Is “Vanity” a sin?

I got into a discussion about “Vanity Projects” today.

I’ve thought about this term before, because I’m sure some people have called my shows VPs.  I do wear a lot of hats on my shows at times, depending on the scope and size of the project, and, to be honest, how much is in the budget (I work cheap when I’m negotiating with myself) and who else is available.

But what really is a Vanity Project?

A Vanity Project is a term used to describe shows that don’t work, AFTER they don’t work.  It’s the entertainment industry’s version of Monday morning quarterbacking.

Has anyone ever called Rocky a Vanity Project?  Sly wrote and starred in the first one (winning an Oscar), and wrote, starred and directed the rest of the series (except for Rocky V, where he let the original director get behind the camera again).

How about Star Wars?  Written and Directed by Mr. Lucas.

Hedwig?  No.

Rent?  Nope.

In The Heights?  Don’t think so.

In My Life?  (alarm goes off)  Most people in Shubert Alley would say yes.

Collaboration is why I love the theatre.  But that doesn’t mean that wearing a few hats is a bad thing, as long as you deliver.

So no, Vanity is not a sin.

But sucking definitely is.

What the #&$@ is my job, anyway?

I’ve been lucky enough to speak on a number of panels lately, and one of the most common questions I get is, “What does a producer actually do?”

It usually takes me about fifteen minutes to explain how a producer’s job may vary from raising money to selling merchandise to giving notes to a director to explaining to a hair dresser that the star of the show doesn’t want her in her dressing room because her feet smell. (True story)

And after that fifteen minute lecture, my other panelists are usually ready to gag me because I’ve taken so much of their time.

So, I decided I needed to distill my definition down to one succinct sentence.  So here goes:

A commercial producer’s job is to get as many people to see his or her show as possible.

That task can be accomplished through raising money to get the show up, through giving notes to the authors in order to make it a better show that people want to see, through marketing and advertising, and yes through buying some odor eaters so that star’s nasal passages don’t swell and cause her to miss another show.

But everything you do is in order for it to be seen by as many people as possible.

Because if lots and lots and lots of people see it . . . the investors should be happy because they are hopefully making money, and the authors should be happy because their voice is being heard.

Future fellow panelists, you can leave the gags at home now.  Although, maybe that’s not a smart idea.  I’ve got some other things to say.

Speaking of panels, I’ve been asked to be a part of a very exciting panel at the Word of Mouth Marketing Association conference in Las Vegas on 11/15.  It’s the largest conference on word of mouth marketing, so it should be a lot of fun.  And right after my panel, there’s a keynote address by Andy Sernovitz who wrote “Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking”. I’m an Andy fan. He’s smart. Oh, and he mentions Altar Boyz in his book.  🙂 

Be kind to the animals.

A friend of mine was telling a story today and he used Cats as a reference. And, on cue, most of the group
snickered. What’s so funny about Cats? 

I’m going to spare you an essay on whether or not Cats is a good musical.  That’s not my point. My point is that whether you like it or not, Cats is a classic of American Musical Theater.

Here’s why:

A classic is something that stands the test of time. Cats ran for 7485 performances.  Almost 18 years. If modern musical theater began around the turn of the century (some say it started with The Black Crook, others say Show Boat, so I’m picking a mid point), that means that Cats had a run on Broadway equivalent to almost 20% of the medium’s life.

Imagine a book (other than the bible) staying on the NY Times Bestseller list for 18 years! And just because it closed on Broadway doesn’t mean that its life is over.

On the contrary, 18 years is just the beginning.  Like Show Boat, Cats will continue to purr around the world in regional productions and high schools for many more than 9 lives.  

So instead of kicking the kitties, let’s figure out what makes people want to see them now . . . and forever.

A buffet, a reclining seat, air conditioning, and, oh yeah, a movie too!

Two nights ago, I went to see The Heartbreak Kid.

The movie wasn’t that great.

