5 Shows That Stand Out at NYMF 2019

It was 15 years ago.

Can you believe it?

15 years ago, almost to the day, we started rehearsals for the New York Musical Festival production of Altar Boyz . . . starring Cheyenne Jackson, Andy Karl, David Josefsberg, Ryan Duncan, and Tyler Maynard.  Talk to any one of those guys and they’ll tell you stories about singing “Girl, You Make Me Wanna Wait” and “Jesus Called Me On My Cell Phone” around my little piano in my rehearsal room/bedroom in my apartment.

It was a blast.

Thankfully, we stood out at that first year of the festival, bounced to Off-Broadway a few months later . . . and stuck around for five years.  And now, Altar Boyz is done all over the country and all over the world.

15 years later, we’re in the midst of this year’s New York Musical Festival  . . . which has grown into the biggest, coolest, most influential musical theater festival in the world (is there any other musical theater festival that gets more industry attention? And I say that having a festival of my own!).

And a whole bunch of new shows are standing out.  Every year, I go through the catalog of offerings, looking for the next Altar Boyz and more.  And each year, I tell you which ones stand out to me!

How does a show make the list?  It’s important to know that this isn’t a list of what shows I think are “best,” which are most likely to recoup or win awards, or which are most likely to have five year runs like Altar Boyz.  I put shows on this list based on their descriptions in the NYMF catalog and what strums a chord in the commercial producer in me.  And a disclaimer, I do know a few of the folks on this list (because they’ve been pretty good at getting my attention over the years), but I’ve got no reason to be anything but objective . . . especially since I’m not judging them on what’s going to be the next Urinetown.

Got it?  So here goes . . . based on what I’ve read on the NYMF website, here are the five shows that stand out at this year’s NYMF (and a little explanation as to why, in the hopes that it’ll help you get your shows to stand out to Producers like me when you’re in a festival of your own).

1. Black Hole Wedding

You know that old A Chorus Line story of how Michael Bennett added the “A” before “Chorus Line” to appear first in the ABC’s (thank you alpha order)?  Well, that @#$% works.  🙂  It’s not the reason I added Black Hole Wedding to this list, but it didn’t hurt, and it may have put it over the edge.  But what got me to notice BHW first was the timeliness of its ripped-from-the-headlines subject matter (Energy Politics) combined with the kookiness of the plot.  It is described as a “zany satire,” and there’s always room for one of those at a festival.

2. Ladyship

This musical had three things going for it right away.  1) The word “journey” appears in the first sentence of their marketing blurb . . . and all great stories are journeys.  2) It takes place in the 18th century . . . and a majority of our great musicals are period pieces (including over 55% of Tony Award Winning Best Musicals).  And 3) It features two women (a la Wicked) as its protagonists.  Add that it’s “based on a true story,” and I wanted to know more.

3. Till

Speaking of true stories . . . here comes one about a harrowing moment in American history, when the young Emmett Till was found murdered for the color of his skin.  It’s almost too timely, but I couldn’t help but be intrigued, because I believe musicals can put a spotlight on society in a way that the news can’t and maybe even change a few minds in the process.

4. The Disappearing Man

The Disappearing Man had the shortest description of all the shows in the festival this year. But the funny thing is because the title also suggested something mysterious, I wanted to know more.  Add the cool setting of a “small-town circus in 1936” and it sounded like a world I wanted to walk around in for a while.  Sometimes less is much more, and creating a strong visual for the time and place of your show can make me want to buy a ticket to take a trip there.

5. Savage The Musical

The description of Savage goes as far as to say exactly why it’s relevant today . . . it’s about a “divorced, single mother who fought racism, sexism, and abuse to make a name for herself.”  This woman just happens to be a Native American, Annie Oakley type, and again, it’s based on a true story (are you getting a sense of what turns my ticket buying engine on?).

Honorable Mentions go to . . . Alive! The Zombie Musical (because who doesn’t like zombies), Finding Beautiful (“the first transgender woman to compose for the main stage and the first-ever NYMF Fellow”) and Flying Lessons (it sounds like something I’ll want to take my daughter to someday).

