Could someone commission a Producer?

I was pleased to see that Andrew Lippa, the composer of Addams Family, Wild Party, and a closet favorite of mine, John and Jen, was awarded a commission by Texas State University, as a result of a gift to the University’s musical theater program from Patti Strickel Harrison.

Andrew is a fantastic talent and deserves the kudos and the cash to create new work (when I was at NYU, and when Andrew was doing the cabaret circuit, I sang an early tune of his called, “Make It Fly”, and I still remember the music and the message).

And a special thanks to Ms. Harrison for creating such a commission.

It did make me wonder . . .

Why doesn’t anyone commission Producers?

There is no better education than doing. I worked in the Broadway arena for 10 years before I produced my first Off-Broadway show, and still, I never learned more than when I actually had my hands in the mud and was doing it on my own.

And since I believe the future of the theater is dependent on both the people that build the ship (writers) as well as those who sail the ship (producers), wouldn’t we all be served if we were able to get up-and-coming Producers’ hands dirty?

So commission the writers, because they are the future.

But there have got to be some institutions and some individuals (including some of my peers that have hit it huge with a show . . . you know who you are) that could afford to commission a young Producer or two.

If we don’t support these sailors, we could end up with a lot of boats that sink before they even leave the harbor.

– – – –

Oh . . . Andrew’s bridge went something like this . . .

Make it fly
Make it so that you can touch the sky.
Show the world that you can make the most of what you have.
If you take the ride . . .

It was a good message.

– – – –

CORRECTION:  The lyrics to “Make It Fly” were written by current Broadway Copy Guru and Spotco Exec. Tom Greenwald (who also co-wrote John & Jen).

Broadway’s 4th and Final Quarter results: How’d we gross this year?

Well, that’s all she wrote, kiddies. The final bell has run on the 2009-10 Broadway season.  All the grosses have been counted, and, as Jerry Lewis would say during his Labor Day Telethon when he wanted to check the tote board . . . Timpani!

The Fourth Quarter proved fairly strong, with the new crop of plays and musicals adding significant coinage to the till (especially the new million dollar club member, Addams Family).

So where did we end up?

At first glance, things look groovy, with a 1.5% bump in grosses over last season and a total yearly gross of over a billion buckaroonies! However, as Charlotte St. Martin pointed out in the League’s release that went out yesterday, “If we factor in estimated figures for Young Frankenstein which ran 32 weeks in 2008-2009 [and did not report its grosses], we could be down slightly this season, perhaps as much as 1%.”

More concerning to me, and yes, this is my broken record moment, is the fact that as I unfortunately predicted, attendance dropped by a startling 3% this season (factor in Young Frankenstein, and you’ve got more of a monster type drop).  This marks the first time in 25 years that attendance has dropped three years in a row.

It’s not unexpected, considering the economic sh*t-storm we just went through (and seem to be still going through if you have watched the Dow over the last few weeks), but it is a trend that I find more disturbing than watching Friday the 13th on Halloween . . . in the woods, by myself, a half a mile from a mental institution.

But this week begins a new year.  And although this summer doesn’t have a lot of new shows on the books to start off with a bang, let’s cross our fingers, and raise our capitalizations and hope that this year, the trend turns the other way . . .

I’m predicting an uptick in both grosses and attendance for this coming season. Partly because . . . it can’t get much lower . . .

Can it?

To read the release from The League, click here.

******************************************************************************************

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The Top 5 Tony Nomination Surprises.

The 2010 Tony Award Nominations were announced just two-and-a-half hours ago and, as always, they included a few surprises.

Here are my top five head-shakers:

1.  The season’s biggest hit doesn’t get a shot at Best Musical.

Poor Addams Family.  On second thought, with their last week’s gross topping $1.3 million, I think the last word that we can use in the same sentence as Addams Family is “poor.”  However, for the 3rd year in a row, the Tony Nominators snubbed a big, fat (yet original), commercial show that steamrolled into town to less than enthusiastic critical acclaim, but a lot of popular love.  Legally Blonde, 9 To 5 and now The Family.  Honestly, this wasn’t much of a surprise.  What was a surprise was that the jukebox-y Million Dollar Quartet took the fourth spot over Come Fly Away . . . and frankly, I’m still surprised at how both of them were considered more of a contender for this slot than Family, considering that Family is more of a traditional musical than both of them combined.  Let’s face it . . . the nominators officially like the jukebox musical. They embraced Rock of Ages last year, and this year, MDQ.

So, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert . . . fear not.

Two questions come to mind as a result of this surprise:

– Will Addams Family get a number on the show?

– Will their grosses suffer an immediate drop as a result of the snub?

Answers?

– Yes.

– And no.

2.  Stars actually got nominations.

Sometimes the Tony nominators like to tell Hollywood stars to go back where they came from, by overlooking them for a possible Tony trophy.  Not this year. Denzel Washington (who was overlooked in 2005 for his Caesar), Catherine Zeta-Jones, Liev Schreiber, Scarlett Johansson, Kelsey Grammer, Jude Law, Christopher Walken, Linda Lavin, David Alan Grier, and Sean Hayes all got nods for their work on the boards this year.  (Left off the list were our usual favorites, Kristin Chenoweth, Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth, but their mantles are doing just fine, I’d say).  The fact that the nominations look like the invite list to the Vanity Fair Oscar Party is a good thing.  Most importantly, all of these stars did fantastic work this year and deserve the kudos.  Now let’s hope this will go a long way in getting more of their brothers and sisters from the Hollywood Hills to come join us for a “limited time only.”

3.  There are four nominees for best score.

We saw this one coming last week, when the Tony Admin Committee announced that both Enron and Fences would be eligible in the Best Score category.  It was a good move, IMHO, because Shubert Alley had been buzzing about the dearth of original scores this year.  I don’t think they need to seat those two scores too close to the podium on award night, but it’s nice to see the category rounded out. And the scores are unique, interesting, and definitely deserving of some love.

4.  Sherie Rene Scott owes Megan Mullally a drink.

Six weeks ago, SRS was looking at an uneventful spring.  Then, MM ups and walks from Lips Together, Teeth Apart, and now, SRS has two Tony nominations to keep her busy!  (Interesting side note:  Sherie Rene Scott replaced Megan Mullally in the Rosie O’Donnell Grease that I worked on back in ’94).  This surprise story isn’t over yet . . . because by my read, SRS has a good shot at taking home a trophy on Tony night.  And all this star-aligning-stuff couldn’t happen to a nicer gal.

5.  The British hit about an American company won’t be Best Play.

You know what the most difficult translation in the world is?  From English to American and American to English.  You’d think it’d be so much easier to predict what works in each of these markets based on the success in the other.  Alas, it ain’t that easy.  Unfortunately, Enron, a British play based on American subject matter, didn’t impress the nominators and failed get a Best Play nom.  Nine months ago, I would have bet big on this one not only getting a nomination but also taking home the top prize.  Just goes to show you, you never know what’s going to happen until that curtain goes up.

How did I do with my predictions?  I scored a 75% overall, missing one show in each of the three categories I predicted (which, coincidentally is exactly how I scored last year).

How did you do?

And stay tuned . . . The Producer’s Perspective Tony Pool will be announced shortly.  We’ve just got to figure out what the prizes are going to be . . .

My predictions for the 2.5 big Tony Award nominations.

It seems like just yesterday we were debating who would get snubbed in the 2008-2009 Tony noms (remember when Rock of Ages slipped in instead of 9 to 5?) . . . And already, it’s time to predict this year’s snubs!

Conventional Broadway wisdom says that there are only 2.5 Tony Awards that have a meaningful impact at the Box Office:  Best Musical, Best Play . . . and the half goes to Best Revival of a Musical.

So, I’m going to give you my predictions on what I think will be nominated for those 2.5 categories (as opposed to what I think should be nominated).

Best Musical

IMHO, there are three locks for the Best Musical nom this year:

American Idiot
Fela!

And the only completely original musical of the season . . .

Memphis

It’s the fourth slot that there’s some fighting over, especially since this season saw the elimination of the Special Theatrical Event category, which lumps at least four other titles into the Best Musical category.