But my seat reclined and I had more
than enough legroom.  I had more options for food than I do at some NYC
restaurants:  chicken fingers, nachos, popcorn, hot dogs, Sour Patch Kids,
ice cream, you name it.  Even healthy options!  And get this – they encouraged me to eat in the theater!  They
even built a drink holder right into the seat.  One woman didn’t want to
pay the concession prices, so she brought in her own Chinese food and the usher
didn’t even stop her.  The temperature in the theater was perfect and my
feet didn’t stick to the ground when I left. 

The movie wasn’t that great. 

But I guarantee it would have been a
helluva lot worse if all of the above didn’t add to the experience.

Last night, I went to see a Broadway

I was chewing on my knees for the
entire show because the theater was recently renovated and they stuffed more
seats into the place.  They refused to let me bring my Coke to my
seat.  I had to hide my Sour Patch Kids in my jacket.  And the air
conditioning was on the fritz (and the guy next to me, whose arm was already in
my lap, was not very “fresh”).

The show wasn’t that great. 

But I’ll bet you the price of the
ticket that it would have felt a helluva lot better if the overall experience
was better.

A performance event doesn’t begin or
end at the rise or fall of the curtain. It’s not just about the
performance.  It’s the overall experience – from buying the ticket at the
box office to dealing with the ushers to whether or not your a$$ hurts after
sitting for 2.5 hours. 

As the movie business lost traffic to
people staying home to watch TiVo or surf the Internet, they invested in making
the “experience” better and more unique.

And when you improve the overall
experience, individual elements look better as a result.  Win x2.

I mean, aren’t you happier when
you’re eating popcorn?  Having a cold beverage?  Sitting on a
cushioned seat?  And of course that feeling transfers to whatever else you
are doing at that time.

Happier customer . . . leads to
positive feeling about product . . . leads to customer buying more product . .
. leads to healthier industry. 

The theater has got some catching up to do.
We have to stop being snobs and saying, “Our product is so unique and
since you can’t get it anywhere else, people are just going to have to deal
with long lines at the restrooms and rude personnel and knee-chewing.
It’s just the price of Broadway.” We have stop saying that.
Otherwise, people may choose to experience something else.

Buy tickets to Bring It On: The Musical on Broadway

To buy tickets to Bring It On: The Musical on Broadway click the link below:Bring It On The Broadway Musical Tickets


– – – – – – – – – –

Here is the official information for Bring It On: The Musical on Broadway:

About Bring It On: The Musical

Bring It On: The Musical tells the story of the challenges and unexpected bonds formed through the thrill of extreme competition. With a colorful and controversial crew of characters, an exciting fresh sound and explosive dance with aerial stunts, this hilariously universal story is everything you hoped for and nothing like what you expect in a Broadway show. Uniting some of the brightest and funniest creative minds on Broadway, Bring It On: The Musical features a libretto by Tony® Award winner Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q), music and lyrics by Tony Award-winning composer Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights), music by Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning composer Tom Kitt (Next to Normal), lyrics by Broadway lyricist Amanda Green (High Fidelity) and music supervision by Tony and Grammy® Award winner Alex Lacamoire (Wicked). The production is directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Andy Blankenbuehler (In the Heights).


Taylor Louderman, Adrienne Warren, Ryann Redmond, Elle McLemore, Jason Gotay, Ariana DeBose, Gregory Haney, Neil Haskell, Janet Krupin, Kate Rockwell, Nick Womack, Calli Alden, Nikki Bohne, Dexter Carr, Shonica Gooden, Haley Hannah, Rod Harrelson, Casey Jamerson, Dominique Johnson, Michael Mindlin, Adrianna Parson and Bettis Richardson, Antwan Bethea, AJ Blankenship, Danielle Carlacci, Michael Naone-Carter, Courtney Corbeille, Dahlston Delgado, Brooklyn Freitag, Keith Gross, Melody Mills, David Ranck, Billie Sue Roe, Sheldon Tucker, Lauren Whitt. (Cast list subject to change.)

Running time

2 hours 30 minutes (including 15 min. intermission)


St. James – 246 W 44th St


To read reviews of Bring It On: The Musical on Broadway, click the link below:

Read Bring It On! Broadway Reviews!

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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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