Podcast Episode #32: Kristin Caskey talks the “fun” of Producing Fun Home and more.

Kristin Caskey was part of the producing wonder team behind Thoroughly Modern Millie (along with Hal Luftig and her partner Mike Isaacson) that grabbed the Tony Award away from Urinetown, and now the show is one of the most produced musicals across the country.

And this year, Kristin (again along with her partner Mike Isaacson, co-producer Barbara Whitman and more) did it again . . . grabbing a Tony Award for the big time underdog Fun Home

I’ve known Kristin since the Millie days, when I was a Company Manger, and she was a first time lead Producer.  As the President of Fox Theatricals, she’s produced a ton since then, including Legally Blonde, Caroline, or Change, Bring It On, and more.

I was so thrilled when she agreed to jump on the ol’ podcast so she could talk about her career since Millie, as well as . . .

  • How she saw huge potential in Fun Home when so many (including myself) were scared by its subject matter.
  • Why relationships with Authors are such important things for Producers to develop.
  • For once and for all . . . is there a “road-block” of Tony Award voters?
  • What she wishes she knew about Broadway Producing when she started that she knows now.
  • Do you want to be a producer?  And are you not in NY (just like she wasn’t when she started)?  Here’s what you should do.

Listen in!

Click here to listen.

Listen to it on iTunes here.  (And give me a rating, while you’re there!)

Download it here.

Click here to read the transcript.

(Oh, and after you’re done hearing how Fun Home won the Tony and you want to hear how she and her team did it on Millie, click here to listen to Hal Luftig tell the story.)

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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10 Shows that Stand Out at the Fringe – 2015

Trumpets, please!  The NYC Fringe Festival is about to begin! Da-da-da-da!!!!

Before I announce this year’s “10 Shows That Stand Out,” I thought I’d fill you in on the history of why I do this every year.

Think back (insert Wayne’s World time travel sounds here) to circa 2002 . . .  I was a Company Manager wannabe Producer, so I was scouting out shows everywhere, including the Fringe Festival. I picked up that year’s catalog of shows, and flipped through, circling shows that got my attention, just based on their blurbs.  One of those shows was a brilliant little comedy called 6 Story Building by a guy named Kevin Del Aguila.

Yep, that Kevin Del Aguila, who went on to write Altar Boyz, star in Peter and the Starcatcher, and he even won an Emmy Award earlier this year.  Without me circling 6 Story Building in that catalog, Altar Boyz wouldn’t be what it became, and I might not be sitting here in my office, writing this blog.

So you see, how shows pitch themselves in 50 words can change a lot of people’s lives.  And that’s why every year, I go back to my roots, print out the catalog and circle shows that jump out and say, “Hey – take a look at me!” and list them in this blog.  Now remember, speaking super frankly, just because the show appears on this list doesn’t mean it’s any good . . . it just means there was something about it that said, “Huh, this show could have a future.”

And with that . . . here we go . . . these are the 10 Shows that Stand Out at this year’s Fringe (in alpha order) . . . and why:

1.  CODA (Children of Deaf Adults)

Ok, look, this one is personal.  Obviously I’m producing the Deaf West production of Spring Awakening this fall, so the radar goes off when I see anything that has to do with the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.  So this one may have gotten to me more than others, but there’s something to learn from this when targeting your marketing to Producers.  Got a show with a specific issue/theme/story . . . find people with an affinity for that same issue/theme/story, and go at ’em . . . hard.

2.  Far From Canterbury

You know what Wicked and Lion King and Phantom and Aladdin all have in common?  Yes, they are all super-sized hits.  Duh.   But they also all have an element of fantasy to them (lions don’t really sing, you know).  Broadway loves a fantasy (Hollywood, even more so), which is why my eyes lit up at this show which “is set in a land where the magic of fairy tales is real.”  And the lands of fairy tales also tend to have pretty decent sized spectacles . . . like Wicked and Lion King and Phantom and Aladdin.

