Could this be the new out-of-town tryout?

The costs of a musical out-of-town have risen ‘dramatically’ over the last decade.  Commercial tryouts can cost $5mm.

Non-profit enhancements can be $2mm-$3mm.

With that kind of price tag, it’s no wonder that a new Broadway musical costs $15mm . . . plus.

For the past few years, there have been more grumblings from my peers, wondering, “Is it worth it?”

Well, one thing we do know . . . making a hit musical is hard AND expensive, even without a tryout.  So, to open on Broadway without putting it up in front of a real, live, paying audience, may be penny-wise and you know what.

In fact, since 2000, only TWO Tony Award-winning Best musicals have not had a tryout of some sort (and one of those was Contact, an exception to the category . . . and the other was Book of Mormon).

And since Tony Award-winning best musicals have an 80% recoupment rate . . . we keep doing the tryouts.

Also, there haven’t been any other alternatives.

Enter pandemic.

Enter streaming.

Exit out-of-town tryout?

Instead of $2mm-$5mm . . . could a Producer stage the show at a much much cheaper theater, and shoot it for a streamed audience?

Sure, it wouldn’t be the same experience as an actual live presentation.

But there are other pros to this con.

It would be cheaper, we already said that one (but it deserves repeating).

You could also stream it to ticket buyers people in different areas of the country, with different demographics, instead of relying just on the opinion of a specific theater’s audience.

Data collection and surveying would be easier . . . and you could even incorporate during the show surveys.  (Like when I did this.)

And when you do it yourself, you also get all the data of the people who get a “ticket,” giving you a marketing foundation for your show’s future.

Coming out of the pandemic, every industry is looking at how to do business more efficiently.

The first thing on the chopping block for everyone is things that weren’t making much financial sense before the pandemic.

Which makes me believe the out-of-town tryout could be on its way out.

What do you think?

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Click here to listen to what Des McAnuff, pioneer of the enhancement model, thinks of them now.  Spoiler alert: he’s concerned, and just may have predicted what I wrote about above!

What the Bridgerton Musical on TikTok means for the future of Musical Theater Writers.

Once can be a fluke.

Twice?  Well, some might not call it a trend just yet.

But I would. 

See, I have this super complicated algorithm I use to determine when something has crossed over.

It’s when three people OUTSIDE our industry email me to talk about it.

Ok, not so complicated.  But it definitely works.

 It happened with Spider-man, Hamilton, and most recently, Ratatouille.

And now, the emails have come pouring in, from people I haven’t spoken to in years, about Bridgerton The Musical.

 Let me catch you up.

1. Bridgerton debuts on Netflix.

2. Fans of the series, Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear, write a musical version of it and upload it to TikTok.

3. It blows up.  Attracts millions of views, and inspires choreography, costumes, and more.  (Oh and Netflix even gives it a thumbs up (when ten years ago they would have served it a cease and desist).

 4.  People start emailing me.

 So what does this mean?  And so quickly after Ratatouille (italicize) got an Actors Fund concert that raised $2mm, got this guy signed to CAA, and even got me to join TikTok.

It means that TikTok is the new place for musical theater writers to be discovered.  Period.

Pasek and Paul had YouTube, and it was crucial to their success, as they talked about here.

Jason Robert Brown had piano bars like eighty-eights, where I first saw Songs for a New World.

And now, everyone who dreams about writing for the theater . . . you have TikTok.

 

And, apparently, you have free rein to write whatever the @#$% you want.  Rights be damned (for now, anyway).

 

So many writers come to me saying, “I want to do a musical version of (INSERT TITLE OF SUPER VALUABLE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY HERE) if only the creators could hear what I wrote!”

 

Now, they just may get a chance.  And it just may cause them to give YOU a chance.

 See, what’s happening now for musical theater has been happening for YEARS in other types of writing.

 

It’s called Fan Fiction.  Fans have been writing alternate versions of famous stories from Harry Potter to Twilight and yeah, even Phantom of the Opera, Dear Evan Hansen, and more.

And this is where writers have been improving their chops, and even getting discovered (Remember 50 Shades of Grey?  Born out of FanFic).

And the Bridgerton writers have now arrived on the scene, thanks to the musical version of FanFic.