I was bad this year and posted this a bit late, so you can’t even catch some of the events above, but there are still plenty of opportunities for you to see other NYMF shows.  Click here to see all the events and go to one.  We all want more new writers and more new musicals on the boards, right?  We can make that happen by supporting festivals like NYMF.  (And, yes, Rave, too!)

Only 26 days until. . .

. . . our inaugural Rave Theater Festival!

Did you not know we were producing a brand-spankin’ new Theater Festival?

Well, six months ago . . . neither did we!  🙂

But we are, thanks to my incredible staff and team and all the theater-makers out there who have worked their scripts off getting their shows ready for you.

So if you are wondering where the new writers are . . . and the unique projects . . . and the air conditioning (yep, we got that!), come to Rave.

Or even if you can’t come . . . buy a couple of tickets to one of the shows.  Buying a ticket for a writer and a project you’ve never heard of before . . . is like giving that artist a big ol’ hug.

Get your tix for the shows below!

 


911 GNOMES: A CHRISTMAS EMERGENCY

Written by Shellie O’Neal

Have YOU ever seen a garden gnome make toys in Santa’s workshop? Probably not. Could it work? We honestly don’t know. But hey, it’s Christmas Eve and all the elves have the flu – so somebody has to get the job done! Dial 911 GNOMES to the rescue!

When the elves at the North Pole get the flu right before Christmas, nobody knows what to do! But wait a minute! Here come the gnomes to the rescue! In 911 Gnomes: A Christmas Emergency, take a trip with Rudolph, Frosty, and the strangest garden gnomes you’ve ever laid eyes on, as they work their way to the North Pole to save the day. What will happen when they arrive? Do gnomes even know how to make toys? How many things could go wrong on Christmas Eve? Come see 911 Gnomes to find out!

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BACK

Written by Matt Webster

Would you betray the person who loves you for a second chance at life?

When Derek moves away after high school, and Leah gets in a car accident, killing her boyfriend Spencer, they come face to face with a new technology that proves to threaten their relationship and existence. Would you betray the person who loves you for a second chance at life?

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BIG SHOT THE MUSICAL

Written by Lauryn Gaffney, Music and Lyrics by Lauryn Gaffney

New York’s finest coffee with an Irish blend. “A theatrical storm worthy of a Tony Gong” -Irish Mirror.

Big Shot tells the story of Jeremy Crocker, an up and coming New York lawyer. Jeremy’s ambition in life is to own the most successful law firm in the city, but soon finds himself distracted when he falls for Carrie, a struggling Irish artist. Carrie’s paintings are displayed on the walls of the coffee shop where Carrie works. Fate and a shared passion for art brings the two of them together, but when Crocker agrees to defend a white-collar gangster Hank Midden being charged with crimes, Jeremy has a tough decision to make. Not only is Midden guilty, but he is also engaged to Carrie.

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DOPPELGANGER

Written by Craig Donnelly

Social media star Max Henderson dies in a prank gone wrong, so now his “team” must convince his doppelgänger to take his place.

VideoSpace, the leading video content platform, loses its biggest star, Max Henderson, who dies suddenly in a prank gone wrong. Max’s agent gets a brilliant idea to replace him; track down his doppelgänger and convince him to simply take over for Max. He enlists the help of VideoSpace’s CEO as well as Max’s sister to track down Sam Greene, whose been living a typical college life up until now. Ultimately, Sam must choose whether to leave his normal life behind to join the impossible stakes world of the social media elite.

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FANCY MAIDS

Written by Harold Hodge

The year is 1853. Four women have sacrificed everything to escape the cruelties of American Slavery in the South. Determined to take agency over their own lives, they find themselves tempted by violence.

After narrowly escaping the horrors of slavery, Idabelle arrives to the North only to discover the Fugitive Slave Act has made it impossible for her to find honest work. With no other choice, she joins the women of Pinky’s Pleasure House where she is confronted by a wealthy Southern-planter who finds the women-run business disturbing. After an intense altercation in the privacy of her room, Idabella and the women are faced with a life-or-death dilemma that tests their morality and questions the value of revenge.

