A sad day for Shrek.

Yesterday, Shrek confirmed what had been circulating the street all week: the ogre will be leaving Broadway and heading back to the swamp on January 3, 2010.

How could one of the most powerful entertainment brands of the last twenty years not survive on the Great White Way?  Too expensive?  Maybe.  Too much Hollywood influence?  Who knows.

I believe the closing of Shrek represents the end of an era; an era which attempted to capitalize on kids first, and put adults second.

Over the past year and a half, we’ve seen the premature closings of shows like Shrek, Little Mermaid, and even my own, 13.

All seemingly fantastic sells . . . except for the fact that they happened to be plopped right in the midst of one of the most difficult economic climates in our history.  And no demographic was hurt more than families of four from the suburbs.

When family folk were trying to decide on a show to see, here’s what happened:

– Shows that just the kids might want to see went out the window.

– Shows that appealed to both kids and adults went bye-bye as well (Grease, Legally Blonde, Hairspray, etc.).

What’s left on Broadway now is more adult fare . . .because the parents that are still going to the theater are leaving their kids at home (another reason why plays are doing so well).

Why do you think Disney doesn’t have anything in the immediate pipeline?

I don’t think you’ll see another animated feature making its way here anytime soon, do you?

The Video Game follow up.

Who knew I had so many readers who were also gamers!  I got a ton of emails regarding my video game post, so I wanted to post a few quick follow ups based on a bunch of great thoughts from all of you.

  • Many of you mentioned that there were video game versions of Lion King, Aladdin, etc.  ‘Tis true, of course, but remember, these weren’t based on musicals.  They were based on movies that then became video games and then became musicals.  Could this be one of the (million) reasons that the Disney shows trounce others at the BO?  We all know that the brands are powerful before they come in to town, and this is certainly one of the elements of building that brand.
  • I agreed with so many of you who said the best shot we have at penetrating this market is in some sort of karaoke/video game.  BG commented about an “Broadway Hero” game instead of “Guitar Hero”.  I likey.
  • Looks like Lord Lloyd Webber may have beat us to the bunch of that one.  Braden and Paul sent links to this article about upcoming games on Cats and Phantom where you have to sing for your roles.  I would have preferred an action based Phantom game, but whatev.
  • Here’s a link from Gil to info on a homemade Les Miz game.  Unfortunately, it, like the Disney movies, was not inspired from the musical.  It’s a tribute to the book.  But hey, any branding of the title helps, right?
  • One reader has this thought . . . why not a musical based on a video game?  Super Mario Brothers The Musical anyone?
  • And finally, here’s a link if you want to download the Altar Boyz game I told you about, built by former employee and reader Matthew Smith.  Sinners, beware . . .

Thanks to everyone for all the cool comments.  And a reminder to the rest of you that the comments section on each entry is the place to be.  I’m lucky enough to have some smart readers so check out what people are saying and post your own.

Now, why do I have a strong desire to power up my X-Box for the first time in 6 months?

A Question from a reader: “What happens if I flop?”

I was speaking to a class at Columbia today, and right after we solved all of the problems of producing on Broadway, I got this question:  “What happens if my first show right out of the box is a flop?”

I’ve gotten this question a few times before, and frankly I remember asking it to myself.

The first “anything” always seems to have more pressure, higher stakes and oodles of anxiety (shoot, I made a show about one of those firsts).

So what happens if your first producing venture doesn’t work?  Does that mean you’re dead in the H20?  Does that mean you hang your head and go back to WhereverYou’reFrom, USA to work at the local bank (if it hasn’t gone under)?

You can, I guess.  Or you can do what I do.

Whenever I feel nervous about failing with a show, I play a game called “FIND THE FLOP!”.

Wanna play?  You can’t win an iPhone with this game, but you can win some confidence and perspective.

Here’s how to play:

  • Go to ibdb.com.
  • Search for any producer that you admire and respect.
  • Scroll down and look at the beginning of their career . . . and FIND THE FLOP!
  • Then scroll UP and look at what they’ve done since then.
  • And then ask yourself your same question that got you to this game and you have your answer!  By the way, this game works great for every industry – look at the flops of Lincoln, Gates, Truman and Disney in this article )

One of the hardest things about being a theater producer ain’t union deals or authors agreements, or even the New York Times.  The hardest part about being a producer, or any business owner, is that we hire ourselves.  So if we fail, we’ve got to get up and do it again, because no one is going to do it for us.  If we don’t hire ourselves, then we don’t work.  And we have to find something else to do.  Or we don’t eat.  Period.

How do I stay motivated to hire myself?  (Can you smell a sports story coming?  Here goes . . .)

Baseball players strike out all the time.  And even if they “backwards K” three times in a row, if the team cycles through the lineup, they have no choice but to step back up to the plate again.  It’s how the game is played.

