RESEARCH ALERT: How many locations are in the average musical anyway?

I’ve read a lot of scripts. It’s one of the best parts of the job. The excitement of swiping past the first page . . . hoping I’m about to find the next Hamilton.

It’s the producer’s version of panning for gold.

Of course, no script comes out as a polished piece. There are always notes . . . whether it’s your first draft of your seventy-first.

And there are THREE notes that I find I give more often than others. And, there are THREE notes I GET more often than others on my own work. That’s right, I’m in the trenches of this theatermaking thing just like you.

One of those three notes I give is . . .

“The script has too many locations.”

(Variations include:  “too cinematic,” “How do we transition from one scene to another so quickly,” etc.)

See, locations affect how a show moves. It affects the cohesiveness of the storytelling. And it affects the budget.

So yeah, it’s important.

I gave this note recently and the writer said, “How many should I have?”

I answered my usual response. 

“There are no hard and fast rules. You have to write the show you want to write, but . . . “

“Well, is there a common number of locations for successful shows,” the Writer interrupted.

And I did not have an answer. Then.

But I do now.

I put our crackerjack research assistant, Andrew, on the case. (You might remember him as the guy who did a TikTok video about wanting to work with me – so we hired him.) Andrew prepared some stats that I found fascinating, so I had to share.

Here’s what we did, and what we discovered:

I asked Andrew to look at some classic musicals from decades past, to see what the trend was back in the day. So we analyzed the scripts of:

  • Oklahoma
  • Kiss Me Kate
  • Guys and Dolls
  • The Music Man
  • West Side Story
  • Hello Dolly
  • Fiddler On The Roof
  • Cabaret

The average # of unique locations in those classics? 10. (Note: location means a “set” not a scene.)

Interesting, right? Immediately gives you a guideline of what has worked before.

But then I wondered. Has this changed since the 40s, 50s, and 60s?  

What is the average # of locations now?

So we analyzed the scripts of the following musicals, which were all written in the last ten years:

  • Memphis
  • Book of Mormon
  • Matilda
  • Kinky Boots
  • A Gentleman’s Guide
  • Hamilton
  • Dear Evan Hansen
  • The Band’s Visit

 

The average # of locations in these musicals? 16.

And there you go.

Over the years, the # of locations in musicals has increased by 60%.  

Why?

Technology is one reason, of course. We can move things faster now. We’ve got projections.  We’ve got automation. And more. So why not have more locations?

But I think it’s also because our audiences demand more. They see more movement in other forms of media. They have shorter attention spans. They want and expect a slicker, smoother entertainment experience.

Either way, I now have an answer to that writer’s question. And you can have a guide to use for your show.

Does this mean this is the required # of locations in musicals? That all shows must adhere to this stat like it’s the law?

Absolutely not.

But before you break something to make it better, you have to know how it works in the first place.
Want to see the other TWO most common notes I give?  (That are more important that the above).  Join our Facebook group. I just posted ‘em in there.

Take The 30 Day Script Challenge. Imagine what could happen if you succeed?

My mission is to get more theater out into the world.

Because I believe the world is a better place if there is more theater in it.

One of the most successful tools in this initiative is our 30 Day Script challenge.  At least 100 scripts have come out of this sucker!  From people who hadn’t even written a page before they started!

So, at the beginning of the pandemic, if you said, “I’m going to take this time and get that script out of my head and onto a page,” now is the time.

In fact, with the way this pandemic is going, you’re running out of time!

Give it a shot with our 30 Day Script challenge!  It’s free.

So what’s the worst thing that could happen . . . you still don’t write it? You end up exactly where you are now?

Now, ask yourself . . . what’s the best thing that could happen?  Seriously. What could happen when you finish the script?

Take a moment . . . and imagine what COULD happen.

A produced play.  A licensed musical.  A great review.  An agent.  A Tony Award?

Yep, yep, yep . . . and who knows . . . until you FINISH THE SCRIPT.

So go for it. It’s free. It’s fun. And it works.

The 30 Day Script Challenge starts today, on June 1st, so sign up now.  And just think – by July 1st, you’ll have a completed first draft.

Take the Challenge here.

May 28, 2021: What TheaterMakers Are Talking About This Week

Here’s what TheaterMakers were talking about this week . . .

1 – Hadestown announces Sept. 2 reopening on Broadway

Hadestown announced Monday that it will return to Broadway September 2, almost two weeks earlier than the previously scheduled opening date for the industry. 

Read more: broadwaynews.com

 

2 – Tony Awards announce fall broadcast on Paramount+, Broadway special on CBS

A presentation of The Tony Awards will air at 7 p.m. EST Sept 26. on Paramount+. At 9 p.m. EST, CBS will air a special entitled “The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back!” which will feature performances from the Tony-nominated Best Musicals and a live presentation of the Tony Awards for Best Play, Best Revival of a Play and Best Musical.