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GIRLS ON TAP

Written by Sally Dashwood, Music and Lyrics by Sean Peter

Inspiring, empowering, multi-tasking. The Aussie femme fatales of tap have arrived. Girls On Tap celebrate women and girl power throughout the ages the best way they know how, by making a lot of noise!

Girls On Tap is a high energy, theatrical tap show celebrating women and girl power throughout the ages. Like all things female, the ladies of Girls On Tap multi-task live on stage – whether they are dancing, singing a soulful song or using their daily hair care routine to tap out fun rhythms with a can of hair spray and a hair brush. Girls On Tap take a look at female life both good and bad. Legacy, sisterhood, femininity vs stereotypes, betrayal by our female conterparts and objectification by the media. It’s not all noise and backstabbing though. We are making a statement, but we’re having a lot of fun doing it. There’s an activewear sporting, online-dating inspired version of Someone to Watch over Me (Someone to Swipe Right For Me), a live and powerful rock version of Rolling in Deep, a fierce Film Noir style jazz routine reminiscent of Golden Era classics like Band Wagon and Singing in the Rain, a tongue-in-cheek take on the stereotypical 1950s housewife, and more. Girls On Tap is sure to appeal to people of all ages. Girls On Tap is fabulous, female and guaranteed to entertain.

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JUST LAUGH

Written by Lauren Gundrum, Music by Brandon Lambert

A new musical comedy about one family’s most awkward, hilarious, and often beautiful milestone moments.

Just Laugh is a vignette-style musical comedy about one family’s most awkward, hilarious, and often beautiful milestone moments. It begins with the birth of Martha’s and Frank’s son Timmy and follows Timmy as he learns all of life’s most important lessons – from the birds and the bees, to how to properly ask someone to divorce you, and everything in between. As Timmy grows he realizes that while life may be a series of struggles, the one thing that will always get you through is laughter.

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NI MI MADRE

Written by Arturo Luís Soria

A larger-than-life Brazilian mother, who swears she would’ve been the “It” thing if it weren’t for Madonna and Meryl Streep, grapples with the secrets that tear her and her son apart, the painful memories of her estranged mother, and the lineage that bind

Inspirited with the tradition of Umbanda ritual, the music of Gloria Estefan, Cher, and Maria Bethânia, NI MI MADRE invites the audience into the tumultuous relationship between Bete (a larger-than-life Brazilian woman who swears that if it weren’t for Madonna, Meryl Streep, and Angelina Jolie she would have been the “It” thing) and her queer son. As she grapples with the secrets that tear her and her son apart, the unbidden memories of her estranged mother, and the lineage that binds them all together she unveils to us, her confidants, her judges, her audience, the downfalls of American parenting.

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NOIR TOWN

Written by Michael Bontatibus

Private eyes, femme fatales, dark alleyways, rain-slicked streets – plunge into the world of film noir in a new immersive theater experience. Chart your own path and walk from room to room, untangling three intertwining mysteries.

In the newest experience from immersive theater company WITNESS, step into the shadowy and seductive world of film noir. A trio of interlocking mysteries, each linked by one enigmatic woman, are investigated by three private detectives who couldn’t be more different from one another. Audiences will be free to step out of their seats and walk from room to room, choosing which detectives to follow on their journeys through the underbelly of the city – where no one can be trusted and nothing is as it seems.

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OCEANBORN

Written by Morgan Smith, Music and Lyrics by Mhairi Cameron

Oceanborn follows two young women as they face the pressures and expectations of future leadership in a climate of violence and uncertainty.

