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.

The Top 10 Best Broadway Moments of 2020 (yes, there really were 10): PART I

Boy oh boy was this blog an exercise in how to find a bright spot (or 10) in the darkest of all times.
 
Broadway shut down in 2020. Something it has never done. Like ever. How could there be ANY “best” of Broadway when its stages were dark?
 
Well, that’s the thing.
 
What we learned this year is that you can turn the lights out on Broadway . . . but the light never goes out on Broadway.
 
Thanks to the ingenuity, imagination, and a Braveheart-like refusal to give up of TheaterMakers and their fans (see #3), the theater is still alive . . . and kick-ball-changin’.
 
From streaming shows in living rooms, to drive-in theater, to board room shakeups and crowd-sourced musicals, this was a helluva active year for a year in which we couldn’t act.
 
And years from now, when we look back at this elongated intermission, I predict it will be one of the most important and impactful years in our history.
 
What stood out as my 10 favorite moments? The moments that made me smile, made me proud, and make me want to double down on this biz, rather than give it all up? (Because be honest – who among us didn’t think about throwing in the make-up towel at least a half a dozen times over the past year?)
 
Here are my 10 Best Broadway moments of 2020 in no particular order:
 
1. Hamilton hits Disney+
 
The film and theater industry were still buzzing about the $75mm Disney paid for Hamilton . . . when the studio announced the mega hit would go straight to Disney+.
“But what about the Academy Awards? What about all those people who might not see the show live? Is it too early in the show’s lifecycle to put it out there?”
 
I’m sure the players debated those questions like the founding fathers fought at the Constitutional congress. But they released it anyway. And not only did it make the show accessible, and keep it and Broadway top of mind, but it officially made streaming a thing. Because when the popular kid does something, everyone else follows.
 
Expect more streaming shows (finally!) in the next five years.
 
2. The Broadway Advocacy Coalition Forums
 
Like many industries, the theater had a racial reckoning this year, taking a deep long look at itself in the mirror . . . and not liking what it saw. Because we’re a liberal and progressive art form, it’s easy for us to say, “Oh, that’s not an issue here.”
 
Thanks to the many organizations and individuals who had the courage to step up and say, “Stop talking and start listening,” we now know this issue, like the coronavirus itself, is everywhere.
 
And it’s time we take serious steps to eradicate it.
 
There were two things that slapped me into self-realization. The first, this article by Asmeret Ghebremichael and her subsequent interview with me.
 
And the second was the Broadway Advocacy Coalition Forums, especially their “Day of Listening.”
 
I’ll never forget co-founder Britton Smith’s opening remarks . . . his passion . . . his authenticity . . . honesty. It was one of the best displays of leadership by a change agent I have ever seen.  
 
And then there were the stories that followed from Britton, Amber Iman, and others, that all shocked me to my center.
 
See, I’ll admit.  I was one of those people who thought I understood this issue a little better than most. Since starting my career as a company manager, I worked on several “diverse” shows on Broadway that dealt with race. Two of my shows even won diversity awards. So, yeah, prior to this summer, if you asked me how much I knew about this issue, I’d say I was like a 6 or 7 out of 10.
 
And Broadway Advocacy Coalition helped me realize . . . I didn’t know a @#$%ing thing.
 
I was so grateful for these forums. And I knew the 5,000 other people who tuned in are too. Because I know more now. And I also know I have a whole lot more to know.  And I vow to keep listening, learning and taking those steps.
 
If you haven’t seen the forums, click here. And I recommend bookmarking them and rewatching them whenever you have a free moment.  
 
3. The TikTok Heard ‘Round The World
 
“The world’s gonna know your name . . .what’s your name, man?”
Forget Hamilton.  Forget Roxie. The name on everyone’s lips and in everyone’s feeds . . . is Ratatouille!!!!!!!!!
 
There are so many amazing elements to the Ratatouille story. A single TikTok video of a young woman making up a song for a hypothetical musical, was like a butterfly flapping its wings in cyberspace. And it caused a musical tsunami.
 
It united a generation of musical lovers and future TheaterMakers, who all joined in . . . and crowdsourced a musical.
 
But they didn’t just make the music. TikTokers made costumes, puppets, choreography and more. I couldn’t help but join in on the fun, and offered a few tag lines (this original video of mine has been seen almost 2 million times!).
 
