Broadway Grosses w/e 10/25/09





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Show Name GrossGross TotalAttn %Cap Avg Pd Adm
A STEADY RAIN $1,213,983 8,676 101.26% $139.92
AFTER MISS JULIE $216,363 4,968 83.92% $43.55
BILLY ELLIOT: THE MUSICAL $1,429,330 11,372 100.04% $125.69
BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS $124,720 5,849 60.88% $21.32
BURN THE FLOOR $301,345 5,327 63.78% $56.57
BYE BYE BIRDIE $638,124 8,137 99.13% $78.42
CHICAGO $615,447 7,624 88.24% $80.72
FELA! $219,116 5,037 81.50% $43.50
FINIAN’S RAINBOW $345,067 9,170 77.01% $37.63
GOD OF CARNAGE $900,914 7,715 102.24% $116.77
HAIR $855,348 9,631 85.26% $88.81
HAMLET $863,934 8,306 88.44% $104.01
IN THE HEIGHTS $724,508 8,793 80.52% $82.40
IN THE NEXT ROOM OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY $56,201 1,710 46.37% $32.87
JERSEY BOYS $1,175,433 9,898 101.25% $118.75
MAMMA MIA! $980,401 11,326 94.51% $86.56
MARY POPPINS $701,021 10,012 69.64% $70.02
MEMPHIS $528,902 9,814 83.45% $53.89
NEXT TO NORMAL $420,824 5,341 86.48% $78.79
OLEANNA $265,077 4,309 66.99% $61.52
RAGTIME $270,161 5,609 79.06% $48.17
ROCK OF AGES $601,568 6,960 87.26% $86.43
SHREK THE MUSICAL $497,813 8,428 60.79% $59.07
SOUTH PACIFIC $784,183 7,653 91.89% $102.47
SUPERIOR DONUTS $333,005 5,216 65.79% $63.84
THE 39 STEPS $209,952 3,109 65.98% $67.53
THE LION KING $1,291,847 12,719 96.12% $101.57
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $808,695 10,759 83.27% $75.16
THE ROYAL FAMILY $257,220 4,496 86.46% $57.21
WEST SIDE STORY $1,107,211 11,842 87.23% $93.50
WICKED $1,525,772 14,431 99.72% $105.73
WISHFUL DRINKING $391,253 6,404 79.73% $61.10
TOTAL $20,654,736 250,641 82.63% $76.36


Another day. Another dream crushed.

Sigh.

I already told you earlier this week how I used to dream about reviving Carrie.  Well, whenever my mind wandered away from that horror-hottie, I dreamed about producing another musical:

A musical that could appeal to children and adults alike.  A musical that had great tunes already, but also could benefit from a supplemental score.  A musical that would be visually spectacular.

A musical of . . . Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Admittedly, I’m not the only one that has thought of this idea.  I think anyone who has ever dreamed of being a Creative Producer has imagined how the Oompa-Loompas would look live at some point in their career.  One of my favorite readers told me that she was in discussions with the estate for a while (I couldn’t even get them to return my phone calls).

It looks like Willy is finally going to happen, and Sam Mendes is going to be the guy to do it.  Click here for more details.

Am I really disappointed?

No.

You know why?

1. Sam is the perfect guy for the job.

2. When I came up with the idea of Willy Wonka, I wasn’t ready for it.

Would it really have been possible for me to grab the rights to that material in between my acting classes at Tisch?  If you were the estate of Roald Dahl, would you have given the rights to me, no matter how much passion and creativity I had?

Of course not.

Was it worth my time to work on Willy Wonka back then?  Probably not. I would have been better served working on something that I could accomplish more easily like a reading of a new play or musical that would have actually had a greater chance of happening and becoming MY Willy (uh, that sounded awkward).

Starting small is often the best way to become big.

You don’t wake up one morning and say “I’m going to run for President,” and expect to win.  You go slow. You start off by being a community organizer, and then a senator, and so on.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t shoot for the stars, just remember that success is a staircase, best taken one step at a time.

5 Tips To Producing A Reading

Readings of new plays and musicals are one of the hardest things to do.  It takes a truly imaginative audience to be able to see what “could be” from a reading under fluorescent lights, in the middle of a weekday afternoon, with actors in front of music stands, and no costumes, etc.  Because this industry is so hard, producers are just looking for reasons to say “no,” and we give them plenty at these “backer auditions.”

They are important, though, for raising money and for developing material.  So, here are five tips to making sure you get the most out of your reading:

1.  STAY AWAY FROM REHEARSAL HALLS

Fluorescent lights are an energy-suck, and folding metal chairs are literally a pain in the ass.  Spend the extra bucks and put your reading in a theater.  You’ll get a few stage lights, more comfy chairs, and you’ll raise the stakes of the event.  It’ll just feel like it’s closer to completion.  There are plenty of Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway theaters available during the day for this sort of thing.

