Episode 161 – Tony Award Winner Richard Maltby, Jr.

When Richard Maltby, Jr. was asked to put together a revue for Manhattan Theatre Club, he said “yes,” even though he didn’t know what that actually meant.

But he did it, and not too much later he was collecting a Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical for Ain’t Misbehavin’, a revue that he conceived.

He went on to do more of those, including one of his own, a work with longtime collaborator David Shire, called Closer Than Ever, which was what all the kids listened to and auditioned with back in the 90’s (including this former Actor turned Producer/Blogger).

Revues weren’t the only thing up his writing sleeves, however. Richard wrote lyrics for Miss Saigon (ever heard of it) and Baby, as well as the book and lyrics for The Pirate Queen and many more.

We talk about all the huge hats he has worn over the years, as well as . . .

  • Now what? (What to do when your first show out is a big fat success)
  • Why the collaboration process on Miss Saigon was one of the favorites of his career.
  • How the revue has morphed into the jukebox musical, and what he thinks of the current lot.
  • An old idea for new writers to get attention that still works today.
  • What he thinks of the new “style” of musical theater.

Tune in to this week’s episode below!

Click here to listen to my podcast with Richard!

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

Download it here.

Episode 160 – Be More Chill Composer and Lyricist, Joe Iconis

Joe Iconis had a helluva summer.

Be More Chill, his musical that premiered at Two River Theater in New Jersey in 2015 (!), opened off-Broadway, sold out in an instant, extended, and then the Producers announced the show would move to Broadway.

And not because someone gave it a “must move” review or because a super-rich philanthropist wants to give Joe a shot. Oh no, this show is happening because fans found it on social media, fell in love with it, and demanded that it happen.

And that’s historic . . . and awesome.

Everyone in the biz has known the Kleban and Jonathan Larson Award-winning composer/lyricist of tunes like “Blue Hair” was going to pop at some point . . . but, as only can happen in our industry, no one ever could have predicted it would happen like this.

So how did it happen?

That’s just one of the things Joe and I talked about on my podcast this week.  Listen in to hear him us chat about . . .

  • Just how that Be More Chill album went viral (and what you can do to make yours do the same . . . you may not like the answer).
  • Why he works with the same “crew” of performers on so many of his shows.
  • What doing “concerts” had to do with his success.
  • How he dealt with the disappointment of his first show not going all the way when he thought it might.
  • The fear of disappointing fans when your show is a social media success.

Click here to listen to my podcast with Joe!

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!

 

Podcast Episode #158 – 3 Time Tony-Nominated Book Writer, John Weidman

It’s back!

After a brief summer vacation, the Podcast has returned! We’ve done a little “renovating,” lined up a ton of great guests, and have some big surprises in store, so I hope you’re ready for The Producers Perspective Podcast 2.0!

So, let’s get to it.

Imagine this . . . you’ve never written a play before . . . but you do.

And then Hal Prince tells you he wants to direct it. And he’s going to get Stephen Sondheim to write the music.

Sounds like a dream, right?

That’s what happened to John Weidman. The play became Pacific Overtures, and it lead to a lifetime collaboration with “Steve,” including creating the classic and groundbreaking musical, Assasins.

You’ve got to have a lot of natural talent to catch the eye of someone like Mr. Prince, but you also have to have a lot of gumption to even send him a play when you’ve never written one.

John and I talked about where he got that courage as well as . . .

  • How law school helped him become a better playwright.
  • Can all ideas be made into musicals?
  • Collaborating with Sondheim . . . and how to stand up for yourself when you’re working with a legend (before he became one himself!)
  • The most common problem he sees in modern musicals.
  • How to do deal with the ones that don’t work out the way you want them to.

I couldn’t think of a better guest for the return of the podcast, and when you listen in, I know you’ll agree!

Tune in . . .

Click here to listen to my podcast with John!

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

Download it here.

GUEST BLOG: The Art of Business: Or, How Real Estate Helped Me Put Up A Broadway Show By Sarah Saltzberg.

If you’re reading this blog, you probably know all about Gettin’ The Band Back Together, the new musical comedy in its first week of previews at the Belasco Theater.  You know that it took nine years to get it to Broadway, and you also know that the engine behind the show is Ken Davenport, who is not only the writer but also the show’s producer.   I could easily make this a post about how much I admire Ken as an entrepreneur, disruptor, and trendsetter in the current theatrical landscape, which you probably know all about, too – and I’ll get to that.  But first, like any self-respecting person in the theater, I will find a way to make this about myself.

I first met Ken when I auditioned to be one of the improvisers that helped create Gettin’ The Band Back Together.  I knew Ken was the visionary behind The Awesome ’80s Prom, My First Time, and Altar Boyz, and I admired his commitment to creating new work.  I was particularly interested in collaborating with him because it seemed his process was very similar to mine.  As we started working together, I found that Ken and I shared not only a love of the theater, particularly new musicals, but also a love of business and how it relates to the arts.  Creating new shows takes not only passion and dedication, but also lots of problem-solving. . . . and money.  This was a lesson I learned when working on one of my first shows in New York, and it led me on a path that unexpectedly thrust me into the business world.