So who will take the slot?

The two front runners are The Addams Family and Come Fly Away, with Everyday Rapture the next-in-line long shot.  My guess is that the Tony Committee will honor Rapture by nominating it’s star for Best Actress and maybe even Best Book, but they’ll leave it out of this category, which puts us back with the two choices that started this paragraph.

If I were one of the nominators sitting The Edison Cafe making the decision, I’d go with Addams Family solely to reward the original score and the original book over the beautifully danced, but is-it-really-a-musical, Come Fly Away.  You’ve got to give some points to Family for degree of difficulty, don’t you?

But, knowing what I do about the nominators and the process by which they choose these nominees, my gut says that they will nominate Come Fly Away, and for the third year in a row, snub the big, commercial choice (First Legally Blonde, then 9 To 5, and now Addams Family).

Best Play

Expect the biggest hit, A Steady Rain, to get a steady snub in this category.

Red is a shoe-in for a nod.  As is Next Fall.  The next two spots could go a bunch of different ways.  You’ve got the Brit hit, Enron, Mamet’s f’ing Race, and Superior Donuts, the follow-up play by the man who penned the biggest dramatic epic that we’ve seen since Angels in America.  And what about The Chris Walken show aka Behanding in Spokane, the buzzed about Vibrator Play, or the timely Time Stands Still?

I’m going with Time for the third slot.  And the fourth?

Tricky again . . . I’d like to say that it will be Donuts . . . but taking into account that nominators tend to forget the Fall (as we found out last year), I’m going to go with Enron (partly because bigger really is sometimes better in the eyes of nominators and voters).

Best Revival of a Musical

Sondheim will get another bday present with a nom for Night Music.  La Cage will get the second slot, and Ragtime will get the thanks-for-trying third nom.

But what about the fourth?  Finian’s or Promises?  Great reviewed versus great box office?  Fall versus Spring?

Put my money on Promises.

– – – – –

Whew.  That was tough.  Thankfully, I’m only picking 2.5 of them.

The nominators are picking 26, and they’ll do it tomorrow.

On Tuesday, at 8:30 AM ET, the nominations will be announced live.  Watch on the web at TonyAwards.com.

But before then, tell me how you think I did with my choices in the comments below.

What do you think will get nominated?

5 Reasons why we shouldn’t have gotten rid of Special Theatrical Event this season.

Immediately following last year’s Tony Awards, the Admin Committee decided to strike the “Special Theatrical Event” Tony from the list of trophies that it would hand out in the future.

The Special Event kudos was created following the bizarre Best Musical win in 2000 for Susan Stroman’s dance piece, Contact, which lacked an original score and a live orchestra (and was even billed as a “dance play”).

I wrote about my disappointment over the demise of this category when it happened.  Now, almost a season later, I’ve come up with five more reasons why the Special Event should have stuck around.

Those five reasons are:

1.  Wishful Drinking

2.  Burn The Floor

3.  All About Me

4.  Come Fly Away

5.  Sondheim on Sondheim

(And could Fela! have lobbied for Special Event, rather than try and go up against Addams Family or American Idiot?  It would have lost the lobby, but it would have been interesting.)

While I understand the theory of cutting the category, I’m not sure I understand why it couldn’t continue on an “as needed” basis.  Surely there was enough “specialness” this year to warrant at least three nominations and one trophy.  Otherwise, is it really fair for Wishful Drinking to have to compete against Enron for a nomination for Best Play?  And what about the reverse?  If Come Fly Away pulls a Contact and gets nominated for Best Musical (despite using Frank Sinatra vocals and being primarily a dance piece), another more conventional and maybe even original musical may get snubbed.  I know if I were a producer of a snubbed original, I’d be pretty peeved.  And this specific example could very well happen, as I hear Fly Away is fantastic.  I smell trouble, with a capital T and that stands for Tony.

If the Admin Committee does really want to do away with the category, there is another way to prevent the above nightmare from happening.

Expand the number of nominees for Best Musical when needed, as I discussed here.

Awards are about celebrating our community’s artistic achievement first, and about marketing second.  I’m not sure how setting this amount of artistry aside accomplishes either.

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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