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.

– – – – –

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.

Podcast Episode 180 — Two Time Tony Award Winning, Multi-Faceted Musical Guru, Stephen Oremus

Which ONE of these things would mean that you’ve “made it” in our biz?

  1. You’re from the theater and you’re asked to work on The Academy Awards.
  2. You win not one, but two Tonys.
  3. Lady Gaga gives you a shout out during one of her concerts.

Just one of the above would probably make you think, “Ok, I’ve arrived.  I’m good. Check please.”  Am I right?

Well, what if all THREE of those things happened to you?

Because they did for Musical Director, Supervisor, Arranger, Orchestrator, Conductor and more, Stephen Oremus (Avenue QBook of MormonFrozen, etc.).

Stephen and I chatted about these three career peaks of his, as well as:

  • The job of a Musical Director and what makes a good one.
  • How working with Lada Gaga differs from working with Stephen Schwartz.
  • What makes a “hit” song and how he knows when he’s working on one.
  • His role in the creative process.
  • The frustrating thing about long-running shows on Broadway.

Click here for my podcast with Stephen.

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

Download it here.

GUEST BLOG: Tips for Applying to the BMI Workshop by Patrick Cook (with Frederick Freyer)

In the spring of 1983, Allan Becker ushered me into a windowless room on West 57th Street where I found myself facing Ed Kleban, Alan Menken, Maury Yeston, Skip Kennon, and Richard Engquist. They said hello and pointed me to the piano. My legs were a bit rubbery, but I made it to the piano and started my first song. It was a comedy song called “Piano Bar Prayer” (I was playing piano bar at the time). The first line of the chorus was “God, don’t make me sing Feelings again…” They laughed!!

36 years later, I have Allan Becker’s job, and writers are often emailing me asking for advice about auditioning for the BMI Workshop. When Ken asked if we could come up with a few guidelines, Rick and I grabbed the opportunity to gather some of our thoughts about it.

Tips About the Application

Submit songs that were written for a character. A sweet, generic love ballad may show off your songwriting talent, but it won’t show if you can write for the theatre. Pick a specific character and write a song for them, revealing their character through the song. Classic examples are “Some People” from Gypsy and “Cockeyed Optimist” from South Pacific. Modern day examples are “Waving Through a Window” from Dear Evan Hansen and “My Shot” from Hamilton.

Write out your accompaniments. Although we accept lead sheets with chords, we much prefer you write out your piano parts.

Don’t worry about style. Some people think there’s a “BMI Sound” that we look for. Not true. Nine, Avenue Q, Next to Normal, Once on This Island and Little Shop of Horrors all came out of the BMI Workshop. Other than craft, brilliance, and theatricality, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a similarity of “sound.”

Always welcome are… strong melodies as well as spareness and economy in your lyric writing and melody writing.

Heavily produced demos can be counter-productive. A clear recording of a singer accompanied by a piano is often the best approach.

Don’t announce your setups on your recordings.

A Couple of Tips About the Audition (if you get called in for an audition)

Don’t worry about being nervous. Everyone is nervous. It has no effect on your audition. Unlike actors and singers who must perform under pressure in front of a paying audience, writers are usually pacing in the back of the house where nobody sees them. In fact, most of the time the audition panel won’t even be looking at you; we’ll be looking at your score and/or your lyric sheets.

Try out your comedy song ahead of time. One of the requirements of the workshop audition s to present a comedy song. Writers often tell me they wrote their comedy song right before the audition. My advice is to try it out on other people first, even friends and family if you can trust them to be honest. Neil Simon said that out of ten lines he meant to be funny, only three actually got a laugh. Writing good comedy songs is an essential talent in the theatre and the only way to really tell if a song is funny is to get it out there and see how it plays.

Members of the BMI Workshop often say it is a life-changing experience. I know it was for me. You can apply online at bmi.com.

Recommended reading:

The Making of a Musical by Lehman Engel

The American Musical Theater: a Consideration by Lehman Engel

American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950 by Alec Wilder

The Broadway Musical: A Critical and Musical Survey by Joseph Swain

 

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