So teach yourself that you have no choice.  You’re a producer. It’s what you do.  If you had a choice you’d be doing something else.  You don’t.  So call me “Coach” if you want, but I’m not pulling you from the game.  You’re staying in, flops or not.

And have confidence that if you take enough swings, sooner or later you’re gonna hit one out of the park.

The Will Ferrell commercial ABC didn’t want you to see.

Click below and you can be one of the very first to see the set of three Will Ferrell commercials that just went on the air in support of “You’re Welcome America.”

And yep, ABC/Disney refused to air one of them.  Can you guess which one?

Oh, and after you watch the commercials, if you want to see Will talking about the show, as well as his “roid rage” and what he likes to do with stray cats, click here to watch this vid feature on BroadwaySpace.com.

Find more videos like this on BroadwaySpace

Find more videos like this on BroadwaySpace

Find more videos like this on BroadwaySpace

The Producer’s Perspective “Best of 2008” Awards: Who Is The Producer of the Year

“Best Of” lists at this time of year are like Liza during Act II of Liza At The Palace:  all over the place but definitely worth checking out.

As I poured through this year’s collection of the best/worst lists from every paper, mag and e-zine, I realized that there was a group of folks left out of the annual accolades . . . Producers!

Well, no longer, my TPP readers!

Introducing the 1st Annual Producer’s Perspective “Best Of” Awards, including The Producer Of The Year Award.

Here’s how it works:  there are no set categories except for the big one (next year, I’ll let you propose categories).

Now, without further adieu, here are the winners!


Maybe it’s unfair to put a company like Disney, which has more leverage and brand-awareness than many small countries, up against all the rest of us trying to launch new product.  But you have to give the mouse credit for its menage-a-trois-like DisneyOnBroadway campaign, which has made their three shows as much of an attraction as The Magic Kingdom in Orlando.  In ’08, they also managed to turn the critically-ravaged Little Mermaid into a oft’ member of the million-dollar club.


TOS kept their ball in the air for many a month before they arrived on Broadway with their Title of Show Show (which is continuing on even now).  And the birth of Cubby Bernstein for Xanadu was a terrific Hail Mary toss at the Tony.  Both were great examples of viral campaigns:  funny, celebrity-filled, cheap to create . . . and difficult to convert, as Xanadu lost the Tony and TOS closed prematurely.  A for effort.


In ’08, Blonde parlayed their ’07 MTV appearance into a reality show, cleansing our reality-show casting palettes after the disappointing You’re The One That I Want.  While Legally Blonde and Bailey Hanks were expelled from the boards a bit early, the tour is doing pretty well and I’d bet that the millions of eyeballs the reality show got helped build a brand-foundation in middle America.  And hey, no matter what you think about reality show casting, when young people are telling millions that their lifelong dream is to be on Broadway, it’s good for all of us.


The limited run play has been a successful model for years.  But the limited run musical?  It’s a relatively new one, and with grosses of 1.4 and 1.5 million over the past couple weeks, White Xmas could have finally cracked the “nut”.


This was a competitive category with celebs like a wand-waving Daniel Radcliffe and Katie Cruise debuting on The Great White Way.  But come on, how many people ever thought Whoopi Goldberg would replace in a musical that was struggling to stay afloat?  The Producers of one of the best reviewed shows up for a Tony in ’08 did everything they could to keep their show open, and their work in getting Whoopi on board not only kept the show going, but it got the grosses up.


Have to give it to my own show on this one, thanks to the ultra-active 7,000+ members of 13fans.com we captured in such a short run.  That’s a lot of youngsters falling in love with a musical and wanting to chat about it.  And there’s no doubt they’ll be excited to see another one.  When I was a kid, my 5th grade class went to see Julius Caesar at a local Shakespeare company.  I fell asleep.  I’m surprised I ever wanted to see another piece of theater after that.  You want to develop audiences for the 22nd century?  Give ’em Mamma Mia before you give them Macbeth.  There’s always time for the medicine after the spoonful of sugar has gone down (damn that Disney leverage).


Non-profits should deliver what can’t be done commercially.  They should be homes for the artists whose vision and spirit can’t fit in the small economic box of Broadway.  There was no greater example of that in ’08 than the Atlantic Ocean-sized production of South Pacific.


39 Steps is tenaciously stepping into their 3rd Broadway house.  It ain’t easy or inexpensive to pick up a Broadway show and move it down the block, so they get kudos for grinding it out.


Enough said.

And now the big one . . .


Stay tuned for tomorrow’s entry!

In the meantime, I feel guilty that I didn’t collect your nominations this year, so give me your comments on what you think is the “BEST OF 2008”.  It can be anything:  Best Website, Best Logo for a Musical, Best BS Excuse By An Actor For Leaving A David Mamet Revival . . . you know, anything.