3.  Hamlet the Hip-Hopera

Without a doubt hip hop/rap is the next music form to dominate Broadway (Hamilton is just the beginning of the revolution) so anything that incorporates this exciting art form intrigues me.  But hey, I’m the guy who wanted to turn 8 Mile into a musical (seriously – watch this – and imagine it on stage!).

4.  Hard Day’s Night

Ok, so the title dragged me in . . . because obviously it has me thinking the Beatles.  Who doesn’t love the Beatles?  So immediately when reading the title, I’m saying, “Yes . . . ”  (There’s an ol’ school sales tip of getting someone to say “Yes,” to something before making a bigger ask to get the person in the right frame of mind and this title does that.  For example, “Would you like to save money on your car insurance?”)  Now, the challenge for this show is that it has to deliver, because my expectations are high.  And although the Beatles do figure into the plot of this story about a “f**king crazy family,” this ain’t a jukebox musical.  But as one advertising executive said to me once, “It’s my job to get butts in seats.  It’s your job to make sure they have a great time.”  Titles can get butts in seats.  Just don’t disappoint, because your word of mouth will be twice as bad if the audience feels duped.

5.   Hick: A Love Story, The Romance of Lorena Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt

Hamilton is just one of the many examples we’ve had of musicals with political figures in the literal spotlight.  1776, Fiorello, Clinton, etc.  And now we have a intimate look into the life of Eleanor Roosevelt and her relationship with Lorena Hickok through the 2,336 passionate letters the First Lady wrote to her.  Who doesn’t love looking deep into the private lives of public figures?  I was intrigued by this one, but on the fence, until I read two great quotes from the San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Guardian that were in the blurb.  It wasn’t just the quotes that got me, it was where they were from.  Sources do mean a lot . . . and a city is a source in itself.  You’ve heard, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere!”  Well, you gotta be more than a slouch to make it in San Fran, for sure.

6.  Little One

This blurb grabbed my attention because of a quote as well, but this one wasn’t about the play.  Apparently the National Post, Globe & Mail and Now Magazine called the author of Little One, Hannah Moscovitch, “Canada’s Hottest Young Playwright.”  Often when Producers go shopping in festivals like the Fringe, they don’t find shows . . . but they do find artists.  So even though the “thriller” aspect of Little One did appeal to meI’m intrigued in this one not because of what’s in the festival today, but what might be on Broadway tomorrow.

7.  Serial: The Parody!

People love parodies.  Period.  Forbidden Broadway ran for 174 years.  50 Shades of Grey had two musical parodies.  Audiences are going nuts at That Bachelorette Show.  And yeah, Serial was so popular, it obviously is going to have a built in audience who wants to see it mocked . . . relentlessly.

8.  The Mad Scientist’s Guide to Romance, Robots and Soul-Crushing Loneliness

Can there be a more Fringe-y title than this one?  But that’s not what got my attention here.  What got me to include Mad Scientist on this list wasn’t seeing it in the catalog.  It was seeing it in my inbox. The producers of the show reached out to me about a week ago . . . with a very personal email, saying that they were “big fans,” mentioning the show as a possible tenant for my theater (they smartly targeted my interests, not theirs), and that they hoped I would include the show in my annual list of 10 picks of the Fringe. They knew what they wanted, and they asked for it.  And they got it.  Obviously this team knows the cardinal rule that it takes more than one impression to make a purchase.  You’ve got to hit your audience up in a variety of places.  And they got to me days before I started composing this list . . . yeah, like they planned it that way.  I don’t know whether the show will be great (although it sounds fun, it’s “70 minutes and you can drink during the show”), but the marketing certainly has been smart.

