My 5 Friday Finds: Learning from the Masters (and you won’t believe what they say).

Hello folks! Another Friday is upon us, which means 5 more finds from the theater and beyond you may have missed or that I think you should check out.

Here are my faves:

  1.  Did you see that proposal on The Emmys?

Everyone was talking/tweeting about Glenn Weiss’s surprise proposal to his girlfriend Jan Svendsen on this year’s Emmys. You may know that Glenn is the Producer of the Tony Awards. What you may not know is that Jan was the Marketing Director at The Broadway League for years. The industry gave them a huge standing ovation.

  1. David Mamet is teaching me how to write.

Online education is blowing up. In fact, there’s a theory that the cost of a college education may come DOWN in 20 years (!) when more and more people decide they don’t need to pay $130k a year when they can get so much info online. (That $130k is the real expected cost of Harvard in 2036, by the way – can you tell I have a newborn?)

In the meantime, there’s a ton of stuff out there for theater lovers. I’m loving I’ve taken the Aaron Sorkin class, and am currently on David Mamet’s. And get this, not only does David school you on the rules of Drama and how not to @#$% them up, but in episode 2 he comments on the Mike Pence/Hamilton controversy! It was worth it for that.

  1. Dim ’em all for Marin.

If you didn’t hear the tragic news, Marin Mazzie passed away this past week at the tender age of 57.

I worked with Marin on the original company of Ragtime and with her husband-to-be (at the time) on Candide, and let out an audible gasp when I heard the news while at an ad meeting.

They were going to dim just the lights of the marquees at the theaters where Marin worked, but after a social media revolt, all the lights went off yesterday to honor this incredible talent and incredible person.

  1. My New Flowers

If you’re like me, you’re always looking for unique “congrats” gifts to send folks instead of the usual flowers or chocolates.

SendABall is a great one. But if you’re looking for food, a neighbor turned me on to the best cookies I’ve binged on in a long time. Check these bad boys out (go for the almond shortcake).

  1. One of our last theaters goes bye-bye.

I was working for Garth Drabinsky when he announced he was buying the Times Square Theater. And then he went bankrupt. And went to jail.

Now, one of our last theaters that could be renovated is going to be a retail space. Boo.

Where’s Garth when we need him?!?

Next week? 5 More Finds. And if you like these, or have an idea for one (a show, a life hack, an app or whatever), please share ’em.

The Two Types of Jukebox Musicals: Which One Is More Successful?

While musicals featuring pre-existing music have been around for decades and decades, the “jukebox musical” genre was born on Broadway with the debut of Mamma Mia back in 2001.

And when that show blew up, not only on Broadway but all over the world, many a Producer (not to mention a few music companies) lined up to take their shot at creating the same kind of phenomenon.

Some have worked . . . like Jersey Boys and Beautiful.

And others have not . . . like Good Vibrations and Lennon.

Since this season (and a bit of last season) seems to have an inordinate number of jukebox musicals (and since I’m in conversations about a show based on a superstar’s catalog myself) and since the jukebox musical has been the subject of serious debate with our big critics, I decided to do some “data diggin'” on the two types of “jukebox” musicals to try to determine which one was more commercially successful.

I sorted these types of shows into two buckets:

1 – A musical with a brand new story unrelated to the music.

2 – A musical based on the life of the songwriters or a “Bio Musical

And then I looked at the numbers.

Since Mamma Mia, we’ve had 19 “jukebox” musicals open on Broadway (and for this research, I did not including Summer or Head Over Heels, since their fate has yet to be determined).

11 of those musicals or 58% have been “new plot” musicals.

8 of them or 42% have been “bio musicals”.

And now we get to the interesting part.

The average # of total performances for the run of all 19 musicals is 762.

The average # of performances for the new plot musicals is 408.

The average # of performances for the bio musicals is 1198.

And how does that translate to commercial success?

Of the 19 jukebox musicals, 6 recouped or 31.6%, which is above the 20% industry average for recoupment, suggesting there is a commercial advantage to a musical with a pre-existing catalog.

But which type of jukebox musical is more successful?

Only 18% of the new plot musicals recouped (2 out of the 11) . . . which is below our industry average of 20%.

A whopping 44.4% of the bio musicals recouped (4 out of the 9).


The bio-musical has proven a more commercially advantageous subset of the jukebox musical genre (which is ironic, considering there have been more attempts at musicals with a new plot).

But in this biz, just when a trend emerges something comes along to break it.

And with the super good buzz on the upcoming Jagged Little Pill and Girl From The North Country, we could see a shift in these stats in next twelve months.

I’ll be around to update these stats a year from now so stay tuned.

– – – – –

Looking for more info on what shows recoup and why?  Get The Recoupment Report, the only newsletter dedicated to the world of Broadway Investing.

Broadway Grosses w/e 9/16/2018: Three Shows Take Their Bows

The following are the Broadway grosses for the week ending September 16, 2018.
The Broadway grosses are courtesy of The Broadway League
Read more here:

Podcast Episode 159 – Pulitzer Prize Winner, David Auburn

I’ll never forget the gasp that came from the audience at the end of Act One when I saw David Auburn’s Proof on Broadway.  It was one of those great twists/reveals/secrets and surprises that make a great play not only great but also flat-out-entertaining.

I remember thinking . . . now that’s a genius craftsman.

And I wasn’t the only one who thought.

Not only is Proof one of the longest-running plays of the last few decades (at close to 1,000 performances), but it also won a Tony, a Pulitzer and is produced all over creation.

David and I chatted about the origins of Proof and how he solved it as well as . . .

  • How he “warmed up” to writing plays by writing sketches and one-acts first (and a business reason why this is a great place for emerging playwrights to start).
  • The most important reason why he thinks Proof was so successful and why it’s done everywhere.
  • Why he enjoys directing other people’s work, but doesn’t want to do his own.
  • The difference between writing screenplays and stage plays.
  • Where he gets his ideas . . . and what he does first when he gets one.

Listen to the podcast with David with the links below, and if you haven’t read Proof, do yourself a favor and get it here.  Not only is it a page-turner, but it’s a master class in and of itself.

Click here to listen to my podcast with David!

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

Download it here.

What we can learn about storytelling from HGTV.

I am not a Home Depot guy.

Thank goodness I live in an apartment, because I’d rather go back to AP Calculus than fix a rain gutter or stain a deck.

I’ve just never been an interior-designing, renovating, home-fixer-upper, kind of guy.

Then how come I love me some HGTV?

It’s true.  Give me a House Hunters or Tiny Houses, and I’ll put down that Calculus equation and binge watch all night long.

What is it about these shows that gets me and so many others tingly all over?  And what does it have to do with a great play or musical?

It’s the idea of watching a transformation.  Watching something change.  And specifically, something that goes from overlooked and undervalued into something that has a ton of value and gets put in a deserved spotlight.

Those houses are like underdogs.  Those houses become everyday heroes.

Need a better example than HGTV?

How about those Oprah-like make over shows?  Come on, tell me you don’t tear up when you see someone lose weight, get pumped-up, or even just go through a wardrobe/hair/makeup change revealing the King/Queen that has been covered up by life?

The reasons these shows are popular, regardless of an audience’s interest in the subject matter, is because audience’s love watching something . . . especially someone . . . change for the better.

Because deep down it’s what they also want for themselves.

So if you’re ever stuck with your show, watch some HGTV and make sure your hero goes through the same thing as that three-bedroom fixer-upper on the outskirts of town.

– – – – –

The best feedback a writer can get is from their peers.  Join one of our Writer’s Groups here.

Haven’t put your great idea for a script on paper yet?  Take our 30 Day Script challenge!  Click here!