What this Tracy Chapman song has to do with your show.

I wrote a letter to singer/songwriter Tracy Chapman in the mid-90s.  It was on early in my career and I was looking for popular artists who might have an idea for a musical.  And her 1988 hit, “Fast Car”, told me two things . . .

1 – She had a gift for melody.

2 – She wrote story songs.

Broadway wasn’t cool then, so my inquiry hit a wall (also known as a manager who couldn’t see that one day Elton John, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Sara Bareilles, Sting, and more would have shows on Broadway).

Tracy had another hit song, that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, as I’m crotch deep in the development of six new musicals.  The song?  “Talkin’ About A Revolution.”

Why?

The biggest hit that Broadway has ever seen and may ever see is about a revolution:  The American Revolution (If you don’t know the show I’m talking about, then you should get out more . . . or just read this blog more.)

One of the other biggest hits that Broadway and the world has ever seen is also about a revolution:  The French Revolution.

And there’s another musical that’s coming back to Broadway in 2021 (in a very buzzy all-female version directed by Diane Paulus) that’s also set in Revolutionary times.

What makes revolutions such good settings for shows?

Revolutions are started by groups of the super passionate people who are willing to put their lives on the line (literally) to achieve their goal of rewriting history.

Can the stakes be any higher?

Like medical dramas or legal eagle shows on TV, revolutions just make a writer’s job a little easier, since the setting already has the baked-in requirements of a successful musical (passionate heroes and high stakes).

Am I suggesting you find an actual revolution to write about or produce?

No.  (Although it wouldn’t hurt – I still think there’s a good Civil War story to be told on a stage.)

What I am suggesting is that you find the revolution IN your story.

Doesn’t Billy Elliot start a revolution inside his household and in his town when he wants to dance?

Belle’s relationship with the Beast has the townspeople picking up arms against her new furry friend.

West Side Story, The Lion King, Little Shop of Horrors, Beautiful, etc, etc. all have revolutionary characteristics if you look closely enough.

And the shows that I’m working on . . . Joy (a single mom who starts a revolution when she fights to get herself on QVC to sell her own invention, after it failed with someone else, and changes the face of retail for herself and for women worldwide), Harry Belafonte (a singer who used his popularity to work with MLK, JFK, RFK, Eleanor Roosevelt, Malcolm X, Mandela, and more and fight for equality in this country and the world), Ma Vie En Rose (an 8-year-old child born a boy, who is a girl, and fights against his family and community who deny who he really is), and Harmony (about a singing group fighting starting a revolution against a revolution), etc.

When you are looking for shows to adapt for the stage, find a revolution, and your job will be that much easier.

Oh, and Tracy, if you’re reading this, the offer still stands.  You’ve got a musical in you.  I know it.

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If you want to hear what several Tony Award-winning writers look for when they adapt stories for the stage, click here.

 

Why I’m producing Harmony by Bruce Sussman and Barry Manilow.

If this is the first you’re hearing about this musical coming to New York, then you gotta follow me here . . . because that’s where I announce a lot of the fun stuff.

But let me recap . . .

On Friday night, at about 9:15, Barry Manilow announced from the stage of his Broadway residency that Harmony, the musical he co-wrote with Bruce Sussman, would make its New York debut at the famed NYTF (the same theater that birthed the current and magnificent Fiddler revival) in February of 2020.

And I’m thrilled to be the Commercial Producer partnering with the NYTF to make this happen.

Barry teased this in Vegas a few months ago (which we also caught on video here), but I’m so excited that it’s finally public . . . and you can even get tickets for it now.

So what got me “singing” Harmony?  I’ll tell you, as I always do when I sign on to a show . . .

First, if you saw Gettin’ The Band Back Together, then you know I’m a big Barry Manilow fan, and always have been.  (Someday I’ll tell you the story of how Gettin’ The Band led me to Harmony, which is one for the books, and one of the greatest lessons of my life.)

Second, I am a fan of all-guy harmony groups.  Having been a performer in the musical Forever Plaid 4x and having seen the success of my own Altar Boyz, as well as Jersey Boys (and the boy-band/harmony genre in general), I’ve always known that audiences have a thing for seeing groups of guys sing and dance in groups.  (In fact, we now manage this killer group that knocks ’em dead all over the country.)