But what’s amazing is that the powers-that-be recognized the powers-that-will-be . . . and they approved a production of Ratatouille for the Actors Fund!
 
That’s right, the first ever crowdsourced musical on social media will make its debut tomorrow night!  Get your ticket here.
 
If you were ever worried that the next generation wasn’t interested in seeing musicals or making musicals, fear not. The Ratatouille movement proves that our future isn’t ratty at all.
 
(Oh, and PS, TikTok is now officially a thing – especially if you want a younger audience.)
 
4. Seth Rudestky and James Wesley’s “Stars In The House”
 
When Broadway got shut down, I started emailing people I knew to figure out how we could stream something . . . anything. And one of those people was Seth.
 
He responded tout-suit and told me he was already working on something.  And in his quick email, I could already hear how hard he was working to give something to fans, and give something back to our community.
 
He turned his webcam on the next day.
 
Since then, Stars in the House, his twice daily (!) part interview, part performance, variety, reunion and more streamed show, has raised over $620,000 for The Actors Fund.  $620,000!!!
 
Oh, and the show is also hysterical, moving and more.
 
Would you ever have imagined that a couple of guys in their living room could make this kind of impact?  I could.  If Seth was behind it.
5.  For Nick.
 
How can a tragedy like the loss of Nick Cordero be one of our best moments?
 
Because Nick became a symbol . . . something that the industry could rally around at a time when we didn’t have much to rally around. And his wife’s overwhelming spirit . . . her love for her husband inspiring people to get up and dance . . . to sing together, to pray together . . . was one of the most unifying moments of the past year and a half.
 
Often it is a tragedy that brings people together. I hate that. I just hate it. Especially for Amanda and her little boy Elvis.  But Nick is now a saint in our industry.  And he will be a symbol for all of us to do what that song of his advised . . . to live your life.
 
You can watch a tribute to Nick from some of Broadway’s best here.  
 
For my other 5 Best Broadway Moments of 2020, check out tomorrow’s blog.  Or click here and have it emailed straight to you.

[Zoom Strategy Session] In case you did NOT get what you wanted from Santa.

I’m not surprised.
 
Whenever I talk to TheaterMakers about what they want . . . money never comes up.  No one talks about royalties and selling the movie rights or their share of the merch.
 
All writers, producers, directors want for Christmas (and every other time of year) is to see their shows on a stage. 
Sound like you?
 
You want to hear the actors delivering the lines. You want to hear singers singing your songs. 
 
And you want to hear the applause, laughter, or tears that follow.
 
And I get it. Because that’s all I want too.
 
It’s all I ever wanted.
 
When I was starting out, I pursued a lot of the “traditional” ways to get produced. And . . . they didn’t work. (I’m sure you can relate.)
 
And boy was I frustrated.
 
Then Hal Prince took me to task.
 
Yep, I got a talking-to from the 21-time Tony Award . . . who also shared with me his secrets of seeing your shows on a stage.
 
And, well, when you get advice from a guy like that, it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that the stuff worked.
 
In fact, every single thing I’ve done in my career so far (and every thing I WILL do) is because of what he taught me that day.
 
The moment his advice started to work, I vowed to share it. To help other TheaterMakers like me see their shows on stage.
 
That’s why I started blogging, podcasting, and it’s why I’m reviving a webinar I did earlier this year . . . with a twist.
 
This Wednesday, December 30th at 8 PM Eastern, join me for a free Zoom Strategy Session entitled, “Get Produced in 2021!” I’ll share the “key” that Hal gave me almost twenty years ago, and the formula that I use to see my shows on stage today.
 
 
And I hope you’ll join, whether you are a TheaterMaker just starting out and have a script (or two!) in a drawer. Or if you’re a veteran who knows your stuff is great, and you can’t understand why it hasn’t received the visibility it deserves. (I’ll explain the issue – which has nothing to do with you.)
 
 
2021 is right around the corner. And there is no question there WILL be shows on stages this year.
 
The only question is . . . will yours be one of them?
So if you haven’t gotten what you REALLY wanted from Santa, join me for this session.
 
Get Produced in 2021
Free Zoom Strategy Session
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
8 PM ET
 
 
– – – – –
 
P.S. Full disclosure . . . at the end of this free training session, I am going to share a very special offer for you to join The TheaterMakers Studio. Something The Studio doesn’t advertise but I asked them to come up with.
 