Oceanborn is the story of Viking raids on the Outer Hebrides and the aftermath of their violence, rousingly political and tinged with legend. This political musical featuring a blend of Celtic rock, pop and folk, tackles the cyclic nature of violence, xenophobia, misogyny, and cultural isolationism head on. Oceanborn follows two young women as they face the pressures and expectations of future leadership in a climate of violence and uncertainty. Eira, a Viking warrior and next Chief of her tribe, struggles to overcome the prejudice against female leaders in her culture. Finn, the daughter of a Celtic fisherman, has a desperate wish to escape responsibility and wander the world. When a failed raid leaves Eira abandoned, assumed dead, on Finn’s shore, she is faced with the culture that left her parentless. As understanding and an unlikely friendship blossoms between them, wicked ministrations by the trickster god Gideon incite a series of violent events.

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ROSE’S WAR

Written by J. Todd Allan, Music by Doug Katsaros, Lyrics by Peter B. Allen

ROSE’S WAR is a WWII era interracial musical love story set mostly in New York and Harlem nightclubs where two singer-songwriters must fight against all odds for a happy ending.

WWII rages in ROSE’S WAR as Rose Sweet, a talented black singer-songwriter, shattered by the death of her white mother, walks in on a raucous rehearsal at The Pair O’ Dice Club in Harlem. Rose is hungry to be a star. The club’s owner, Cecil Clay, a troubled black trumpet virtuoso, leads the band and doesn’t know, yet, that he is Rose’s father. But she certainly does. Danny Capucci, Cecil’s young white protégé, is in an airman’s uniform playing the piano and singing a new hit song written by him and Cecil. Cecil is furious that Danny is going off to war and fearful he’ll never return. Fearlessly Rose offers to replace Danny, and after an impressive audition singing and dancing with Danny, Cecil hires her as his cigarette girl, to start. Rose and Danny are in love and pledge to write each other every day. As Rose struggles to make it in a white-ruled music business, Danny is getting more and more terrified that he won’t survive his next bombing mission. In a moment of weakness he betrays Rose with Sophie Leland, a white songbird at the London USO. Consumed with guilt Danny stops sending Rose letters. By the time Danny returns from the war both he and Rose are damaged. Sophie’s returned to New York, too, and more than cherishes her friendship with Danny. The odds are terribly stacked against Rose and Danny making it. The general belief is mixed race couples are doomed. There are many more battles to be fought if Rose and Danny are to get their happy ending.

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STORMY WEATHER

Written by Michael MacKenzie Wills

A magical storm, a shipwreck at sea, and a group of “frenemies” trapped together on Fire Island during a hurricane = an evening of madcap theatrical fun.

A ferocious storm rages outside the Fire Island beach house of Tim Bailey, a 40-year-old gay man having a mid-life crisis – He’s lost his job, his husband started divorce proceedings, and his adopted daughter will soon leave the nest. When a yacht gets struck by lightning and everyone is washed overboard, a night of surprise visitors begins as each nearly drowned passenger, which include Tim’s ex-boss and ex-husband, make their way to Tim’s front door. As calamity ensues Tim is forced to face his demons and hilariously fight to regain control of his life.

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SWEET LORRAINE

Written by Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj & Adam Mace

“Decide who you are and force the world to deal with you, not it’s idea of you.” -James Baldwin

Sweet Lorraine is a dramatic interpretation of the final conversation had between best friends, Lorraine Hansberry and James Baldwin in Lorraine’s New York City Hospital Room in January 1965. The play is set one week prior to Lorraine’s passing from pancreatic cancer and explores the complex, dynamic and often heated relationship between these two prolific, creative giants and American Artists and Activists.

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THE ERRONEOUS MOBY DICK

Written by Thom Talbott

Is it better to lie with a sober cannibal than a drunk Christian?

The Erroneous Moby Dick is a comedy adaptation of Herman Melville’s classic masterpiece, Moby Dick, using four actors to bring an assortment of madcap characters to life, in true tour de farce. Call him Ishmael, but he wants to be a whaler and he has arrived in New Bedford to find a ship. There he meets his mysterious bed mate, Queequeg; the hysterical owner of the Spouter Inn, Mrs. Coffin; the ever dependable, first mate, Mr. Starbuck along with his long suffering wife, Mary; the peculiar wharf rat, Elijah; the blustery Father Mapple; and finally, the obsessive, overwrought, and on-edge Captain Ahab. Sign on to the whaler, Pequod, for a voyage on the high seas of hilarity and a Moby Dick that you haven’t seen before.