2.  CAST GREAT ACTORS EVEN IF THEY AREN’T PERFECT

When there is no staging, no choreography, no set, no costumes, etc., all that you have are those performers. So cast great ones, even if they may not perfectly fit the role.  Someone too old?  Too young?  Don’t worry.  You need representations on what the show will be. You don’t need the exact show.  I’ll never forget a reading we did for Altar Boyz where Chad Kimball played Juan.  It made no sense.  And we learned more about the character at that reading than the prior four.

3.  SKIP THE SPEECH

We all know you are grateful to the actors, the authors, and everyone else who even thought about being involved in the reading.  Oh, and please don’t remind us you only had 29 hours to put it together.  We know.  We get it. No excuses.  Just start the dang thing.  Most people are giving up a part of their busy day to be at the reading.  Get it going already.  If you have people to thank or something to say, put it in a program.  If you must say something, keep it super short (e.g.  “Welcome to the reading of Joanie Loves Chachi – The Musical. Enjoy!”)

4.  KEEP IT SHORT

When you’re looking to raise money, or get partners, don’t feel like you have to show people the entire thing.  Tease ’em a bit.  Give ’em the best.  Make them want more.  Don’t hesitate to truncate sections if you can still follow the story.  If you’re working on the material itself, then you’re going to want to do the whole thing.  Just make sure it doesn’t run too long.  Over 2 hours gets tough in a reading.  With intermission and mingling, you’re talking about a “3 hour tour” out of an 8 hour day.  That’s a lot to ask.  The longer it goes the more likely you’ll have people checking their phone all through the show.  One of my favorite strategies is to do “selections from” readings to get people on the hook, and let the people that are interested come forward after that . . . then invite those folks to the longer reading.

5.  SURVEY IT

No one is going to tell you what they really feel to your face as they leave the room.  They’ll smile and say nice things even if they thought it was Moose Murders II.  And that’s not good for anyone.  Take RSVPs for the reading electronically and send them all a Survey after the fact.  The audience base won’t be traditional theatergoers, but you’ll learn something.

Readings have a tendency by nature to be dull, so you have to work a bit harder and spend a bit more money to make them more interesting.  Use percussion in addition to piano.  Have free water (or Red Bull!) available.    Dress it up any way you can.

When kids are ready to go to sleep, they say, “Read me a story.”

That’s the last thing you want at your reading, so make sure you do what you can to keep people on the edge of their non-ass-paining seats.

Is actor absenteeism at Broadway shows affecting our audience’s attitudes? A study tells all.

This past August, Michael Riedel wrote an article in the Post (in his usual smartly-snarky style), about a plague of absenteeism at West Side Story.

I’ve been concerned about absenteeism for some time, mostly because of its macro effects on our audience.  As theater tickets get more pricey, and the economy gets more dicey, audiences are bound to be disappointed if they aren’t getting what they pay for, right?

Right?

The truth is, I didn’t know if I was right.

So I decided to find out.

I called up my friend, Joseph Craig, formerly of Nielsen, and now out on his own at ERM (Entertainment Research and Marketing).  Audience research is what Joseph does, day and night, for movies, theater, video games, and more. I call him Dr. Stats.  He’s not allowed to talk about the clients that he’s represented for obvious reasons, but I happen to know a bunch of the producers that use him.  Let me tell you, some of the shows that he has worked on are so big, you’d wonder why they’d even need research (answer – there is always something to learn).

I told Joseph my concerns and commissioned his company to do a study.

Below is what I believe is the first ever published study on The Effects of Absenteeism On The Broadway Audience.

For the study, ERM did mostly live interviews as well as some internet surveys with “regular theatergoers” both in and out of the tri-state.

I would say that I’m proud to present this survey, but the truth is I’m not.

Why?  Well, because, unfortunately, I was right.  It is having an effect.

Here is the Executive Summary from the study, which begins with some general and very useful information on how these “regulars” choose shows to see, and ends with something scary.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Overall Response