 

And it just may be how you arrive as well.

 

So if you’re a writer . . . this week, write a 60-second clip of a musical inspired by ANYTHING and upload it to TikTok.

You just never know what’s going to happen.  And if it doesn’t get discovered, well, the exercise of writing that song would be the same type of exercise you would get if you were in a Masters program for writing musical . . . without costing you $40,000 a year.

(I’m struggling for a name for the musical version of FanFic. You got one?)

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Every week, I give emerging writers a tip of the week on how they can improve their odds of getting seen by Producers.  It’s free with this.

Your Favorite Daddy-Daughter Duo Is Back!

I think it’s safe to say that what the world needs now . . .more than ever . . . is love, sweet love.

That’s the mission of YouTube singing sensations Mat & Savanna Shaw, who found an audience of millions during this pandemic, with their joyous and simple videos.  That’s right, who needs special effects and high tech, when you have a duo like this, with a message like this.
And that’s why I produced their world premiere concert a few weeks ago.
It was so successful (thousands tuned in) that we wanted to give those who missed it another chance.  That’s why, through Friday, January 15th, you can see their livestreamed concert OnDemand!.
Grab your ticket here, and don’t forget to share with friends and family.
And I dare you not to smile when these two sing.
Enjoy!

My review of Ratatouille Musical on Broadway (well e-Broadway, that is.)

Have you ever read a New York Times review of a musical and wonder, “Wait a second – I’m three paragraphs into this review and I still don’t even know if he liked it or not!”

Critics have a skill . . . it’s like a fisherman who doesn’t try to land the marlin on the first bite . . . they drag you in . . . all slllllloooooowwww liiiiiikkkkke. And get you to read all the way to the bottom.

SPOILER ALERT: This is not a New York Times review.

So let me get the rat out of the bag right now.

My review of Ratatouille musical?

I liked it.

You can stop reading now, if you like. And if you want a more in-depth analysis of it, you can read the actual New York Times review here.

But yeah, I liked it. I couldn’t help but get the e-chills hearing Daniel Mertzlufft’s orchestrated version of Emily Jacobsen’s “Ode To Remy” (aka The TikTok heard ’round the world) sung by Titus Burgess.

I loved Andrew Barth Feldman, Kevin Chamberlain (who got in on this early), and can Adam Lambert please come back to Broadway now?

And kudos to the writers, Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley, for how fast they delivered something of this quality (with a score that was mostly pre-existing!) In a way, they wrote a jukebox musical . . . and they wrote it faaaaaast.

So yeah, I liked the show.

But I effin’ LOVED that it happened.

Seriously, Ratatouille should get the Nobel Peace Prize for musicals.

At a time when the theater is torn apart . . . because we can’t be together . . . leave it to the NEXT generation, Gen Z, to teach us to create something no matter what the circumstances.

Great leadership often comes from the young . . . because they aren’t trying to lead . . . they are just doing what they love and it’s impossible not to follow them. It’s why I jumped into the TikTok fray  . . . I wanted to be in their group.

While I give so much love and props to this group of creators, the next generation of theatermakers, I so respect Disney Theatricals under the leadership of Tom Schumacher, for letting it happen.

20 years ago? This would not have happened. No way. Too many lawyers. Too much corporate fear.

Today? You must learn to give the people what they want. And Disney did that . . . while simultaneously protecting its brand (the musical was only available for viewing twice) . . . and helping to raise $1mm for The Actors Fund.

So yes, I liked the performances, the choreography, the costumes even . . .

But I loved what Ratatouille represents . . . the future.

And I predict that review will be a rave.

The Top 10 Best Broadway Moments of 2020: PART II

Hello and happy New Year, everybody!
 
As we all prepare to forge ahead . . . I’m still stuck in 2020!  I mean, why not. It was soooo much fun, let’s hang out here a wee bit more, shall we?
Ok, ok.  I get it.  Stop throwing the e-tomatoes.  I’ll be quick.
 
Today you get Part II of my “Top 10 Best Broadway Moments of 2020”. Then, I promise, we can move the eff on.
 
Let’s get to it!
 
(To see Part I of my Top 10 Best Broadway Moments #1-5 click here.)
 
