Podcast Episode 153 – Tony Winner & Pulitzer Prize Finalist and Showrunner Warren Leight

My wife and I spend a lot of time with Warren Leight.

You probably do too . . .

Because we, like you (admit it), watch a lot of Law & Order SVU and Warren was a writer and showrunner for years.

Before that, though he was a finalist for the big P for his fantastic play, Side Man.  

Warren is one of the few playwrights that can go so easily from stage to screen . . . and that’s all about how he started writing in the first place.  See he started because he wanted to be a sports writer, and then . . . wait . . . I’m giving it away.  Just listen to the podcast and hear Warren talk about:

  • How a lie about loving horror movies led to him writing one . . . and why you might want to fib a little too.
  • Why he binge writes.
  • The importance of joining a Writer’s Group and how it helped him.
  • Why the deadlines of TV help make him a better writer . . . and how you can use deadlines to accomplish your goals, whether you have a TV network demanding a script or not.
  • How he wrote Side Man without realizing he was writing it . . . and what it was like after he won The Tony (and it’s not what you think).

Warren’s path to success is such a lesson in the grind, creativity and flexibility it takes to be successful in this business and in any business, and this podcast could give you a map for your own.

Click here for the link to my podcast with Warren!

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

Download it here.

 

Should actors be “required” to stage door?

In 1991, I moved to New York City and while making my way to my tap class on 53rd St., I discovered my first Stage Door.

It was the Broadway Theatre’s SD and Miss Saigon was playing at the time.

“So that’s how all the actors I admire so much get into the building,” I thought.  “Wow they walk through that very . . . ” and before I could finish the thought, the actor playing Thuy, Barry K. Bernal, stepped up to the stage door to cross the magical threshold from the street to the stage, and prepare for his matinee.

“Have a good show,” I mumbled, a bit nervous to be speaking to an actual Broadway star.

He smiled, grateful for being recognized, thanked me and in he went.

As you can tell, I’ll never forget it.

A lot has changed since then.  Unfortunately, Barry K. Bernal passed away at the tender age of 31 years old, three years after I saw him at that Door.

And Stage Doors are no longer empty, vacant areas where actors just come and go as they please.

Now, fans flock to the doors, before and especially after each show, for a chance for a sighting, an autograph and maybe even a few kind words from the stars they admire.

One of the great things about the theater is that our stars are so accessible.  You can’t “stage door” a football game or a rock concert in the same way you can a Broadway show.  It’s just not logistically possible.

And with Broadway booming, the crowds around the doors of hit shows often spill into the street, as selfies get snapped and autographs get signed by the hundreds.

You can’t buy that type of promotion . . . because when people fall in love with actors, they also fall in love with the show they’re in.

Last fall, “stage dooring” reached a tipping point when a controversy erupted when Ben Platt, who was practically puking up his heart onto the stage at Dear Evan Hansen every night, said that there were some nights that he just couldn’t do it . . . and still deliver the type of performance the next night’s audience paid to see.

And oh, the tweetlash that he received, including one “fan,” calling him an “a**hole” and “garbage.”

And I’ve seen plenty of other comments on message boards and across the twittersphere hating on actors for wanting to save their voices, and keep their energy up, by skipping out on what can be an added hour or more to their day.

Actors in Broadway Shows are not only more accessible than any other “celebrity” out there, but in my experience, our actors WANT to be more accessible than any other performers out there.  And as fans and Producers we should be so thankful that they’re willing to give that extra hour or more that it can take to sign every Playbill and take every photo before they can head home.

And, of course, as Ben unfortunately learned, they take more of the heat than the actual show if they choose to opt out of appearing for their fans.

So if that’s what they decide, we must trust that they know best, and they are doing it to protect what is most important . . . the show and themselves.

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Are you an actor?  Read one of my most popular posts . . . My 10 Audition Tips for Actors by clicking here.

 

 

Broadway Grosses w/e 4/1/2018: The Easter Bunny Brings Good Business to Broadway.

The following are the Broadway grosses for the week ending April 1, 2018.
The Broadway grosses are courtesy of The Broadway League
Read more here:

The newest additions to our slate.

I made some pretty juicy announcements about some new musicals we’re developing recently, and yesterday I realized . . . I never blogged about ’em!

Well, today’s the day . . . especially since these two will definitely count towards our #5000By2025 mission we announced here two weeks ago.

So here are the two new musicals we just announced and more importantly, why we’re producing them.

JOY

Like so many people on earth, I first met Joy Mangano when I was hanging up a shirt.

That’s right, if you have a velvet hanger in your closet, then you know her too.

Joy is also the woman behind the Miracle Mop. And the mini steamer.

But this isn’t a story about consumer goods.  This is a rags-to-riches story about an unstoppable single mother of two, who defies the odds and turns a dream into a reality and then into a mega-million dollar empire.

Hollywood spun her story into a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence, but there’s so much more to it than that.

It’s a joy-filled tale of a female who triumphs over adversity. . . which is exactly what Broadway needs right now.

Oh, and the dancing mop number is going to be amazing.

