Why I’m producing Once on this Island on Broadway THIS FALL.

To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what it was about.

I had just moved to the city about a week before to start my sophomore year at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, after deciding to leave my pre-law dreams at Johns Hopkins behind and to pursue a career in the theater.  I was still nervous as to whether I made the right decision or not.  So, during that first week I was binging on every piece of theater I could get a ticket for, looking for some divine musical inspiration.

I had already seen the big Tony nominees that year . . . Will Rogers Follies, Miss Saigon, Secret Garden . . . all big, spectacular shows that I enjoyed.

But there was one left.

I had heard some great buzz about the show from the 1.5 friends I had since I arrived in the city, but I still wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked into the intimate Booth Theatre on that September eve in 1991.

What I got was one of the most joyous nights in the theater I have ever experienced.

It was Once on this Island.

I was still a bit afraid to take the subway in those days (it was 1991, after all!), so I walked everywhere.  But I’m telling you, I practically danced all the way home from 45th to 16th Street, with those incredible Stephen Flaherty/Lynn Ahrens tunes bouncing around in my head, and a ginormous smile on my face.  I was happy, and I was energized, and I felt like I could change the world.

And I remember thinking, “This is why I don’t want to go to law school.  Because I want to do shows that make people feel exactly how I’m feeling right now.”

Flash forward twenty-five years (!) and after Spring Awakening was up on its feet, I turned to director Michael Arden (who had inspired me every step and ‘sign’ of the way during that production) and said, “Hey . . . what do you want to do next?”

He barely let me finish the question before he answered . . .

Once on this Island.”

And I practically had Stephen and Lynn on the phone before he could finish getting out the title.

I couldn’t think of anyone better to direct it.  See, Michael has a way of taking a treasured piece of theater, and with a few ideas that seem so simple (but are certainly not), enhances the experience for a modern audience.  He’s like a giant magnifying glass to a classic painting.  Through his directorial lens, you see every brush stroke and every shade of color of the original work but in greater detail than ever before.  And it just explodes to life in a way you never imagined . . . but that just makes sense.

When you see a show of his you find yourself saying, “Of course that’s how to tell this story today,” while at the same time saying, “I never could have come up with that in a hundred years.”

And those are the kind of artists I want to work with.

When he explained his vision for Once on this Island to me, which is inspired by the recent storm-torn regions of Haiti, New Orleans, and the Philippines, and then to Stephen and Lynn, we put the show on the fast track.  We all just wanted to see it realized . . . now.  Because, unfortunately, it seems we need its timely message of acceptance and love and how to rebuild a community after a ‘storm’ more than ever.

So, today, I am thrilled to announce that Once on this Island, directed by Michael Arden, choreographed by Camille A. Brown, and with vocal design (You ain’t heard nothing like this, let me tell you) by Ann Marie Milazzo  and new orchestrations by original orchestrator Michael Starobin (with some new instruments (!) you’ve never heard before – click here for more on that), and a set design by Dane Laffrey (Michael’s Spring Awakening), will begin performances on November 9th, 2017 and open on December 3rd.  (Theater to be announced!)

And there are a few more exciting names on the creative team and in the cast coming soon . . . but it’s just a little too early to let that info spill . . . as much as I want to!

Speaking of cast . . . for those of you who know the show, then you’ll probably remember that the lead character of T iMoune is found in a tree (!), and taken in by foster parents who raise her as their own, and then watch as she goes on to . . . well . . . change the world.

When we were talking about casting that role, we thought . . . we need to make sure that young women all over have a chance to be discovered in the same way that Ti Moune is discovered, and in the same way that LaChanze, who originated the role to such incredible acclaim, was discovered.

That’s why we’re setting out on an international casting search for Ti Moune, going to some of the usual places, like LA and Chicago, but also going to a few unlikely places where Broadway shows don’t often audition, including New Orleans . . . and yep, Port-au-Prince Haiti.