Like many actors that go to a conservatory for training, I came out of college with an incredible Irish accent, a killer drop down, and absolutely no idea on how to manage the business side of show business.  I became involved in C-R-E-P-E-S-C-U-L-E (the precursor to The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee, which was developed through improvisation) as a creator and then as a producer, and quickly realized that if I wanted to fund my own art I would need something more lucrative than waiting tables.  I got my real estate license with the intention of using it only for a summer and reached out to my landlord about renting the units in my building.   He hung up on me.  Undeterred, I called him back, and I kept calling him back until he gave me a green light.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that my landlord owned a portfolio of over a hundred buildings in Harlem, which eventually became my exclusive listings over the course of a year.  Let me stress that I had no real idea what I had gotten into, but using the tools I had as an actor I was able to find solutions to problems that might otherwise have been insurmountable.   Trying to open an apartment door that had accidentally been dead-bolted?  Sure, I could have just walked away.  Or I could improvise . . . . by climbing up the fire escape, jimmying open the window, and then opening the door for the clients from the inside.   Walking clients through a building while a very obvious drug deal is taking place, through a haze of marijuana smoke?  No problem.  Just tell the clients they won’t have to go very far if they want to get stoned.  I was joking . . . kind of.

I started not only enjoying the challenges of real estate, but also looking forward to them.  It was thrilling to watch a deal come together, to advise on the renovation plans of an apartment, and to meet and help clients. Most importantly though, I felt I was in control of my own destiny; being a full-time actor is a life of uncertainty, and I knew I was not cut out for that.  I loved that things were black and white in real estate; you were either closing a deal, or you weren’t.  It was a great balance to the creative world that I also loved.

Within three years, Spelling Bee was on Broadway, and I was playing Logainne, the character I created.  At this point, I no longer had to work in real estate; for the first time, I was making enough money as an actor to not have another job.  But I knew that Spelling Bee wouldn’t be forever and more than that, I really LOVED working in real estate.  I found it empowering, and with the money I was making I started to think of other shows I wanted to bring to life.

I had started recruiting my friends to become real estate agents, and we became a team that specialized in Upper Manhattan.  One of my clients, Jon Goodell, got his license and we shortly thereafter became partners, managing a team of almost twenty agents.  In 2012, we decided to open our own Harlem firm, Bohemia Realty Group – branding ourselves as uptown specialists with a creative edge. In 2016, we opened a second office in Washington Heights and now have over 120 agents and 18 staff members.  Almost all of our agents have a background in the arts and are attracted by the flexible schedule and autonomy the job offers.  They also like that they are surrounded by others like themselves – one of our agents calls Bohemia “the green room of real estate.”

Performers are empathetic, good listeners, take rejection well, and are creative problem solvers; these skills translate very well into the real estate world.  Like me, though, most have never taken a business class – and so for actors that become sales agents, real estate becomes that education, teaching us everything from how to negotiate, how to communicate effectively, and most importantly, how to become financially empowered.  Many of our agents have followed my trajectory and have self produced albums and shows of their own, which in turn inspires me to continue to do what I do.

This past week, we started previews for Gettin’ The Band Back Together.  During the day, I’m at the Bohemia offices; in the evenings, I go to the theater to watch the show and work with Ken on changes during this crucial time.  These are long days, but there is no one who understands this balancing act this quite like Ken – someone with a hand in both business and art, who uses his incredible talents in these areas to achieve the nearly impossible (like getting a brand new show to Broadway.)  Working with him has made me a better artist, a better business person, and a better friend.  And while I’m so excited that Gettin’ The Band Back Together is on the final leg of its journey, it’s also bittersweet to let it go.  I suppose I could enjoy the free time.

Or, I can think about another idea for a show and start all over . . . and maybe I’ll be lucky enough to get to work with Ken again.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Sarah Saltzberg  was part of the original creative cast for Gettin’ the Band Back Together, and is thrilled that the show has made it to Broadway. Career highlights include: a creator and original cast member of the Tony Award winning Broadway musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a creator/actor of off-Broadway’s Don’t Quit Your Night Job; and a writer of off-Broadway’s Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage (also with Ken Davenport.)   Sarah is also the co-owner of Bohemia Realty Group, a boutique firm specializing in properties north of 96th Street, where the majority of agents have a background in the performing arts.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Bohemia Realty Group is a dynamic team of dedicated real estate professionals that focus on residential rentals and sales in Upper Manhattan. Our mission is a three-pronged approach to improving quality of life: to service clients in an efficient, friendly way; to create a positive work environment for our agents and employees; and to enrich the community above 96th Street.  From pre-war walk up rentals to new development condos, we firmly believe that it’s possible for all New Yorkers to have light, space, and a renovated bathroom. . . and not have to give up dinner in order to afford it.

SIGN UP BELOW TO NEVER MISS A BLOG

X