me, as I’m involved in one right now (and tickets are going as quickly as you’d imagine with this team), and I am looking for about half a dozen other regional tryouts for our current development slate.

And, I’ll be as honest here, as I was from my seat on the panel . . . from the Broadway Producers’ perspective (wink, wink) – and I don’t mean just mine because I know a lot of my peers feel the same way – the regional enhancement model has gotten a little out of whack over the years.

In its purest form, it’s a brilliant concept.  It works like this:

A Broadway Producer needs a real audience to try out a show away from the bright lights of Broadway.  That Producer gives a regional theater some cash to add to its budget so it can afford the artists, physical production and more that the Producer wants for that first production.  The regional theater gets an ongoing participation in the future of the show for helping to birth it.

Acclaimed Broadway Director Des Mcanuff was a pioneer of this concept when he was the Artistic Director of La Jolla Playhouse (one of the premiere tryout spots in the country).  So why on his podcast with me did Des call the current enhancement environment “dangerous”?

You’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out.  But as you can imagine it has to do with money.

See, whenever anything is successful when it starts, costs have a way of creeping up over time.

And oh, have they.

Now, that upfront cash payment that Broadway Producers are asked to pay isn’t just a few hundred thousand dollars.  It can be close to 3 million dollars! (And now we see one of the reasons Broadway musicals are getting more expensive . . . because the R&D is becoming more expensive.)

And guess what?  That upfront money is the hardest for us Broadway Producers to raise, because it’s development capital, with no promise that the show will ever even get to Broadway, never mind make money there.  (It’s why I’ve been putting together an investment development fund to help mitigate that risk.)

So if we have to raise more of it, that means, it takes more time, more effort, and we’ve got more on the line.

That’s why so many of my peers are looking at this model and saying, “Hey . . . we’re providing these theaters with a ton of cash, an ongoing royalty, artists who they might not be able to get to work at their theater, actors who may not go there without the possibility of Broadway after it, a world premiere for their subscribers to see, a production bigger than they would build on their own, etc, etc.  Am I getting the same value I got before?”

In fact . . . at the opening night party I was at LAST NIGHT, one Producer just said to me, “Ken, I was just quoted an enhancement figure so high . . . I realized I could do SIX three week workshops IN the city for the same cost!  And my team could stay at home. And I could bring in real theatergoers to see it. Why wouldn’t I do that instead?”

Good question.

The other alternative is simply to do a big commercial tryout in a city like Boston or Chicago or DC.  Sure, those are more expensive up front . . . but less expensive in the long run, because there is no ongoing royalty attached.  A bullish Producer will opt for that every time.

Alternatives are popping up like crazy.  Which is why if you’re a regional theater and you want a show that could go to Broadway at your theater, I believe you have to look at providing more value to those of us raising the capital to make it happen.

Here are three ideas I came up with at the panel . . .

1. Give us a piece of your upside. 

All the institutions I know project their income down to the dollar (and if you’re not, you should).  They have to pass their budgets by their board. So they know what they need to do to come out for the year. If we exceed your own projections, and you are “in the money,” then give us a piece of that upside.  You want a piece of our upside if we go to Broadway, right? Why wouldn’t you say, “Hey, Broadway Producer, we expect your title to deliver $X dollars in ticket sales. And if we do better, that’s because of your show . . . you deserve to walk away with some of that.” Whether or not the show actually gets to this breakeven isn’t the point.  It’s the concept of saying, “Hey, we’re in this together,” and I can say to my investors, “Yes, the cost of enhancing shows has gone up, but there’s the possibility that we could decrease that cost should we do well enough.” Oh, and newsflash . . . if I participate in the possible upside, I just might be more willing to throw some of my own marketing energy behind your production.

2. Give us another developmental option as part of a package.

Many of the regional institutions I know have budgets for 29-hour readings or one-day readings or some form of development work for new shows.  Offer that to me as an “added value” for bringing the bigger enhancement deal to you. “Hey Ken, we’ll throw in a reading.” Or even, “We’ll put your writers up for a week at our theater six months before they come down to have a writer’s retreat.”Give me a ‘bonus’ that reduces some of my other developmental costs, or just helps make my show better, and the enhancement immediately has more value.  And I think I’ve got a real partner rather than a non-profit who is just looking to pay for some of its overhead.

3. Give us an opportunity to raise some money.

We’re all guilty of this one.  Broadway Producers and Institutions and any org who raises money, guards its investor/donor list like Trump guards his tax returns.  But here’s the thing, Broadway Producers need even more money than ever to get their shows all the way to the Great White Way (partly because of the increased costs of tryouts at regional theaters).  And what one of my esteemed panelists reminded everyone at the conference was that most donors look at their donation to the non-profit very differently from an investment in a Broadway show. In other words, many would be happy to do both! Give us Broadway Producers an opportunity to speak to your board or your attendees at your theater about how Broadway Investing works and yes, even solicit directly for some investment, and you’ll find that we’ll be much more interested in spending time and money with you.  (Because guess who is most likely to invest in your show – people who have SEEN your show!) Don’t be so afraid that you’ll lose folks to us Broadway Producers. Because you won’t. In fact, most likely it will enhance their experience. And since YOU benefit tremendously if the Producer gets the show to Broadway, don’t you want to do everything to make that happen?

And . . . here’s a BONUS 4th way to get Broadway Producers to Enhance a Show At Your Theater.

4. Give Their Investors a Donation Option.

Because of tax reasons, or just the simplicity of not wanting to get another K1, some Broadway Investors actually prefer just making a donation early on in the show’s process.  No, they don’t get an “equity stake” in the show (but there is a way to give them other perks), but if it’s what they prefer, why not let them!  Some non-profits I’ve worked with have had trouble taking a donation earmarked for specific shows. If this policy would conflict with your non-profit by laws, talk to your board about changing them.  Because the more options I have to raise money, the more attractive your institution is.

Right or wrong, the opinion of Broadway Producers is that the scales have tipped too far in the favor of the regional theaters for these enhancement deals, which is why so many Producers are looking for other options.  I know I still love the concept of going to one of the many theaters out there looking to get into this game (and I’m always looking for theaters who have NOT done it before – so if you are one, get in touch with me).

But we have to do something to balance the deals.

The above are just a few ways to create an even better partnership.  And I’m eager to hear from regionals on what we can do to make it more valuable for YOU.

Because our “missions” are the same.  Both Broadway Producers and Regional Theaters want to create new musicals.  Just because we both have to hire lawyers now to hammer out these contracts, doesn’t mean we’re not on the same team.

(Oh, PS . . . enhancements come in ALL sizes. Not every show was designed for Broadway, and I know tons of shows looking to get a start somewhere in this country.  So if you can’t house a Broadway sized show, don’t think you’re out of the game. Off Broadway musicals, one person shows, new children’s plays . . . all need a place to try out.  No matter what the size of your stage, you can find artists and producers willing to share the costs with you.)

– – – – –

We’ll be talking about enhancement deals at my Super Conference on November 16th and 17th.  So if you’re a writer, producer or regional theater looking to learn more about this, come. Click here for more details.

And if you want to watch a webinar that explains what an Enhancement deal is, there’s one in 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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