BROADWAY VACATION

I’ve been after the rights to the Vacation movie franchise for years.  Literally years.  Every twelve months, an alarm would go off on my ToodleDo and say, “Bug Warner Brothers for the rights to Vacation.”

Well, not too long ago they finally said they were open to it . . . and they also said, “Hey, you know who also has been bugging us?  Kurt Deutsch.  You two should talk.”

Talk we did. And then we secured the rights . . . but not to do the movie on stage.  But instead, to take those iconic Griswold characters, and set them out on a new adventure.

That’s right, you’ve seen Vacation, European Vacation, Vegas Vacation  . . . here comes Broadway Vacation The Griswolds take Manhattan.

As I mentioned in my Facebook Live video on the day of this announcement, I’m a believer that if you’re going to take a big brand and adapt it into a musical, you gotta do something different with it.  It has to be unique.  You can’t just put a movie on stage . . . that’s not the medium that the story was designed for!

But when you can take the characters and create a new story (like what Harry Potter has done) you get all the value of the original brand, and you get the excitement of creating something new.

We’ve got a long “Holiday Road” ahead, but we’re excited.

(Oh, and note to you folks trying to get the rights to something . . . in business, “No” often means “not now.”)

Both of these rights acquisitions have been in the works for some time, and are all part of a new focus of mine towards the development of large-scale new musicals (In the last year, I even raised money for a “front money fund” to pay for the development of up to ten musicals so I could focus solely on the creative).

You’ll see a few more announcements in the coming months about the other shows that I’m growing up from the ground floor.

And they are just as exciting as the above.

Stay tuned.

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I announced both of these shows LIVE on my Facebook Page.  Join me every day for an impromptu Facebook Live giving you a glimpse into the day and the life of a Broadway Producer.  Click here to see the past videos . . . and make sure you like the page, and turn your notifications on to see the next time that I go LIVE!

 

GUEST BLOG by Mike Rafael: Broadway by the numbers: the company you keep.

10 Years ago, Ticketing Analyst wasn’t even a job on Broadway.  Now, every show has one.

One of those analysts is Mike Rafael, who I interviewed here, and who is the number-crunching author of this week’s guest blog.

Enjoy the stats, and be prepared to hear a lot more from people like Mike in the next 10 years.  And kids, if you want a stable career?  Look into ticketing analyst school.

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Broadway by the numbers: the company you keep.

For the week ending March 4th, 2018 there were 30 shows running on Broadway.

  • 10 of these grossed at least $1,000,000.
  • 10 grossed between $600,000 and $1,000,000.
  • The last 10 grossed between $250,000 and $600,000.

If 1/3rd of your business is in the “millionaires club,” the 1st week in March, you’re in good shape.

By comparison, for the same week in 2016 (w/e 3/6/16) there were 32 shows running.
  • Only 5 were “millionaires.”
  • 7 shows grossed between $60,000 and $850,000.
  • The remaining 18 shows grossed less than $600,000.

With baseball season around the corner, let’s use a sports analogy – Broadway is no longer a couple of star players on a generally weak roster. Our lineup is strong top to bottom, with a good bench to boot.

And, contrary to popular belief, Broadway isn’t just increasing grosses by increasing prices.

In 1996, the year before THE LION KING opened, Broadway sold 10.2 million tickets and grossed just under $500m.

In 2010, the year before THE BOOK OF MORMON opened, Broadway sold 12.1 million tickets and grossed over $1 billion for the first time ($1.03b).

Last year, having added HAMILTON, DEAR EVAN HANSEN, HELLO, DOLLY! & SPRINGSTEEN, Broadway sold 13.7 million tickets and grossed $1.63 billion.

In fact, speaking of sports teams, for the last three years Broadway has outsold the top 10 New York professional sports teams combined. In 2017, Broadway attendance surpassed the combined NY Sports teams by 2.6 million tickets.

[bonus question: name the top 10 NY sports teams – answer below]

Here’s another comparison: the movies.

In 1996,  1.309 billion people bought a ticket to a movie in the US.

In 2010, 1.328 billion people went to the movies in the US.

But in 2017, 1.225 billion people bought tickets, the lowest figure since 1995.  [source: the-numbers.com]

One might also note that the 3rd highest grossing movie of 2018 so far is a musical, THE GREATEST SHOWMAN, with a distinctly Broadway pedigree (Hugh Jackman, Pasek & Paul, Keala Settle).

So while moviegoers continue to decline, the audience for Broadway continues to grow. Last year’s record year for both attendance and grosses on Broadway and this year, thanks to HARRY POTTER, FROZEN, MEAN GIRLS et al, those records will be broken again.

Let the good times roll.

[The answer to the bonus question?  The Top 10 NY sports teams by attendance: NY Yankees, NY Mets, NY Jets, NY Giants, NY Rangers, NY Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, NJ Devils, NY Islanders, NY Red Bulls]

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Mike Rafael has worked on ticketing for over three dozen Broadway shows and has set the house record in 5 different Broadway theaters. Last year he helped WICKED set the all-time single-year attendance record for Broadway.

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