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THE PERFECT FIT

Written by Joshua Turchin

It’s Where You Belong

Alexandra, a driven child actor with a powerful voice, grows concerned that she is growing too old to play a child and too young to play an adult. After being cast in a musical, she is sabotaged by Elizabeth’s mom, a vindictive stage parent who would do anything for her daughter to succeed, leading to Alexandra getting fired from the show. Alexandra wants to give up her dreams of being a musical star, but her best friend Jake, a budding composer, and her mother, Annie, teach Alexandra to move forward. It is through the heartbreak and defeat that she faces that allow her to find her real perfect fit. Not only does Alexandra soon get cast in a brand new musical, she becomes the lead and makes her major stage debut.

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THE TYCOONS!

Written by Graham Techler

Like if Edith Wharton had left in the good parts.

New York City, 1902. A sheepish law student’s courtship of the daughter of the nation’s most powerful railroad magnate gives way to a series of plots, counterplots, and counter-counterplots that will suck in and take down everyone that the young lovers have ever met and/or held dear. THE TYCOONS is a ribald and lusty farce replete with taxidermied animal heads, lentil pâté, light-to-heavy fondling, and something called “The Seawife and the Honeypot.”

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TRAINING WHEELS

Written by Robin Bradford

Lying. Cheating. Crying. Who says romance is dead?

In this vibrant, witty drama, a long-married Lesbian couple, Penny and Katherine, suffer from a gradual breakdown of their relationship. When Penny discovers Katherine’s infidelity, with a man no less, the couple seek marital counseling. Deeply felt emotions force them to reevaluate their lives and their lifestyles. Tension develops as the two stake out their individual territories, allowing for a peek into their sometimes neurotic, often complicated, and always quirky partnership. The tension between the human desire to settle down in a heteronormative lifestyle is contrasted by the excitement of one defined by sex with other people. Can a relationship plagued by lies, deceit, and unfaithfulness be trumped by true affection? Can these two set aside past hurts and focus instead on their mutual love for each other? Through this portrait of a lesbian relationship, the question is raised: When it comes to love, don’t we all want the same things?

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UMSHADO – MARRIAGE OF HERITAGE

Written by Bogosi Bolokwe, Music and Lyrics by Eddie Mathiba

Beautiful singing and Sharp Choreography as reviewed by the Star Tonight

Umshado tells the story of a young man’s journey from his roots in the kraal of Moruleng to Shantytown of Mamelodi in Pretoria. The show opens during ceremonial preparation for his entrance into manhood and it captures this initiation rite of passage for a Tswana boy. The story continues from his initiation to love and marriage. Confronted by the traditional practices,as many before him he migrates to Urban city to find job. Arriving in Pretoria he becomes a bricklayer. Here for the first time he makes contact with people of other races, cultures, traditions and languages. He is amazed by the ability of these peoples from various cultures to work productively together. He learns about their music and enjoys a repertoire of performance styles that carried strong and rich traditional melodies. He eventually falls in love with a domestic worker originating from Zululand. After experiencing a church wedding, he decides to remain true to tradition. He arranges with his elders to go and negotiate for marriage in the rural Zululand. As usual with different tribes, the bride s father becomes adamant that he will not allow cross cultural marriage to take place with her daughter. Emissaries settle the dispute and manage to unite two families. The groom invites his colleagues then the celebration takes place, displaying the various cultures and capturing the magic of diverse cultures of African tribes which is raw beauty and enhancing social cohesion and to appreciate cross cultural marriages which is still an existing problem world wide.

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WAITING FOR JOHNNY DEPP

Written by Janet Cole Valdez and Deedee O’Malley; Music by Janet Cole Valdez, Deedee O’Malley and Bettie Ross; Lyrics by Janet Cole Valdez and Deedee O’Malley

The zany adventures of an actress who risks it all for the role of a lifetime.