You can read all about the casting search, including how to audition (and get a “fast pass’) and a message from LaChanze herself, here.

Single tickets for Once on this Island aren’t on sale yet, but you can be the first to find out when they do go on sale by clicking here.

However, you can reserve groups tickets of ten or more (with no payment required now) by clicking here.

And, of course, I’ll be giving out updates right here on this blog, so sign up here to make sure you don’t miss any inside scoop.

I’m not sure if you can tell, but I’m excited.  I just know the potential of this show and the potential of the artists involved.

And I know that after you see it, you’ll be dancing all the way home too, with that big, musical-theater inspired grin on your face, just like the one I had twenty-five years ago.

See you on the Island.

UPDATE:  Tickets are now on sale for this incredible cast, including Tony Award winner, Lea Salonga.  Get them here.

Did you miss TEDxBroadway? 2016 Videos released!

Wouldn’t it be cool if all of Broadway was like TEDxBroadway?  So if you missed the Broadway run of a show that you really regret, like, oh, I don’t know, Angels in America (this blogger), you knew that eventually the video would be released, and you’d be able to at least catch it in its 2D form?

Unfortunately, we can’t all be like TEDxBroadway . . . the cutting edge conference that I helped found way back in 2012 . . . which just yesterday released all of its 2016 speeches for public consumption!

In other words, you can see them all . . . now . . . by clicking riiiiiiiight here.

Watch and listen to Jennifer Ashley Tepper talk about The Intersection of Real Estate and Art or Derrick Wang talk Scalia and Ginsburg on Broadway . . . or, my favorite, the Artistic Director of Deaf West Theatre, Mr. David “DJ” Kurs, talk about how Our “Limitations” Are Actually Superpowers.

Or don’t pick one.  Watch them all.  My TED Tip . . . when you’re eating lunch (which if you’re like most of us in the theater biz, you’re doing at your desk, and in about 15 minutes), toss on a TEDx video.  They are terrific lunch time viewing.  You’ll learn a little bit with each and every bite.  I watch one a day.  Like a multi-vitamin for the brain.

Enjoy this year’s TEDxBroadway videos . . . and I hope they inspire you to use your superpowers to push the boundaries of the theater into the great beyond.

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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Yesiree, I’m livestreaming Daddy Long Legs . . . for free.

Normally Monday blogs are reserved for my latest podcast.

But we had some breaking news last night, as reported by the New York Times, so I’m breaking my OCD ways and pushing the podcast ’til tomorrow.  Also, I’m just so excited about this latest endeavor that I can’t keep my mouth shut/fingers off the keyboard any longer.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a bit, then you know I’ve been championing the cause for distributing our theatrical content in new and internet-y ways.

And now, I’m putting my money where my mouthy blog is.

On December 10th at 8 PM ET, Daddy Long Legsthe gorgeous new musical by Les Misérables Director John Caird and Jane Eyre Composer Paul Gordon and now starring the husband and wife team of Megan McGinnis and Adam Halpin, will be streamed live, to anyone and everyone in the world . . . for free.

Audiences e-tuning-in will see the performance as it happens from the Davenport Theatre on 45th Street.  And, to accommodate the rest of the theatrical world, replays will occur at 8 PM Los Angeles time, 8 PM London time and 8 PM Tokyo time.  You can also expect some unique “Making of Daddy Long Legs” content, and some fun intermission chatter with the cast, and a talk back as well.

It’s the first time this has been done for a Broadway or Off Broadway show and I’m pretty stoked (mostly because I love the show so much, and I just want more and more people to get a chance to see it and hear it).

Like many things I’ve done throughout my career, a lot of people told me NOT to do this.  But, like many things I’ve done throughout my career, I’m doing it anyway.

