You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You just have to spin it.

Last week, the Hair Spin Team aka Press Department taught us all a lesson in how to get attention for our shows.

Hair announced that they were having an open call audition for future replacements in the show. They didn’t care if you were from Washington, DC or Akron, Ohio.  They didn’t care if you were repped by William Morris or your Uncle William. They were going to give you the chance to audition for a place in the tribe.

The story got picked up by the New York Times and Gawker.

You know what’s amazing about this story?

It’s not that amazing.

Shows, movies, reality TV shows and more have been doing open call audition stunts for years. It certainly didn’t take a professor in public relations to come up with this story.

But what it did take was the astute realization that sometimes you don’t have to create the most outrageous story to get coverage.  Sometimes you don’t need to break world records, or create custom menu items, or even let virgins get in free.

Sometimes, to get good press, you just have to give people an honest and simple story that taps into your audience’s hearts and minds.

Now that I think about, isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing on the stage as well?

(What’s cool about the Hair story is that there’s a built in follow-up feature on any kid that actually gets cast from that call.)

Who will be the 2009 Producer of the Year? You tell me! Vote now.

Last year I started an annual tradition of choosing a Producer of the Year.  The first winner was the late Gerry Schoenfeld.

This year, I’m changing up how the winner is chosen.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been talking to General Managers, Publicists, Agents and other Prefer-To-Remain-Anonymous-Insiders, to come up with a list of nominees (not surprising, but many of these nominees are also on this year’s “50 Most Powerful People on Broadway”).

And now you’re going to choose the winner.

The list of nominees, as chosen by my select group of experts, is below.  I asked each expert to write a blurb supporting their choice, which also follows.

Take a look, and when you’re ready, click on the link below them to cast your vote.

 1.  Sonia Friedman

Sonia Friedman, producer, norman conquests

“The classy Ms. Friedman has been on a tear lately, and she gets my nod for being courageous enough to produce The Norman Conquests trilogy.  In a world where people want their news in less than 140 characters and their videos in YouTube clips, she actually got people to sit through three plays   . . . in one day!”

 

2.  Rocco Landesman

http://www.theproducersperspective.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/my_weblog/6a00e54ef2e21b883301287660c7b3970c.jpg

“Rocco is the only nominee on my list who gets the nom for not producing anymore.  As the new Chairman of the NEA, Rocco is now in a position to do more for the profit and non-profit theater on a national and international level than anyone else . . . ever.”

 

 3.  Kevin McCollum

“In addition to Producing West Side, an oft member of the million-dollar-club, Kevin forged new ground by finding a way to make a limited run of a holiday musical work (White Christmas), and by going back to Off-Broadway with Avenue Q.”

 

 

 4.  Jeffrey Richards

JeffreyRichards, Hair, Tony Award, Producer

“Jeffrey had seven shows open in 2009.  And he’s still got a couple of weeks left!  The sheer volume of his work qualifies him a nomination, but the real story of the year was his bailout of Hair, which recouped and snatched a Tony.  If only the government’s bailout worked as well as Jeffrey’s.”

 5.  Jordan Roth

Jordan Roth, young, jujamcyn

“When Rocco Landesman jumped on a metroliner to DC, he left an open chair for Jordan Roth, who is sitting in it quite nicely.  At his young age, he’s got decades to go in this biz.  Expect great things.  But more importantly, expect new things.”
 

A big thank you to my pundits for their wise choices.

And now on to the voting!

To vote for Producer of the Year, click on this link.

Make sure you cast your vote by Sunday, December 27th at 8 PM.

The 2009 Producer of the Year will be announced on the blog on Monday, December 28th.

Good luck to the nominees and let the voting begin!

VOTE NOW.

P.S.  You can only vote once . . . so for those producers on this list who just tried to put their assistant on voting over and over again, nice try.  😉

Advice from an Expert: Vol. XI. The guy who placed the Subways are for Sleeping ad speaks!

Oh how I love the internet.  It gives you the chance to speak to so many people that you would otherwise never have the chance to, and learn from them.

Perfect example . . .

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about The Balloon Boy and his dad’s stupidity.  In the same blog I referenced the infamous David Merrick Subways are for Sleeping stunt.

Today I got an email from a gentleman who was the Production Director at The Blaine Thompson Company, a powerhouse ad agency who repped Broadway shows from 1938 – 1977 including the original productions of Gypsy, Pippin, Hair, A Chorus Line, and yes, Subways are for Sleeping.

This gentleman was directly involved with the Ad Heard ‘Round The World, and with Mr. Merrick himself, and was kind enough to share his story in an email to me.