See, after almost ten years of running training for TheaterMakers, we now KNOW for a fact what works. We analyzed our success stories and cross referenced what they have in common. Then, we took those things and put them in this offer. Because we know TheaterMakers need more resources now that EVER. Oh, and if you’re already a member, you’ll get the same opportunity. Because this is about getting as many people produced in 2021 as possible. We’ve got some ground to make up!
 
If you don’t want the offer, no worries, the Strategy Session is free. But I didn’t want you to be surprised about the offer.
 

If I had a show running pre-pandemic that was going to come back, I’d do this.

Boy did I need something to distract me from CNN today.  You?

When I need some misdirection from something that is causing me a lot of anxiety, I play “Fantasy Broadway.”  I put myself in the hypothetical chair of a decision-maker on Broadway . . . a Producer, a Theater Owner, a Director or any kind of TheaterMaker . . . and then I put myself in a tough situation  . . . and  I ask myself, “What would I do?”

I’ve played this game for Tony Award campaigns (how would I convince voters to pick my show?), staffing questions (what designers do I think are best for this project?), and more.

Here’s what I toyed with today:

One of the things I am grateful for is that I didn’t have any shows running on Broadway when the covid-curtain came down.  (The four musicals that I have teed up- Broadway Vacation, Joy, The Neil Diamond Musical and Harmony- were just about to go into the workshop phase.)  So I asked myself, “If I did have a show running on Broadway, what would I do to keep that show top of mind before our return?”

I came up with a bunch of stuff, but here’s the one I liked the most.

I’d put it on sale.

“But how, Ken?  If you don’t know when Broadway is coming back, how would you know when to put the show back on sale?”

Let me be more specific.

I’d put ONE performance on sale.  And that performance wouldn’t have an exact date attached.  But it would be a guaranteed ticket to the VERY FIRST PERFORMANCE back.  🙂

See, at a time when so many things are unknown (including who will be our next President – although that seems to be relatively clear to everyone except ONE person), there is one certainty in my book . . .

When we’re given the “all clear” and Broadway reopens again?  The very first time a curtain is raised on a show is going to be one of the most magical nights in the theater . . . EVER.

Just imagine for a moment . . .you’re sitting in the audience of your favorite musical.  The house lights go out . . . the orchestra strikes up . . . the curtain rises and an actor appears.  And then she sings . . .

I mean, people are going to go ballistic!!!!

It’s going to be historic.  And fans are going to want to be a part of that incredible, sob-inducing, standing-ovation-that-may-last-an-hour, moment.  They’re going to want to be a part of it so badly, that they’d buy a ticket for it now.  Even without knowing exactly when it is!

Don’t you think?

And if you don’t think . . . tell me below why.  And then YOU PLAY THE GAME!  Come up with your own way that you’d keep your audience talking about your show while Broadway is shutdown and put it in the comments!

And then you can go back to watching CNN.

– – – – –

Marketing is going to change in the post-pandemic world.  That’s why we have a marketing panel at the TheaterMakers Summit, which starts in just SEVEN DAYS!  Get your ticket here and see some of the 100 (!) speakers we have ready to help you in your theatrical pursuits.  Click here and join us now.

There are TWO things you should do today.

It’s November 3rd.  Election Day.

It’s the climax of the biggest political drama of the century.

And today is THE day.

There are two things you should do.

First, the obvious one.  It rhymes with “schmote.”

Been there and done that?  Whether in person or by mail?

Great.  Or should I say, “Schmreat.”

Then on to the second one.

As I said, this is one of the biggest dramas we will see, played out on the biggest stage . . . REAL EFFIN’ LIFE.

So as you watch the results come in.  Think about why this is so dramatic.  What about the characters make you like them?  Hate them?  Root for them?

And as you think about all these things, then ask yourself, “How can I inject just a little bit of the drama from this real life “play” into my own show?”

Because if you can capture 10% of the drama of this Presidential election, you’d have your audiences riveted to their seats.

(Don’t forget to “Schmote!”)

– – – – –

Curious how the winner of the election will impact making theater in the future?  You’re going to hear a lot about that in just 11 days!  Click here and make sure you don’t miss out on what will no doubt be one of the most interesting TheaterMakers Summits ever.

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