GUEST BLOG: Tips for Applying to the BMI Workshop by Patrick Cook (with Frederick Freyer)

In the spring of 1983, Allan Becker ushered me into a windowless room on West 57th Street where I found myself facing Ed Kleban, Alan Menken, Maury Yeston, Skip Kennon, and Richard Engquist. They said hello and pointed me to the piano. My legs were a bit rubbery, but I made it to the piano and started my first song. It was a comedy song called “Piano Bar Prayer” (I was playing piano bar at the time). The first line of the chorus was “God, don’t make me sing Feelings again…” They laughed!!

36 years later, I have Allan Becker’s job, and writers are often emailing me asking for advice about auditioning for the BMI Workshop. When Ken asked if we could come up with a few guidelines, Rick and I grabbed the opportunity to gather some of our thoughts about it.

Tips About the Application

Submit songs that were written for a character. A sweet, generic love ballad may show off your songwriting talent, but it won’t show if you can write for the theatre. Pick a specific character and write a song for them, revealing their character through the song. Classic examples are “Some People” from Gypsy and “Cockeyed Optimist” from South Pacific. Modern day examples are “Waving Through a Window” from Dear Evan Hansen and “My Shot” from Hamilton.

Write out your accompaniments. Although we accept lead sheets with chords, we much prefer you write out your piano parts.

Don’t worry about style. Some people think there’s a “BMI Sound” that we look for. Not true. Nine, Avenue Q, Next to Normal, Once on This Island and Little Shop of Horrors all came out of the BMI Workshop. Other than craft, brilliance, and theatricality, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a similarity of “sound.”

Always welcome are… strong melodies as well as spareness and economy in your lyric writing and melody writing.

Heavily produced demos can be counter-productive. A clear recording of a singer accompanied by a piano is often the best approach.

Don’t announce your setups on your recordings.

A Couple of Tips About the Audition (if you get called in for an audition)

Don’t worry about being nervous. Everyone is nervous. It has no effect on your audition. Unlike actors and singers who must perform under pressure in front of a paying audience, writers are usually pacing in the back of the house where nobody sees them. In fact, most of the time the audition panel won’t even be looking at you; we’ll be looking at your score and/or your lyric sheets.

Try out your comedy song ahead of time. One of the requirements of the workshop audition s to present a comedy song. Writers often tell me they wrote their comedy song right before the audition. My advice is to try it out on other people first, even friends and family if you can trust them to be honest. Neil Simon said that out of ten lines he meant to be funny, only three actually got a laugh. Writing good comedy songs is an essential talent in the theatre and the only way to really tell if a song is funny is to get it out there and see how it plays.

Members of the BMI Workshop often say it is a life-changing experience. I know it was for me. You can apply online at bmi.com.

Recommended reading:

The Making of a Musical by Lehman Engel

The American Musical Theater: a Consideration by Lehman Engel

American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950 by Alec Wilder

The Broadway Musical: A Critical and Musical Survey by Joseph Swain

 

Broadway Grosses w/e 01/14/2019: As Four Shows Pack It In, Broadway Goes into Hibernation

In the first non-holiday week of 2019, grosses continued to slim for the street and for most productions. Four fewer shows on the boards meant a 15% drop in overall grosses to $32M.

Overall, figures for the season continue to outpace last year both in grosses and attendance.

You can find the rest of the figures below, courtesy of The Broadway League:

Show Name GrossGross TotalAttn %Capacity AvgPdAdm
ALADDIN $1,187,766.50 12,975 93.91% $91.54
AMERICAN SON $654,674.55 5,691 91.91% $115.04
ANASTASIA $645,727.70 7,356 80.45% $87.78
BEAUTIFUL $604,651.50 6,941 84.56% $87.11
CHICAGO $521,475.10 6,377 73.81% $81.77
CHOIR BOY $261,675.50 4,867 95.51% $53.77
COME FROM AWAY $1,009,516.00 8,537 102.02% $118.25
DEAR EVAN HANSEN $1,318,615.15 7,983 101.41% $165.18
FROZEN $1,327,335.40 12,626 93.72% $105.13
HAMILTON $3,157,730.00 10,753 101.75% $293.66
HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD, PARTS ONE AND TWO $2,053,032.50 12,976 100.00% $158.22
KING KONG $755,706.00 9,150 65.81% $82.59
KINKY BOOTS $583,966.80 6,854 60.17% $85.20
MEAN GIRLS $1,248,296.20 9,796 99.96% $127.43
MY FAIR LADY $902,100.50 7,290 85.24% $123.74
NETWORK $1,026,007.76 7,053 99.27% $145.47
PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL $824,366.30 7,614 81.49% $108.27
SCHOOL OF ROCK $735,675.60 8,997 73.84% $81.77
THE BAND’S VISIT $550,626.60 7,791 93.73% $70.67
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,137,486.50 8,617 102.88% $132.00
THE CHER SHOW $1,134,381.80 10,190 92.30% $111.32
THE FERRYMAN $874,585.70 7,520 92.25% $116.30
THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT $1,000,817.10 7,960 99.10% $125.73
THE LION KING $1,848,667.00 13,049 96.17% $141.67
THE NEW ONE $467,914.50 5,980 69.66% $78.25
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $705,017.98 8,385 65.30% $84.08
THE PROM $623,622.60 7,130 85.29% $87.46
THE WAVERLY GALLERY $440,853.57 6,081 96.59% $72.50
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD $1,536,166.56 11,671 101.66% $131.62
TRUE WEST $423,166.30 5,333 90.08% $79.35
WAITRESS $972,519.80 7,723 92.38% $125.93
WICKED $1,403,103.00 13,109 90.68% $107.03
TOTALS $30,534,145.07 274,375 89.15% $111.75
+/- THIS WEEK LAST SEASON -$2,414,057.20      
PERCENTAGE +/- THIS WEEK LAST SEASON -7.32%      

 

Today’s blog was guest-written by Ryan Conway, General Manager for DTE Management. Find out more here!