  • In general, respondents are consumers of live entertainment who picked up the habit by “being taken to the theater by a spouse, date or parent”.  All try to see the “newest and most buzzed about shows” as early as possible in the run. However, a very high 86% still try to catch up on shows they missed and see them generally within the first two years of the run.
  • As far as preferences go, the majority (63%) prefer to see musicals followed by 23% who have no preference over plays or musicals while 14% consider themselves devoted exclusively to plays.
  • Interestingly, 67% of those surveyed keep a “list” of shows they haven’t seen and actively look for deals on tickets to these shows.
  • It is important to note that almost all of those surveyed are willing to pay full price for shows they really want to see.
  • A very high 78% of respondents had seen at least one performance of a show that featured an understudy substituting for a regularly scheduled performer usually in a leading role.  Most feel they “heard” the most common reason for an absent performer was an illness or injury that sidelined the usual cast member.  Almost all (91%) believe that a missing performer is out for legitimate reasons.
  • The newest shows tied with the shows that have been running for over 5 years as the shows with the most missing performers (non-star driven).
  • With a few notable exceptions, most feel that stars are more apt to appear on a regular basis in their leading roles.
  • The majority of theatergoers (51%) feel the problem has gotten worse over the last 5 years.  Most (66%) feel that “younger” or the “less experienced” Broadway performers are more apt to “call in sick” than those with a “career” in the theater.
  • When they saw the replacement notice in the Playbill, most (76%) were worried about how it would effect their overall enjoyment of “an expensive evening out” and openly shared with their companion(s) a level of concern about the performance.  Among those who brought guests, about a  fifth of those surveyed felt like they had to apologize or promise their companion another theater experience if this was “not up to snuff”.
  • About a quarter was excited to see what another performer could do when given a chance and was “pleased and happy” with the performance, or “it felt like they were always a part of the production”, and ultimately came away with good things to say about the show and never gave it another thought. Also on a positive note, some felt like they were given an opportunity to see “the future of Broadway performers” when a particularly talented performer “knocked it out of the ballpark”.
  • Having said that, the majority (73%) came away frustrated by their experience. They generally felt like they were given a performer who was “under rehearsed” or “struggled to keep up”, or “lacked chemistry” with other performers, or “would never usually be cast in this role”.  Consequently, it had an effect on the overall show. Most felt “cheated” or felt in the case of long runs that “the Producers don’t care about what is going on with their shows”.
  • Generally, this lead to negative word of mouth on the show. Most quotes stated that they would tell their “inner circle” that “it was not worth full price” or “you should see another show instead” or even in some cases lament how “Broadway producers just care about getting my money and forget about how all this affects my overall enjoyment of a show”.
  • An alarming trend we noticed is consumers are starting to be more cautious and aware of shows that have a reputation for absenteeism among leading performers.  The fallout is a more conscientious consumer who is becoming more careful with how much money is being “set aside” for attending a Broadway show.

 

There you have it.  In blog and white.  Empirical evidence that absenteeism is damaging the future of Broadway.

And why wouldn’t it?

That slip of paper in a Playbill says you’re not getting the Director’s original vision.

Imagine if you went to a famous steak restaurant and they said the beef was coming from a different butcher this week?

Imagine if you went to Six Flags, and Kingda Ka or any of the big roller coasters weren’t running?

You’d be disappointed, right?  You’d think twice about going back, wouldn’t you?

Without a doubt, we have a problem.

I’m not saying the problem is with undisciplined actors, or too-difficult choreography, or anything, actually. This isn’t about pointing fingers.

This is about trying to find a solution.  Actors Equity and the Producers (especially since we’re the ones being blamed) should come together and find out exactly what the issues are.  Is it getting worse?  Is part of the problem how we inform our audiences about absences?  Do we not have enough understudy rehearsals?

We need to find out the answers.  Now that we know how our audience feels, we’ve got to find a way to educate them and change their perception, before they change their habits.

Because no Principal ever calls out of a movie or a video game.

Play “You’re The Producer” on your iPhone!

Tommy, a reader at TDF, just tipped me off to a brand new app for my iPhone, created by the marketers of the “smash hit” jukebox musical We Will Rock You which, believe it or not, is now in its 6th year in the West End (after playing itself out in Vegas and Toronto).

In We Will Rock You – The Game, you’re the Producer!  From the app store:

We Will Rock You – The Game is a management simulator which puts you to the test as the show’s producer.  By making the right decisions your goal is to take your production of the smash hit musical We Will Rock You from a small school hall right up to the real venue at London’s Dominion Theatre – but can you sell out the show?

As producer, it’s your call to make production and creative decisions within the show’s budget.  It’s down to you to set ticket prices, sell merchandise and coordinate your marketing and once you’ve pulled in your audience you’ll have to make sure you’re gonna rock the show by selecting the right cast, staging equipment and props.

The more successful and profitable your show is, the quicker you can increase the size and quality of your production to rock your way to the Dominion!

The Show Must Go On!

 

It’s a pretty fun little app, especially for producing minds like ours.  What is most interesting to me is that of all the types of games that the We Will Rockers could have created, they created a game where you’re the Producer?  I’m not complaining, but you would think they would have created something with the plot of the show itself?  Or something with some karaoke?

But more power to them . . . cuz they’re the first show I know of that created an iPhone game app.

I’m going to see if I’ve got skills.  More later.

If you want to play, click here.

(On a side note, does anyone else remember when We Will Rock You was going to be more of a bio-musical based on the life of Freddie Mercury rather than the fictional story of a futuristic society with characters called Skaramoosh and Galileo set on Planet Mall?  The Mercury musical is a show I would have loved to have produced . . . even if only on my iPhone).

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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