9.  The Submarine Show

The last line of The Sub Show‘s blurb reads, “Created by Emmy Award Winner Slater Penny and former Cirque Du Soleil Performer Jaron Hollander.”  See, you’re interested already, aren’t you?  Creators can be stars too, especially if they are winners of ANY award, never mind an Emmy, or if they’ve performed with one of the coolest entertainment companies in the world.  Talent by association is a thing.  Don’t forget to pitch your creative teams . . . heck, even your producing team if they’ve got cred.  (“From the Producers of August: Osage County” was used a few years ago for a Broadway play.)

10.  This Side of the Impossible

A Producer’s job is to see what else is working in the entertainment world to get a sense of what audiences are buying (that’s what led to my first hit, The Awesome 80s Prom – I had seen the success of Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding and the thousands of ripoffs and thought, “Man, people love them some interactive theater!”).  Penn & Teller is crushing it at the Marquis Theatre right now.  The Illusionists crushed it last Christmas (and I hear they are coming back).  And rumor has it David Blaine is looking for an NY spot for his show (he may have even taken a peek at my theater).  So when I read a blurb about a “Best of Fringe” winner at the San Fran FF that includes mind reading and “remarkable feats of the mystics,” I can’t help but think this is something that might work elsewhere.  True, true, I was a magic geek as a kid . . . but deep down, I think a lot of us still are.

 

So those are this year’s Top 10, along with these honorable mentions:  CopingPlathRunning Interference  and SCHOOLED (which was featured in our reading series a couple o’ years ago!).

What do you think of the above?  Any you like or don’t?  Flip through the catalog yourself and see what stands out to you . . . then tell us about it below.

And if you want to see a Fringe show, or 100 Fringe shows, don’t forget to enter my contest to win free tickets to as many as you want to see!  Click here.

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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Podcast Episode #30: Kurt Deutsch from Sh-K-Boom tells all on the ‘record.’

What do Tower Records, Colony Records and Footlight Records all have in common?

They were all some of my favorite places to shop for cast albums in the 90s.

And now they’re all gone.

The past 20 years have wreaked havoc on the music industry, and cast albums have become an endangered species as a result.  Luckily, one guy saw this change coming.  And back in the early part of the millennium, Kurt Deutsch struck out on his own, and with Broadway actress Sherie Rene Scott he founded the independent label Sh-K-Boom Records.  Its mission?  Save Broadway music, one cast album at a time.

Since then, Sh-K-Boom and its upstart sister label Ghostlight Records have grabbed the lion’s share of the cast album biz away from the big “studio” companies, recording big hits like The Book of Mormon, In the Heights, Next to Normal and many more.

And Kurt sat down with me for this week’s episode to talk about . . .

  • The state of the cast album and why every show needs one.
  • Why albums should be part of a show’s capitalization, not an afterthought (he changed my mind on this one).
  • What we will sell at the merch stands when CDs are no longer made.
  • How to get an album for sale by opening night.
  • Why if you’re writing a show, you have to have a demo.

One of the greatest tools a musical has in its marketing toolbox is its music.  If it can’t get recorded, it can’t get spread.

That’s what makes this podcast a must listen.

Click here to listen.

Listen to it on iTunes here.  (And give me a rating, while you’re there!)

Download it here.

Click here to read the transcript.

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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It’s the Spring Awakening Associate Producer Scholarship! You can be an AP! (Updated 2018).

I’ve done a bunch of fun things on this blog, from Will It Recoup?, my fantasy Broadway game (this year’s results coming soon) to crowdfunding Godspell, and a lot more.

But nothing has been more rewarding for me than when we held a contest to find an Associate Producer for Macbeth.

As you can read about on that original announcement blog, I’ve always been concerned about the number of opportunities for young, up-and-coming producers to . . . well . . . produce.  See, unlike television, film or the recording industry, to produce on or Off Broadway you need money, or need to raise money.  And for a lot of younger folks, who haven’t had a chance to network as long, whose college roommates haven’t become tech titans yet, it’s just harder.

But since we all know that the best education comes from doing, how do they learn?  And how do they build a resume that gets them in the door on bigger projects?

