A fond farewell to a member of our family.

One of the reasons that I love the theater is that no matter where you do it, in high school, your community, or on Broadway, it’s a tight-knit family.

Yesterday, we lost a member of that family.

Broadway Producer Randall Wreghitt, who was responsible for shows like Beauty Queen of Leenane, Little Women, and many more, passed away at the early age of 55 yesterday morning.

I worked with Randall just once, during the early stages of development of Little Women.  But I saw him at industry events all the time, and he was always there to greet you with one of the biggest smiles you’ve ever seen.  And he put that smile to good use, getting support for some truly adventurous theater, and getting a lot of friends in the process.

He was even smiling the last time I saw him, when he told me he was still recovering from carbon monoxide poisoning.  He didn’t want to dwell on that, though, and went on to talk about the shows he had on his roster for the coming season.

Randall, our family will not be the same without you.  But we’ll try to do you proud.

Please take a moment today to make sure your Carbon Monoxide detector is working.  If you don’t have one, get one now.   It’s one of those, “It can never happen to me” type things, and then it happens to a member of your family.

 

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

– – – – –

FUN STUFF

– Come to our Tony Awards Party!  Click here for more info and to get your ticket now!

– Enter my Tony Pool!  You can win an iPad!  Enter today!

– Enter to win 2 tickets to see By the Way, Meet Vera Stark at Second Stage!  Click here.

Advice from an Expert: Vol. XVII. My Mother The Theatergoer.

There’s always a lot of talk about the Tonys in the weeks that follow the big show.  What numbers were successful?  Could we give the plays more attention and still hold the audience’s attention?  And who fit Katie Holmes into her dress?

But the most important question for the Producers out there is . . . after watching the Tonys, what shows does the public want to see?

All of us in the industry debate this question like crazy.  But what do we know?  Most of us don’t have a clue what it’s like to be a family of four from the suburbs interested in seeing a show on their next long weekend.  In fact, I would wager that the people making the product in our industry and the people seeing the product are more different than in most industries out there.

But that doesn’t stop us from guessing.

I was in the middle of a heated discussion about my own guesses on what the public wanted to see last week, when I realized it was time to go to the source.  I decided to go to what most advertising agencies would describe as the model of a “traditional” theatergoer:  a suburban female in her 50s-60s who sees 3-5 shows per year, mostly musicals, and pays full price.

And that theatergoer is my momma.  And she’s literally been in my backyard this whole time!

I called Mom, who, of course, had tuned in to the Tonys, and asked her if she would write a mini-blog for me about her perspective on this year’s show.  Most specifically, I asked . . . “Mom, after watching the Tonys, what shows do you want to see the next time you are in town?”

Here’s what Mom had to say . . . [my comments are in brackets] “I watched the Tony Awards a few nights ago.  I love the excitement, costumes, music – even the speeches.  I often get ideas about what I’d like to see on our next NYC trip.  Before I tell you what shows captured my attention from the way they were presented at The Tonys, I thought you might find it interesting to get a few additional details about my perspective (and some of these Kenneth doesn’t even know).  [Yes, she, and about three other people on the planet, call me Kenneth.]

  • My first theater experience was 50 years ago when I saw Annie Get Your Gun.  When the stage curtain opened, revealing a real live horse . . . I was hooked!  [When people see things on stage that they don’t expect to see: kids, animals, helicopters, it elevates the experience.]
  • As a teenager, I was addicted to buying show albums, and also listening to show songs popularized by famous artists.  I loved those album covers and the summaries of the shows on the back (King and I, Mame, etc.)  [Oh, if only popular artists were covering our tunes today.]
  • I was a teen in the ’60s, which put me in the proper emotional state to grasp the power of music.  It brought people together, challenged their thinking and even caused them to take action (Hair, West Side Story, Jesus Christ Superstar).  

And now, here are the shows that I wanted to see and the ones that didn’t interest me (there were many other shows that I had no opinion on – I’d have to learn more before putting them in the “to see” or “don’t see” category).  It’s important to remember that this is based solely on what I saw on the Tonys.  I might not see any of these shows, or I might see them all.  A lot of things may change my mind before I get to New York next, including what Kenneth thinks I might like to see or not.  [Good ol’ fashioned Word of Mouth trumps all, and I can’t believe she called me Kenneth twice in this blog.]