Third, the score to this sucker is outstanding.  But it’s Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman . . . are you surprised?  They write the songs.  Literally.  So when you come to Harmony, one of the things I will guarantee are some effin’ melodies and rich lyrics that will crawl into your ear and never come out (like that thing in Wrath of Khan, for you Trekkies out there).

Lastly, I signed on to this show because of the story.  That’s the most important thing in musicals, even if the music gets all the attention.  Without a roller coaster ride of a well-told story (as we talked about on Friday), you can forget me (and most audiences) ever getting involved.

Harmony is about a little known group called The Comedian Harmonists . . . one of the most successful musical groups in Europe in the years leading up to World War II.  Why is so little known about them?  Well, they were from Germany.  And the group was half Jewish and half Gentile.  And most every permanent “record” of their existence was destroyed.  Purposefully.

It’s a musical that tells the story of the rise of a guy group from a street corner to big stages all over the world, performing their big ol’ comedic production numbers with a sound you’ve gotta hear to believe – only to be broken apart in one of the most horrific times in the world’s history.

It had me laughing, singing along, and yeah, shedding more than a few tears . . . just after reading it.

And honestly?  It’s a story and a time and a place and a people that a guy with the last name of Davenport isn’t as familiar with as he should be.  But I want to be.  So once again, I’m producing something that I don’t know, on purpose.

And I’m thrilled to be partnering with the NYTF to bring this important and entertaining musical to downtown Manhattan . . . where you can see The Statue of Liberty from just outside the theater.

Barry, Bruce, and I hope to see you there.

Get tix now.

The life and music of Neil Diamond on Broadway. And I’m honored to be producing.

It was last spring.  And I couldn’t have been busier.

But when this mentor/friend calls, I pick up the phone.  I don’t care where I am or what I’m doing.  I answer.

And this story is an example of why.

We were in the middle of the Tony campaign for Once On This Island. I was also at the tail end of the “lab” of Gettin’ the Band Back Together.  And we were still counting the age of my kid in weeks.

“Ken, I’d like you to talk to someone,” my mentor said.

I’ve learned that when this mentor-o-mine tells me I should chat with someone, I don’t ask “Who?”  I just ask, “When?”

He told me the match he was about to make for me was with none other than real life Jersey Boy and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame himself, Mr. Bob Gaudio.

“I’m going to give him your cell.”

I told him to have Bob call me anytime, and I didn’t even care what the reason was, even though we were an hour from an invited audience at our workshop, I had a conference call for Once On This Island scheduled for intermission, and I still didn’t know how to make a tight swaddle.  I mean, I was going to get a chance to talk to Bob “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” Gaudio!

Bob called me less than fifteen minutes later, which is how I knew we’d get along.  Because he wasted no time.  This was a guy who wanted to get moving and get moving fast.

And that’s when I learned that Bob, who had been Neil Diamond’s producer on four albums and his friend for decades, had been talking to his chart-bustin’ buddy about bringing a musical based on his life and songs to Broadway.  And they were looking for a partner.

So I said I had to think about it . . .

LOL.  JK.  JK.

I said yes.  And we were off and running.

And for the past year, little did you know that this project, about the man who wrote “America,” “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” and, yeah, “Sweet Caroline,” has been simmering on the stove.

But we needed a few more ingredients . . . like a writer.

So I called one of my favorite agents, who told me he wasn’t sure if he had anybody right for what we wanted to do.

Two days later, he called me and said he had just met with two time Academy Award-winner Anthony McCarten (Theory of Everything, The Darkest Hour), who was also the hottest screenwriter in Hollywood thanks to a little film he wrote called Bohemian Rhapsody (!) . . . and that Anthony just happened to mention that he had two photos on his mantle at his home in New Zealand when he was a kid:  The Pope . . . and yep, Neil Diamond.

So, he was in.

And then we needed a director.

My first Broadway Company Management gig was Thoroughly Modern Millie, helmed by Michael Mayer.  I remember watching him work then, thinking how versatile he was.  He was known for plays like Side Man and A View From The Bridge but also turned out a You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown and here he was working on Millie (and helping to turn it into a Tony Award-winning Best Musical, by the way).  He went on to captain Spring Awakening, American Idiot, and so many more.  Everything he did was unique and theatrical, which is what Bob and I were looking for.

Would you know it, he was a Neil Diamond fan too.

