Surprise, surprise! A show recoups sans star!

Here’s something that you probably didn’t expect to hear (I know I didn’t) . . .

Next to Normal recouped its investment.

Crushing current conventional Broadway wisdom, this non-spectacle, non-star-driven musical about a woman suffering from bipolar disorder fought through a steady rain of a season and made it into profit.  Oh, and it did it in a pretty timely fashion (the recoupment was announced exactly one year from the show’s first preview).

Super kudos to everyone involved in this production who fought the biggest of uphill battles getting into the black.

How did they do it?

IMHO, there are three reasons why N2N recouped:

1.  A killer score

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, when the root word of musical is ‘music,’ there’s a lot riding on that score.  Normal‘s score is so fantastic and fresh, it took down the mighty Elton John and won a Tony.  Nothing spreads word of mouth faster than great tunes.

2. A “committed” team of Producers and Creatives.

Does anyone remember that in addition to trying out at the NYMF in ’05 under the title Feeling Electric, the show came into New York to soft response at Second Stage, then left New York for DC, then came back to NY?  That’s like showing up at a party underdressed, leaving, and coming back a few hours later in a new outfit like nothing happened.  But something did happen, alright.  The team worked their tails off.  It took faith and a giant set of grapes to do what they did.

3.  A low capitalization and even lower running costs.

A Broadway musical for $4 million bucks, even with all that development?  That’s the way to do it.  To tell its intimate story, N2N didn’t need a chandelier and a helicopter.  More importantly, everyone on the team obviously knew that this one wasn’t going to be easy, so they structured it to make economic sense given the material, and now everyone is making a lot more dollars and cents.
The recoupment of Normal on Broadway in this environment is a major event.  It demonstrates that smart material and smart producing can yield positive results, despite what we think is our audience’s appetite.

So when everyone is telling you that your show won’t work, you should remind them that a trend is a trend . . . until one show changes it.

And that show might as well be yours.

You can read all about the recoupment in Patrick Healy’s New York Times article here.

10 Questions for a Broadway Pro. Volume 3: A Tony Award-Winning Designer

David Gallo is one of the hippest guys around, and he’s one of the most in-demand designers in town, thanks to his terrific work on a ton of shows, from Drowsy Chaperone (Tony, Tony, Tony) to Xanadu to Memphis to Thoroughly Modern Millie (where I first worked with him).

In addition to his theatrical work in town, David does a lot of stuff all over the country and all over the world, proving that great theater doesn’t have anything to do with a street address . . . it’s about the people involved.

Enjoy these 10 Questions with David Gallo!

 

1. What is your title?

Designer

2. What show/shows are you currently working on?

Right now I am in Vienna doing a new company of the show Ich war noch niemals in New York.  It is a large-scale musical based on the work of the renowned pop star Udo Jurgens.  The show originally opened to acclaim in Hamburg and the producers have decided to extend that success to the rest of the continent.

I am also thrilled to be working on some new plays such as Stickfly by the remarkable young playwright Lydia Diamond.  We produced it at the Arena Stage in DC and the next venue will be at the Huntington Theater in Boston.  It was a great return to work with my old friend Kenny Leon as director.

Added to that I recently spent time with my favorite regional theater: the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park where I was thrilled to be a part of the theatrical debut of the bestselling author Walter Mosley.  His play The Fall of Heaven is something special and the work of director Marion McClinton is worth noting as well.

3. In one sentence, describe your job.

Claw your way into the mind of the playwright and director and give them what they desire (whether they like it or not).

4. What skills are necessary for a person in your position?

Be available to all sources.  Know inspiration is everywhere  What works…works.

5. What kind of training did you go through to get to your position?

Years of working on Theatre Row.  The theaters on West 42nd Street were my finishing school.  I was pleased to spend time working for many of the companies that produced there.

6. What was your first job in theater?

I made masks for a production of Pippin.  That was a great start.

7. Why do you think theater is important?

It just is…and it will always be.

Theater is the most basic form of human interaction.  We desire to see ourselves.  On stage and in the living moment.

8. What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?

Keeping things real.  Lots of media have been elbowing itself into the basic nature of true design but who can argue that what is seen before the audience is what really matters.

9. If you could change just one thing about the industry with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be?

I wish we had more time.

10. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do what you do?

Read, watch, learn, experience.  Ask others that have gone before you.  The future is yours.  Don’t concern yourself with pointless issues.
For more on David, including a look at some of his stuff, visit his website at www.DavidGallo.com.

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