SHOWS I REALLY WANT TO SEE!

Memphis:  The music and the dancing were so exciting, this is at the top of my list.  (I have to admit that ‘Listen to the Beat’ sounded like Hairspray‘s ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat.’ but I loved the music and the dancing in that show, too!)  [Music, dancing . . . the keys to an audience-pleaser of a musical.]

Fela!:  I love the costumes, the music and the dancing.  The story (about using music to communicate) also seemed very interesting to me.  [See her comment about growing up in the ’60s.  What our audience lived through helped make them who they are today and influences what they want to see.]

Million Dollar Quartet:  Loved the music and the story idea and Levi Kreis’s performance.

Red:  I really liked the premise about the importance of art and what I saw of both Alfred Molina and Eddie Redmayne.  [Mom was disappointed to hear she wouldn’t get a chance to see this show because of its limited run.  I told her if she was disappointed, imagine how the Producers must feel.]

NAH, I’LL PASS

American Idiot:  To me, it seemed like a concert, and not a show.  I’ve heard about Green Day because my other son is in the music business, but I’ve never listened to any of their music before.  The music was interesting to me, but I’m not going to play it in my car anytime soon.

A Little Night Music:  I don’t know this show very well, so I can only base my thoughts on what I saw, but I wasn’t inspired.  I love ‘Send In The Clowns,’ but I didn’t learn anything else about the show through the performance.”
So there are Mom’s Tony Award Takeaways.

Now please remember, this is only one Mom’s opinion. And the opinions expressed here by my Mom are solely my Mom’s and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Moms everywhere or even me.

But she’s a Mom with a Mastercard, and she uses it to buy tickets.  So maybe we should listen to all of the Moms out there more than we listen to those of us on the inside of the business.

So . . . what did your Mom think?

[Update:  My mom came into the city this weekend unexpectedly.  Although she wanted to see Memphis, she ended up getting Chicago tickets instead (and special thanks to Michael at the Ambassador BO for helping her out).  Why?  “I thought your step-father would enjoy it more.”]

The 2 shows I would have liked to produce this season

I have Producer envy.

Come on, you do, too.  We all do.

We’ve all seen shows and thought, “Oh man, would I like my name above the title
of that one!”  Maybe we’re jealous of the profits pouring out of the
production. Or maybe we’re jealous of the art that was created.

Or maybe, when the stars align, it’s a little of both.

All of this is why I’m going to start wrapping up each Broadway season with a
post like this one, telling you the Broadway Play and Broadway Musical I wish I would have
produced.

Here goes.

1.  La Cage aux Folles

Admit it.  When this import of La Cage was announced, I was not the only one
that thought, “Ummm, we just saw this sucker.  Do we really need to see it
again?”  Well, ironically, I believe this production benefited from having
been revived only 5-and-a-half years ago, if only to show the contrast between the two
productions.  I enjoyed the previous revival, but I didn’t need to see
another production like that.  But this?  This I’d see again.

This production succeeded at satisfying all of my requirements for a revival,
with the added bonus of the current gay marriage debate in the cultural background. When I saw the audience, the standing ovation seemed to be as much for
the show as it was for the concept that this Family with a capital F was the
kind that we would all be lucky to have.

2.  Fences

At intermission of Fences (which was the first time I took a breath in the
previous hour-and-20-minutes), I tweeted that Denzel received the largest
entrance applause I had ever heard.  It felt like I was at a Bon Jovi
concert . . . And Elvis had just made a surprise appearance.

On top of the excitement and the event-type atmosphere of the production,
Denzel, Viola and the terrific ensemble, led by the Wilson guru, Kenny Leon,
hit a homer that Troy Maxson would have been proud of.

But take away Denzel’s constellation-like status, and this show would still be one of my top two shows of the season.  As the
head of the drama department said when I was at NYU, “When you work in the
theater, it’s hard to enjoy shows, because you’re always dissecting every
element: the acting, the set, the direction.  How I know I love a show is
when I don’t analyze anything.”

At the end of Fences, I just smiled, like I had just eaten a great big juicy
steak . . . with Elvis.

What are the two shows you wish you’d produced this year?

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

Only 2 days left to enter The Producer’s Perspective Tony Pool. Win an iPad!

Play today! Click here!

And don’t forget to RSVP for my Tony Party!

X