“Waiting for Johnny Depp” takes us on a wild ride with New York actress Rita Donatella, in her quest to land the role of a lifetime in a Johnny Depp film. She constantly reinvents herself to be more perfect for the role, as she navigates the rough waters of surviving in the Big Apple with her dreams intact. She fights the financial and personal battles every artist wrestles with, with humor and chutzpah. Through demands of career, dating and family she sells off all her personal possessions, sacrificing practically everything before she realizes the meaning of what really matters in life.

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YOUNG PILGRIMS

Written by Sydney Blake

A romantic comedy 400 years in the making…

Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl…in 1620 on the Mayflower. John Alden, a poor, strapping young carpenter, works on the Mayflower in hopes of building a better future for himself. While on board he meets the girl of his dreams, Priscilla Mullins, who’s already being courted by the “perfect Pilgrim.” After saving the ship from a harrowing storm, fighting off “savages” awaiting on land, and nursing his rival back from the brink of death, John finds his place in the new world . . . and maybe even love.

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UPDATED: Is THIS a sign of a market correction on Broadway coming?

There have been a lot of closings lately.  Broadway has felt a bit like Barnes & Noble after Amazon took off.

Ok, ok, there are always a lot of closing announcements post-Tonys, but something seems different this year.

And it has me worried.

The signs I’m seeing say that we’ve got a market correction a-comin’ in the next 12-18 months, which could pull our grosses (and attendance) back a bit from the super highs we’ve had.

What has me all a jittery?

Even before the Tonys, three plays announced they’d be bringing down the curtain prematurely:

King Lear
Gary

Hillary and Clinton

Right after The Tonys, another set announced:

The Prom
Be More Chill
King Kong

And then came a couple of surprises:

The Cher Show
Pretty Woman
Frankie and Johnny

Yeah, all those shows.  Enough to make a non-Broadway blogger think something was rotten.

But believe it or not . . . those nine shows are NOT what got me thinking that we’re due for a pullback.

It was three OTHER shows.

You probably can’t name them, but three more shows went gently into that good night recently.

Know which three I’m thinkin’ of?

Go on . . . I’ll wait.

I’ll give you a hint . . . collectively these three shows ran for . . . wait for it . . . 23 years???

And you can’t even get one of ’em, can you?

Ok, ok, no more reality-tv, judge-like-stalling . . . the shows are . . .

Avenue Q
Puffs
Newsical

The reason, of course, you couldn’t name them, is that they were Off-Broadway shows (ok, maybe you got Avenue Q), and Off-Broadway doesn’t get the attention that its big brother Broadway gets.

Why are these three shows’ final curtains significant?  Because they’ve been running for years . . . two of them for about a decade!

If a show closes that has ran for that long, and weathered many a storm (literally and figuratively), something has to be different in the market for them to choose to load out now.

And they all announced prior to the Broadway onslaught above, which is what first triggered me to think there may be some trouble in Broadway city.

Think about it this way . . .

If there is a flood, the people who live at the bottom of the hill (the less well “off” – or Off-Broadway, in this case), get wiped out first.  Then slowly but surely the water rises to those who live on top (the rich – or Broadway, in this case).

Those three Off-Broadway stalwarts goin’ down means trouble for anyone trying to launch or run a show now (which is why we’ve seen 9 shows close this summer).

But that’s not all . . .

I wrote a blog about corrections a few years ago and determined that Broadway “dips” occur every 3.67 years.

And those dips are always timed with three things:

  1. A Presidential Election.
  2. The Summer Olympics.
  3. A Leap Year.

(Read the original post about these three events and how they affect Broadway here.)

Guess what we’ve got in the next 12-18 months?

All three.

And guess how long it has been since the last correction?  You guessed it . . . about 4 years.

So buckle up all . . . it could get a little bumpy this Broadway season.