6. A Prime Time Special

It took a pandemic for another network (besides our loyal friends at CBS) to give us an hour-long variety special . . . hosted by none other than Tina Fey! “One Night Only: The Best of Broadway” was a gift from the NBC gods.  From the Jersey Boys opening to a number from Hamilton as well as performances from new shows like Jagged Little Pill, interviews with our stars like Rob McClure, a peek into the process of making a show, and more . . . this show did its job.  It was a rest stop on this long highway of getting Broadway back up and running again.  Now, NBC, what do we have to do to convince you to do this event next year??? (You can watch the special here on demand.)

7. The Shubert Theater Board Room Shake Up
 
The Shubert Organization is like the monarchy of the Broadway theater world.  It’s the oldest.  It’s steeped in tradition.  It controls the most real estate.  And with an institution that is as large and powerful as that, change often comes slowly.  That’s why I was thrilled to see Pamela Newkirk, a journalist, scholar and Black woman, added to its board of directors.  And just in case you thought this was a symbolic addition to its knights-of-the-round-table like board . . . read on.  Pamela’s most famous work thus far is a book called . . . wait for it . . .  Diversity Inc.: The Failed Promise of Billion-Dollar Business.  So yeah, The Shuberts knew what they were getting into when they added her to their inner circle.  And they’re obviously embracing it.  It’s a leap ahead for the org and our industry.
8. The TheaterMakers Summit
 
I wasn’t going to put The Summit on this list, because obviously I’m a bit biased, having founded The TheaterMakers Studio and its yearly conference.  But I did, because to be honest, the success of this year’s Summit had nothing to do with me. 
The success was because of the 100 (!) speakers and 1000 attendees who came brimming with optimism and excitement about how Broadway could be even better when we come back.  It was one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever seen, never mind helped put together!  Even I walked away with 5 pages of notes from these A-list speakers on how I can make more theater and better theater!

So, I put it on the list.  You can see the inspiring and action-initiating talks here.

Oh, and yes, we are doing it again next year.  We already have a theme!  Ready?  It’s . . . “Places, please.” 🙂  Learn more here.

 
9. Prepare Ye for Godspell at The Berkshire Theater Group
 

Ok, let’s be honest.  Producers and Theaters are still figuring out how they are going to do theater THIS coming summer!  And yet Berkshire Theater Group and it’s formidable leader, Kate Maguire,  pulled it off LAST summer!

Godspell was the first production in the country to receive approval for production by Actors Equity . . . and even though the show had to pivot 147 times (including a last-minute change to present it outside), they pulled it off.  And they got multiple NY Times articles as a result!  While press attention wasn’t the goal, it did prove again that figuring out how to do something when no one else can, can get you a lot of attention.  Luckily, because of the leadership of Ms. Maguire, that attention was all positive.

We owe this theater and Kate a debt for not just dreaming about a production, but by doing one.  It inspired us to all to figure out how we can do it too.
 
10. Diana . . . and we haven’t even seen it yet!
 
One of my most-liked posts on Instagram this year was this one . . . a shot of me outside the Longacre theater as Diana, a new musical that hasn’t even opened on Broadway, was performing for cameras inside.
Netflix has been our fairy godmother this year, giving us Boys in the Band, The Prom and more.  But its biggest bet on Broadway this year was putting hundreds of TheaterMakers on a new musical BACK to work, and shooting Diana, on stage, for release in 2021.  Before anyone knows if it’s going to be a hit or not!  Not only could this help Diana build an audience before it opensbut if this works for Netflix, it could be the start of a brand new business model for developing new musicals.  Yep, you heard it here first . . . the streamed show BEFORE that show opens, could become the new concept album (like Jesus Christ Superstar, Waitress, etc.), that develops a show’s fanbase and therefore a marketing foundation.
And there they are . . . my favorite moments of 2020!  (Part I is here if you need to go back.)
And now, let’s get the @#$% out of this year and make 2021 the best that anyone of us has ever seen.  Broadway and the theater will be back.  And boy oh boy are the ovations at those first shows going to be enormous.
See you there.
Happy New Year everyone.
– – – – –
Speaking of “next,” my next blog will be on Tuesday, January 5th . . . and it’s going to be about a new survey about the vaccine and what that means for our start date.  Click here to make sure you get it first.
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