And he was in.

Neil Diamond.  Bob Gaudio.  Anthony McCarten.  Michael Mayer.

And me.

Sorry, but pinching me isn’t going to work.  Someone is going to have to punch me in the face so I can make sure this ain’t no Broadway producin’ dream.

So yeah, it’s real, and today, we’re thrilled to announce that this new untitled bio-musical, about a man who has sold over 130 million records and counting, with 10 Top 10 hits, is on its way to the stage with the storytelling magic of Anthony McCarten and Michael Mayer.

It’s still early, so that’s all the news I have right now.  So you’ll have to watch this space for updates.  I don’t even have a timeline as of yet.

But, I can say this . . . this one will probably come together quicker than most musicals.

Because we’ve already got a score.  And it’s pretty effin’ great.

(You know, we were going to delay this announcement until after the 4th . . . but then it dawned on us . . . it just seemed too perfect that a musical based on the guy who wrote this should be announced this week.)

Sign up here to be the first to find out when this musical will debut.

10 Tips On How To Finish That @#$%ing Play, Screenplay or Whatever You’re Working on.

Everyone has an idea for a something . . . whether it’s a play, a movie . . . or even an app.

But as I wrote about here, ideas are worth zippo.  That’s why they can’t be protected by copyright.

However, when those ideas are forged into something specific and actually finished, they can be priceless.

So, how do you finish that idea you’ve been working on?  Because of the success we’ve had with our 30 Day Script Challenge, I decided to expand on that concept and write down the most effective tips I’ve learned (and use myself) on how to finish a script, a book, a blog . . . or just about anything.

You ready for ’em?

Well, they’re not here.

I put the tips in an article on that fancy new media site, Medium.com.  To see my 10 Tips on How To Write More Often And Actually Finish Something, click here.

And when you get there, make sure you . . .

  1. Sign up.
  2. Read the article.
  3. And give it a “clap” at the end, if you like it.

I hope they help get your project from the page to the priceless phase.

Click here to read it so you can start finishin’.

Looking for ways to hold yourself accountable for your success, finish that script, or get it to the next stage? Click here to become a part of my PRO community today and get everything you need to succeed!

 

Why Rock & Roll on Broadway is here to stay.

Rock musicals ain’t no new thing.

They came onto the scene in the late ’60s with Hair and then came into their own with Superstar and more in the ’70s.

They didn’t dominate our industry, by any means.

But they’re about it.

Here’s why rock/pop musicals will be the most popular form of music on Broadway from this day on.

It’s all about math.

(My wife just stopped reading when she got to the M word, by the way.)

Rock and Roll was born in the late 1940s but didn’t achieve mainstream success until the early 1950s.  For the sake of this blog, let’s call the birth of Rock and Roll 1954, the year that Bill Haley and the Comets recorded “Rock Around The Clock” and a young Elvis Presley recorded “That’s All Right.”

Now, in the 1990s, when I was working on my first Broadway gig as a Production Assistant, rock musicals still had a “not for everyone” label.

Why?

Let’s do the math . . . of the age of our audience.

In 1994 (the year I graduated from college), people who were born in 1954 (and therefore were raised on rock and roll as a dominating music genre) were only 40 years old.  They were not yet the average age of the traditional theatergoer (which is approx 44 years old).

And since so many of our theatergoers are older than 40, born before the birth of Rock and Roll and raised on a much different style of music, you can see why pop/rock musicals didn’t appeal to everyone.  It’s why shows like Will Rogers FolliesCity of AngelsPassion, and Titanic were Tony winners and box office winners to boot.

Flash forward.

It’s now 2019.  Those who were born in 1954 are now 65 years old.  For the first time, the majority of our theatergoing audience was raised on Rock and Roll.

This is why shows like HamiltonDear Evan HansenHadestownand of course, the jukebox musicals, all of which have been based on music from the ’50s and beyond, are starting to dominate the market.

There will always be room for outliers, but our audience has aged into Rock and Roll and popular music being (is becoming) the norm on Broadway.

So if you’re writing more traditional stuff, you may have a harder time getting an audience to pay attention.

Because over the next ten years, it’s only going to get rockier and hip-hoppier on Broadway.

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Need some tips on how to put more butts in seats, or how to use social media to sell your show or yourself?  Click 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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