Because if we’re going to keep up with all of the new and mobile ways people have to consume entertainment these days, then I believe we’re going to need to push the electronic boundaries of how our content is distributed.  And we have to remember that exposing our content to the world, doesn’t mean people won’t come see it live.  In fact, it is my belief that livestreaming content, showing currently-running musicals in movie theaters, will put more butts in seats, than take them away.  And certainly it has to help our industry as a whole.

I’ve been wanting to do this for a Broadway show for years, and have run numbers on it at least a dozen times.  At the moment, the Broadway model is too inflexible for it to make sense (never mind make “cents”).  Off Broadway isn’t that much easier (some unions get it more than others), but since I run the theater and since Daddy is a smaller scale show, it’s worth the experiment.

And if you don’t experiment in this business, and if you don’t experiment in life, then you’re failing to live up to your potential.  And I hate unrealized potential.

If you are excited about the possibility of livestreaming Broadway and Off Broadway shows, then I hope you’ll tune in to our experiment on December 10th at 8 PM ET (or for any of the replays).  The more viewers we have, the more there’s a chance of more shows streaming in the future.

Plus, you’re going to just love the show.

And then, wait until you see it live!

Click here to register for the livestream at www.DaddyLongLegsMusical.com/livestream.

And if you like this concept, like or share this blog on Facebook.  Because it’s the first time you and you friends can see a show together, even if you are in separate countries.

Register for the livestream today.

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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Five Shows that Stand Out at NYMF: 2015

Ahhhh, festival time.  It’s as much a sign of summer as BBQs, water parks, and people wearing short shorts who shouldn’t be wearing short shorts.

And the New York Musical Theatre Festival . . . the mother of all musical theater festivals that has given birth to shows such as Next to Normal, [title of show] and yeah, my first born, Altar Boyz . . . starts next week!  ACK!

That’s right, you might be just a week away from seeing the next big thing . . . before it’s the next big thing.

And this year, let me tell you, the crop of shows in the field looks good.  Real good.  Like the right people wearing short shorts good.  (Ok, did this just get creepy?  My mom always told me I never knew how to stop extending a metaphor.)

But here’s the problem.  You can’t see all the musicals, concerts, and readings in the festival.  It’s like impossible.  Cuz there’s like 147.

I’d love to see them all myself, but I can’t either.  And unlike your boss, mine would probably let me out of the office during the day to catch one or two (he hates when I leave my desk, but I know a few secrets about him that other people don’t, so blackmail usually works).

So how do you decide what shows to see?  How do I decide?

Every year I print out the catalog of shows “for sale” in the festival.  I read their descriptions, take a look at the art, and based solely on that, I circle the ones I want to see it.  I make my decisions based on the marketing, my assessment of the viability of future life, and, well, just what ol’ fashioned appeals to me.

And I just finished my circling for this year.

In alphabetical order, these are the Five Shows that Stand Out (to me!) at this Year’s NYMF!

1. Claudio Quest

I’ve been saying it for years.  The generation (that began with mine) that grew up on video games are now theatergoers.  And you can bet your Q*bert that interacting with a joystick is going to influence how that generation creates musicals.  And here comes the first.  From my reading, what Avenue Q was to children’s television, Claudio Quest is to video games.  And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Tony Nominee John Tartaglia from Avenue Q is directing Claudio (Note to Writers and Producers: a sexy Director like Tartaglia absolutely makes Producers take notice).  I’ve also been following these writers for years, and I have a feeling they’re going to hit a high score very, very soon.  Claudio may be it.  Get tickets.

2.  Held Momentarily

West Side Story, In the Heights, Avenue Q, Rent, etc., all have one thing in common.  They take place in NYC.  There’s something about seeing a musical in New York City that’s about New York City.  And Held Momentarily is about that one thing that almost all New Yorkers have in common . . . the subway.  If you’ve taken a train or two in your day, then you knew exactly what that title meant as soon as you read it . . . (and you probably heard it in a garbled techno voice, am I right?).  All that plus Held‘s great little logo made me hold momentarily, and take an interest in taking a ride.  Get tickets.