Podcast Episode 173 – Broadway Dance Arranger and More, David Chase

Like Beetlejuice, David Chase has appeared.

His name had been uttered at least three times by so many of my previous podcast guests that I had to have him on.

And as you’ll hear in this podcast, he didn’t disappoint.

David sits in a very unique musical position on Broadway shows, getting a view into the creation of scores from a vantage point that few get to see.  And in addition to being the #1 Dance Arranger on Broadway, he’s also an Orchestra Supervisor and more.

Listen to hear David talk about . . .

  • Why Composers don’t have to read or write music to compose a show.
  • What does a Dance Arranger actually do anyway?
  • How the modern musical has changed over the years and where he thinks it’s headed.
  • How he made a name for himself in a niche that no one knew much about.
  • One of the most common things that derails a show.

Enjoy this musical masterclass!

Give it a great review while you’re there!

Click here for my podcast with David!

Listen to it on iTunes here.

Download it here.

Introducing a “Revival” of our Davenport Reading Series!

Back in 2010, we started a reading series in our rehearsal room due to the number of submissions of great developing work we received that wasn’t for us, but we felt should be seen.

The first play we read was a two-hander Civil War romantic drama called Amelia by Alex Webb, which I still remember to this day as an incredibly moving and theatrical piece (not to mention easy to produce).

Well, a few months ago, I was googling around and discovered that Amelia went on to get a bunch of other productions, and it got picked up for a licensing deal with Samuel French!

We had to abandon the reading series after it began because we lost some staff and we lost those rehearsal rooms.  But when I realized that Amelia, as well as a few other shows that we read, went on to do bigger and better things, I decided we had to figure out a way to revive it.

So we have!  And it fits in perfectly with our mission that we announced last year of helping 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

We’ll be producing four readings of new plays a year (and expect to be able to include musicals as well . . . just give us some time to figure that out).

And we’ll also be looking to not only showcase new writing talent, but also new directing talent, acting talent, etc.  So regardless of what type of Theater Maker you are, there is a way for you to be involved.

Because submissions for these sorts of series can be overwhelming, we’ve limited those eligible to submit to the members of our PRO community at the moment.  So if you want to submit, click here to join PRO and learn how to submit your show for consideration.  Again, we will do four a year – one a quarter.  (The first deadline is January 25, 2019 and submissions are already coming in, so hurry).

If you’re a director, click here to join our Director Database, which is where we and our writers will start looking first.

If you’re an actor, click here to be in our Actor Database.

And if you’re just a fan of new works and want to come and support emerging talent (and our 5000By2025 mission), click here and we’ll let you know when.

I’m thrilled to be able to revive this series and am looking forward to introducing some new shows to the city and to the theatrical world.

 

What I Did On My Christmas Vacation and What It Has To Do With The Tony Awards.

I can’t tell you the last time I stepped inside a movie theater.

And since just a year ago it was reported that movie theater attendance was at a 25 year low (!), I would bet you a bucket of overpriced popcorn that it has been a while since YOU have visited your local cineplex yourself.  (Side note:  Broadway attendance is at an all-time high – who’s the growth industry now, huh?)

It’s not that I don’t like a good movie.  I really do.  I just don’t go.  I like, however, when the good movies come to me . . . via Netflix, Hulu or . . . when my wife gets her “screeners” for the SAG awards.

See, Tracy is a SAG member, so she gets a vote, which means she has to watch the flicks. And the producers of the nominated films make it easy for her to do so by sending her DVDs or by making the movies available online.

So guess what we did on our Xmas vacation?  We snuggled up with some Jiffy Pop Popcorn (I’m old school like that) and watched everything from Bohemian Rhapsody to The Green Book and more.

Which got me to thinking . . .

Could Broadway shows have screeners?

It has now become customary for most Broadway shows to invite the voters to come bacto see the show a 2nd time after the Tony nominations are announced, especially if a show opens in the fall (as I wrote about here). But that’s hard for a lot of voters, especially during the spring, when there are gobs of new shows to see before the end of the season deadline.

So what if we sent videos?

I know, it wouldn’t be the same.  A video doesn’t tell the same theatrical story as being in the theater.  But it’s better than NOT seeing it.

And I know we’re not currently allowed to distribute full recordings.  But maybe the unions would allow it if it was for voter promotional purposes?  After all, a show winning an award helps that show run longer, which is better for everyone, isn’t it?

We could do it online and have the passwords expire (if the movie industry can protect their screeners against theft and piracy, surely we can too).

I believe in pushing every button possible in a promotional campaign, especially when something as high stakes as an award is on the line.  And this is an option that I’d like to see available to us, even if not every show chose to exercise it.

– – – – –

The London Theater Maker Social is just FIVE days away!  Can you get yourself to London on Tuesday, January 15th?  Come on down and let me buy you a drink!  See here for more.

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