*****UPDATE AS OF 7/18/19

This subject is not something I like to be right about at all.   But since I posted this blog just a bit ago, two more Broadway musicals that have been around for years have announced their closing as well . . . Waitress which will close on January 5, 2020, and one of the most successful bio-musicals, Beautiful, which will shutter in the middle of October.

So yeah, to quote the title of another musical, something’s afoot.

We’re going to have a little vacuum of available theaters right now.  They’ll go fast, of course.  The theater owners won’t have a problem filling ’em, because Producers will by lining up to sign a lease PDQ.  But I hope they don’t go too quickly . . . because shows that rush their marketing just to get a theater first might be rushed out the door as well.  And that would only create a correction cycle that’s not good for anyone.


Curious how a show gets to Broadway, from the origination of the idea all the way to opening night?  Click here to check out my free Road to Broadway webinar.

The life and music of Neil Diamond on Broadway. And I’m honored to be producing.

It was last spring.  And I couldn’t have been busier.

But when this mentor/friend calls, I pick up the phone.  I don’t care where I am or what I’m doing.  I answer.

And this story is an example of why.

We were in the middle of the Tony campaign for Once On This Island. I was also at the tail end of the “lab” of Gettin’ the Band Back Together.  And we were still counting the age of my kid in weeks.

“Ken, I’d like you to talk to someone,” my mentor said.

I’ve learned that when this mentor-o-mine tells me I should chat with someone, I don’t ask “Who?”  I just ask, “When?”

He told me the match he was about to make for me was with none other than real life Jersey Boy and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame himself, Mr. Bob Gaudio.

“I’m going to give him your cell.”

I told him to have Bob call me anytime, and I didn’t even care what the reason was, even though we were an hour from an invited audience at our workshop, I had a conference call for Once On This Island scheduled for intermission, and I still didn’t know how to make a tight swaddle.  I mean, I was going to get a chance to talk to Bob “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” Gaudio!

Bob called me less than fifteen minutes later, which is how I knew we’d get along.  Because he wasted no time.  This was a guy who wanted to get moving and get moving fast.

And that’s when I learned that Bob, who had been Neil Diamond’s producer on four albums and his friend for decades, had been talking to his chart-bustin’ buddy about bringing a musical based on his life and songs to Broadway.  And they were looking for a partner.

So I said I had to think about it . . .

LOL.  JK.  JK.

I said yes.  And we were off and running.

And for the past year, little did you know that this project, about the man who wrote “America,” “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” and, yeah, “Sweet Caroline,” has been simmering on the stove.

But we needed a few more ingredients . . . like a writer.

So I called one of my favorite agents, who told me he wasn’t sure if he had anybody right for what we wanted to do.

Two days later, he called me and said he had just met with two time Academy Award-winner Anthony McCarten (Theory of Everything, The Darkest Hour), who was also the hottest screenwriter in Hollywood thanks to a little film he wrote called Bohemian Rhapsody (!) . . . and that Anthony just happened to mention that he had two photos on his mantle at his home in New Zealand when he was a kid:  The Pope . . . and yep, Neil Diamond.

So, he was in.

And then we needed a director.

My first Broadway Company Management gig was Thoroughly Modern Millie, helmed by Michael Mayer.  I remember watching him work then, thinking how versatile he was.  He was known for plays like Side Man and A View From The Bridge but also turned out a You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown and here he was working on Millie (and helping to turn it into a Tony Award-winning Best Musical, by the way).  He went on to captain Spring Awakening, American Idiot, and so many more.  Everything he did was unique and theatrical, which is what Bob and I were looking for.

Would you know it, he was a Neil Diamond fan too.

And he was in.

Neil Diamond.  Bob Gaudio.  Anthony McCarten.  Michael Mayer.

And me.

Sorry, but pinching me isn’t going to work.  Someone is going to have to punch me in the face so I can make sure this ain’t no Broadway producin’ dream.

So yeah, it’s real, and today, we’re thrilled to announce that this new untitled bio-musical, about a man who has sold over 130 million records and counting, with 10 Top 10 hits, is on its way to the stage with the storytelling magic of Anthony McCarten and Michael Mayer.