Read more: broadwaynews.com

 

3 – Fitness memberships, Broadway shows and Governor’s Ball tickets part of NYC’s vaccine contest giveaway

Mayor Bill de Blasio invited unvaccinated New Yorkers on Monday to come, get their shot and enter for a chance to win big prizes including Broadway shows, tickets to Governor’s Ball and more.

Read more: amny.com

 

4 – Sen. Chuck Schumer, industry leaders on Broadway’s reopening and questions that remain

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and leaders of Broadway gathered in Times Square Friday to speak to Broadway’s reopening and the passage of the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program. 

Read more: broadwaynews.com

 

5 – Curtain Up! Broadway.com Gifts Theater Tickets to 100 New York City Small Business Owners

One hundred small business owners who represent the five boroughs of New York City and the diversity that makes NYC so special have been chosen as the winners of the I Love NYC SMB Campaign.

Read more: broadway.com

 

Fun on a Friday:

In honor of the Tony Awards and Hadestown re-opening announcements this week, lets throw it back to their incredible Tony’s performance, where they won Best Musical that night!

 

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May 21, 2021: What TheaterMakers Are Talking About This Week

Here’s what TheaterMakers were talking about this week . . .

 

1 – Diana on Broadway moves up its opening night by one month

Originally announced to return on December 1, 2021, Diana will now be returning to Broadway on November 2, 2021, one month prior to the show’s Netflix premiere.

Read  more: BroadwayNews.com

 

2 – New Bill Seeks to Shake Up Broadway Ticketing Business

March Hershberg from Forbes writes about the new bill that has been introduced in the NY Senate that could kill “variable pricing” on Broadway. Read for more, but I wonder what they’ll have to say about airlines or hotels as well. Think it’ll pass?

Read more: Forbes.com

 

3 – The Golden Ratio

Stephen Langston shares his theory about “the golden ratio”, a Greek formula that could be responsible for hit musicals such as Les Mis, Miss Saigon, Phantom, Cats, and more. 

Read more: Phys.org

 

4 – Dear Evan Hansen Movie Trailer has been released!

The Dear Evan Hansen movie, starring Ben Platt who won a Tony for this role on Broadway, will premiere on September 24th, 2021. Head to the link below to watch the trailer. 

Read more: Playbill.com

 

5 – The Drama Book Shop to reopen on June 10, 2021

The Drama Book Shop is reopening this summer thanks to Broadway’s Lin Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, Jeffery Seller, and James L. Nederlander, the NYC theatre institution will be back up and running soon enough. 

Read more: Playbill.com

 

Fun on a Friday:

Something tells us that you need this video on this Friday. It’s cats watching CATS!

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Want to be part of an online community of #theatermakers? Join 800+ theatermakers here. Best part? It’s completely free.

May 14, 2021: What TheaterMakers Are Talking About This Week

From even more Broadway reopening dates and why Broadway is waiting to reopen until the fall to Indie Venues finally receiving their “Save our Stages” money and more . . . here’s what TheaterMakers were talking about this week . . .

 

1 – Hamilton, The Lion King and Wicked will return to Broadway on Sept. 14

Hamilton, The Lion King and Wicked are all set to return to Broadway this Fall! The “Big Three” were long-rumored to reopen the industry due to their popularity.

Read more: broadwaynews.com 

 

2 – EXPLAINER: Why Broadway is waiting until fall to reopen

The four-month long wait is explained. Producers and union leaders must reach agreements on all issues before shows open while also gauging their audiences back.

Read more: apnews.com

 

3- SBA Expects ‘Save Our Stages’ Money to Finally Reach Indie Venues Next Week.

Indie venues have been struggling to keep afloat since the pandemic began more than 14 months ago. They have received no aid thus far, news states the payments will begin starting next week.

Read more: variety.com 

 

4 – Hollywood Bowl reserves 85% of seats for vaccinated guests. Everything you need to know.

Want a seat at this year’s Hollywood Bowl? Get vaccinated! The remainder of the tickets will be reserved for those showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of a given performance and masks will be required for all patrons.

Read more: latimes.com

 

5 – Cut the intermission, please. Why I hope the pandemic ends a theatrical tradition.

It’s hard to believe after the lockdown, people will want to maximize their time indoors. Will this pose an issue on the theatrical tradition of a 10-15 minute intermission? Or will intermission be of that of the past, moving towards uninterrupted performances?

Read more: latimes.com 

 

Fun on a Friday:

If you’ve been following the Bridgerton Musical trend on TikTok, you may have seen this new cover with Darren Criss (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying).

@abigailbarlowwwSurprise!! @darrencriss  is on tiktok and we burn for him. #bridgertonmusical @emilythebear♬ original sound – Abigail Barlow

 

 

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