And if they can’t get their hands dirty and can’t get on shows that will excite them so they’ll put their heads down and dedicate a life to this challenging business . . . then my fear is that we’ll lose them . . . to television, film or the recording industry.

And without new, young, fresh talent, where will Broadway be in 20 years?

That’s one of the reasons we started the Associate Producer Scholarship.  And it was such a success on Macbeth that I vowed to do it again.

And what better show to start it back up again than my upcoming production of Deaf West’s Spring Awakening?

Yep, one young person out there, between the ages of 18 and 30, is going to earn a chance to be an Associate Producer on Spring Awakening and get their name on the title page of the program, on the house board, get a bio in the program, etc.  But more importantly this winner will work closely with me and my other Producers and Associate Producers on all aspects of the show.  You’ll dig into everything from marketing, planning opening night, Tony voter invitations, and a whole lot more.  And yes, you can bet your bippy you’ll be blogging.  (For a great example of what the Associate Producer will, check out our last winner’s blog about Macbeth on TheAssociateProducersPerspective.com – and by the way, that guy is now assisting Jujamcyn President Jordan Roth.)

It’s going to be a ton of work, but it’s going to be the kind of work you’re going to love.  And if not, then being a Producer isn’t what you were meant to do.

Interested?

Here’s how it’s going to work.

This isn’t no Sunday Giveaway, where the winner is chosen at random.  Oh no, you’re going to have to show us your stuff.

It starts with this application, which is due next Friday, July 31st!  I know, I know, it’s quick, but hey – I just decided I wanted to produce this on Broadway like 30 days ago.

We’ll pick out ten finalists by Tuesday, August 4th.  There will be a group interview later that week and some one-on-ones with me.  And your first day will be at our first rehearsal on the 10th of August.

Got it?

Good.  Sign up below to be sent the application.

And I look forward to having one of you on our producing team.




 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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Associate Producers and Producers alike, put in an extensive amount of work to get a show off the ground. Visit my post What does a Broadway Producer do? Over 100 Producers Respond, to get a real inside feel as to how much it actually takes to be a Broadway producer.

Get a contact list of Broadway Producers, monthly newsletters and webinars, plus a Tip of the Week email, when you join TheProducersPerspectivePRO today.

Join the club here.

Your visit with us was much too short, Roger.

This past weekend, the theater lost one of its finest actors and finest gentlemen when Roger Rees passed away at the all too early age of 71.

Most people know Roger from his work on Cheers (just the thought of him as the foppish Robin Colcord makes me crack up to this day), but it was the stage where he made his home, winning a Tony for his role in the epic The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, and getting nominations for Shadowlands, Six Degrees of Separation, Indiscretions and as the co-director of Peter and the Starcatcher.

And I knew him from his work on this season’s The Visit.

“Knew him” is a bit of an exaggeration actually.  The truth is I didn’t know him all that well.  That’s why at the meet and greet on the very first day of rehearsal I walked up to him and said, “Hello, Roger, my name is Ken Davenport and I just wanted to . . . ”

“KEN,” He practically screamed, “I’m so happy to meet you!  I can’t believe we haven’t met before,” and he pulled me in for a hug.  Yeah.  Me, hugging Robin Colcord.

We chatted a bit about the show, and he told me how excited he was for it, and how he was so in love with the story . . . and how thankful he was that it was getting its shot on Broadway.  “This is what real theater is about, Ken.  This is what real theater is about,” he repeated.

I saw him from time to time at and around the show.  But that’s it.  No dinners or lunches or texts or anything.

But I tell you, in that brief exchange, I got a glimpse into the heart of Roger Rees.  And what a beautiful place it was.

Roger, you are what real theater is about.  You are.

And you’ll be missed.

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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FUN STUFF:

– Need help Getting Your Show Off the Ground? Sign up for my online seminar TOMORROW!  Just ONE participant spot left, click here to sign up.  And click here to purchase an audit spot.

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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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