It’s still early, so that’s all the news I have right now.  So you’ll have to watch this space for updates.  I don’t even have a timeline as of yet.

But, I can say this . . . this one will probably come together quicker than most musicals.

Because we’ve already got a score.  And it’s pretty effin’ great.

(You know, we were going to delay this announcement until after the 4th . . . but then it dawned on us . . . it just seemed too perfect that a musical based on the guy who wrote this should be announced this week.)

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Theaters Aren’t The Only Place To Do Theatre Anymore

My first experience with “site-specific” theatre was in 1995 with a little musical called J.P. Morgan Saves The Nation, written by a then-unknown composer/lyricist named Jonathan Larson (the NY Times called his score “peppy”).  It took place on the steps of Federal Hall downtown.

But this blog isn’t about site-specific theatre.

While I do think we’re on the verge of seeing plays and musicals pop up in office buildings, bars, shopping malls, and everyplace else in the next few years (thanks to the high cost of actual theaters, not to mention the lack of availability), site-specific theatre is so 1995.

In the past week, a few blips have appeared on my trend-spotting sonar that make me think we’re on the verge of another kind of revolution.  And this one, surprise surprise, has all to do with technology.

First, I can’t help but notice that Netflix has taken a more aggressive approach to capturing theatrical content as of late and not just the big branded Springsteen-like shows.  They shot a movie version of American Son.  They announced a movie version of that Cinderella story of a musical, The Prom.  And now, the Off-Broadway one-woman show, Douglas, will be the latest addition to their growing theatrical portfolio.

Second, (spoiler alert!) but I spend a lot of time on my upcoming podcast with Tony Nominated art-trepreneur Paul Gordon (airs this coming Monday) talking about his StreamingMusicals platform, which is off to a strong start (and got him a licensing deal for a new musical that has never played NYC).  I expect the next generation of theatre-makers is going to see this approach as a way to get their shows into the world at a fraction of the cost that typically comes with putting up an actual production.  (And speaking of streaming, we just got a report on my own production of Daddy Long Legs from my friends at  BroadwayHD, and it’s exceeding expectations in the number of views.  Check it out here.)

Third, I caught a glimpse of an ad on a subway platform the other day for a new digital platform called STAGE, which states, “From classic performances to edgy icons and undiscovered gems, musical theatre and performance is the cornerstone of STAGE.”  What’s interesting about this isn’t the network itself, but the ad . . . which ain’t cheap.  That says to me that STAGE ain’t effin’ around.  They see a big future in the platform and are betting on it.

And fourth (because you know, everything comes in threes, so when there are four things, you definitely have a fourk-ing trend), and perhaps most interesting of all . . . a new podcast musical was released this week, called Next Thing You Know by Joshua Salzman and Ryan Cunningham, starring Patti Murin, Colin Hanlon, Jay Armstrong Johnson and Lauren Blackman.  This on the heels of the high profile John Cameron Mitchell podcast musical “Anthem: Homunculus,” starring Patti Lupone to name a few (because she counts as a few).  Instead of readings and workshops, these creators have turned to tech to get attention for their new works.  (I wonder if critics will start reviewing them?)

All of this makes me think . . . are streaming and podcast recordings the new “concept recording,” made famous by Andrew Lloyd Webber with Jesus Christ Superstar? We all know how that worked out.  Answer?  Yes, yes they are.

And all of this points to one thing:  an uprising is underfoot.

The modern-day creators, who are part of the DIY generation, who grew up able to create and distribute their films and music without gatekeepers, are now finding ways to distribute theatre in the same way.

And we’re just at the beginning of it.

If you’re a theatre-maker, you should start to imagine other ways to get your shows the attention they deserve.

Because over the next ten years, the traditional walls of Broadway and Off-Broadway are going to come crumbling down as the next generation of creators continue to think outside of the . . . box theater.

– – – – –

Do check out Daddy Long Legs on BroadwayHD, and then guess how much it cost me to shoot something that high of a quality.  And then imagine how you can do it for your show . . .

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