3.  The Calico Buffalo

Now here’s a title that almost beats August: Osage County or The Drowsy Chaperone in the Olympic event of worst titles (both those shows did just fine, though, so don’t count a bad title out just yet).  The title did stop me for sure, as I wondered, “What the eff is a Calico Buffalo?”  But that’s not what got the Buffalo to make my list.  What did it for me was the words “Grammy-winning composer” in front of the composer’s name, and a quote from superstar columnist Liz Smith that I don’t even think is about the show!  This kind of social proof does wonders for festival shows, so if you’ve got it, flaunt it.  Get tickets.

4.  Tonya & Nancy: A Rock Opera

This one needs no explanation, now does it?  Tonya.  Nancy.  And how the @#%$ are they going to do the skating?  I want to know, and I bet you do too.  But in addition to the buzzy subject matter, the blurb on the show had three quotes (including, “Black Swan on ice!”) and it trumpeted two prior productions.  I’m making sure I’m at the third.  Get tickets.

5.  What Do Critics Know?

Maybe it’s because Ben Brantley just did my podcast (although it’s pretty clear that guy knows a ton) or maybe it’s because plays and musicals about musicals and plays are always a good bet (The Drowsy Chaperone, Something Rotten!, It’s Only A Play, A Chorus Line, Noises Off, etc.), but this backstage musical about critics putting on a show made me laugh when I read what it was about.  Or maybe it was because I was picturing Michael Riedel doing a tap number.  There’s no doubt that some subjects make for easier source material . . . and theater about the theater just makes sense.  And often a lot of dollars too.  Get tickets.

 

So there they are!  The 5 shows that stood out to me.

But I’ve got just one perspective.  Tell me what shows stood out to you.  You can see the list of all the shows here.  And you can pitch your favorites in the comments below.

See you at NYMF!

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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Podcast Episode #21 – Building a Bridge from Broadway to Bay Street with Director Scott Schwartz

In my over-twenty years of Broadway and Off Broadway theatergoing, there have been a handful of productions that were so unique, and so special, that I’ll never forget them.

Scott Schwartz directed two of them.

One was the ridiculously funny, ripped from the tabloids, Bat Boy: The Musical (oh that spoof of the Lion King number – before everyone was doing spoofs of The Lion King).  And the other was Tick, Tick… Boom!, starring a not-yet-a-star Raul Esparza (oh that moment when Amy Spanger was belting out “Come To Your Senses,” as Raul, as Jonathan Larson, mouthed the words behind her).

Scott has directed on and Off Broadway (Jane Eyre, Golda’s Balcony, Murder for Two) and most recently was appointed the Artistic Director of the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, NY, or as Sag Harbor is more commonly referred to, “The Hamptons.”

I got to spend some time at Bay Street a few weeks ago and was super impressed with the space, the artists, and Scott’s vision of where they’re going to take the theater in the next decade (notice I didn’t say “where they want to take the theater. . . ” because I have no doubt with Scott’s leadership they will).

Oh, and in addition to his Directing and Artistic Directing credits, Scott is also a Tony Nominator (we get all the fancy folks on this podcast, don’t we?).

So listen in to this in-the-trenches podcast to hear . . .

  • The difference between directing in regional theater versus directing on Broadway
  • How being the son of Stephen Schwartz helped influence Scott’s choice in being a director
  • The mysteries of the Tony Nominating process and why he had to recuse himself this year
  • What makes a great tryout city
  • What it’s like working for Disney on a developing project like The Hunchback of Notre Dame

And oodles more.

And after you listen to the podcast, take a look at your summer plans.  If you’re heading to the Hamptons at all, swing by Bay Street and catch a show.

Enjoy!

Click here to listen.

Listen to it on iTunes here.  (And give me a rating, while you’re there!)

Download it here.

Click here to read the transcript.

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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