I convinced him to put the story into a comment on the blog itself for all of you to enjoy.

Here it is.  A piece of theatrical history, brought to you by the power of the internet and by people willing to share their story (which is what theater is all about, isn’t it?).

Click here to and scroll down to read the comment from Ron.

10 Shows that stand out at this year’s Fringe Festival.

It took us four years and four writers to finally get the book right on Altar Boyz.  The guy who finally got hit the soul sensor on the head was Kevin Del Aguila, and I found him at The New York International Fringe Festival.

But how?  With over 200 shows to see in this year’s festival alone, how do you find the good stuff?

Fringe festivals can be the most cluttered environment for show shopping in the world.  It’s like panning for gold . . . in the Atlantic Ocean    . . . with a bottomless bucket.

The year I stumbled on Kevin’s play I remember picking up the Fringe Guide, and going through it like it was a Sky Mall catalog during a delay at LaGuardia.  I went through the guide show by show by show, circled what jumped out at me, then tried to find times to fit them all in.

Since most of the fringe shows are unknowns, the descriptions, titles, and so on are pretty dang important to catalog shoppers like me.  This year, I thought I’d repeat my exercise of going through the Fringe Guide and let you know the top 10 shows that stood out to me, and why.

Here we go:

1.  1-900-SELFPLEX

This list is in alpha order, which means I have to start with a show that begins with a number.  And so does the Fringe catalog.  This show stood out because of the infamous Chorus Line principle (ACL famously changed its name from Chorus Line to A Chorus Line in order to be listed first in the ABCs in the NY Times.  BTW, depending on the publication, one of my shows is either called THE Awesome 80s Prom or just Awesome 80s Prom).  When you’re listed first, people take more time and pay more attention: first borns, first wives, first “times”, everything.  I’m sure the authors of this show didn’t start the title of their show with a number for this reason, but it made me read the description with a lot more care than the show on page 47.  For more info, visit:  www.elixirproductions.org.

2.  666

Another numbered title jumped out at me, but not because of its digits.  It jumped out because of the quotes that the previous productions have received:  “Truly fabulous-disgustingly hysterical,” “Masterwork of black humor,” “Might beat the boys to hell by laughing yourself to death!”  Frankly, I don’t recognized all of the sources, but at this level, it doesn’t matter.  A minority of fringe shows have been seen before. If you can demonstrate that you’ve gotten your show up, AND that people publicly said they liked it in such a passionate way as some of the critics did for 666, then you will stand out.  Even if the show isn’t something I’d want to produce (666 is a wordless comedy about four death row convicts about to meet their final reward), I’m definitely intrigued by the artists.  The creators of Blue Man Group did stuff before Blue Man Group, if you know what I mean, and some of it was weirder than this.  For more info, visit:  www.666comedy.com.

3.  A CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN’S GUIDE TO A SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE

The description for this show begins, “Set against the backdrop of the late 1950s and told in the style of the social guidance films of that era . . . ”  You know what’s cool about that? I know what that is! Sometimes Fringe shows can feel like going to a Shoney’s buffet . . . blindfolded.  The more you can frame the show with your description, the better, and this show did that perfectly.  I feel like I know what I am going to see.  Take that smart descript. of their inherently theatrical concept and add it to a very commercial subject that almost 50% of the population are interested in, and you’ve got my attention.  For more info, visit:  www.themarriageplay.com.

4.  ABRAHAM LINCOLN’S BIG GAY DANCE PARTY

I skipped over this one originally, because it sounded like the Producers took a page out of the obvious “How To Get Attention For Your Fringe Show” manual by using a wacko title to peak curiosity.  These producers also took another page out, however.  Right after the listing for Lincoln, there was a full page ad for the show, that stood out like, well, Abe Lincoln at a big gay dance party (he was a tall man, you know, and he wore a hat, had a big beard and freed the slaves).  That big ad certainly got my attention.  “What kind of fringe show has a budget for a full page,” I wondered.  More importantly, the ad also trumpeted the fact that Lincolnwon a Best Play award from the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, something I missed because I never even read the description in the listing, having been turned off by the title.  Now, I don’t know who the BAYTCC is, but any award makes any show sound better.  And the ad forced me to learn more.  I won’t be going to show, but I bet a lot of people will.   For more, info visit:  www.abrahamlincolnsbiggaydanceparty.com or www.thelongestdomainnameinhistory.com (sorry, guys, couldn’t resist).

5.  BABY WANTS CANDY THE IMPROVISED MUSICAL

If you’ve never seen an improvised musical, I recommend it.  And if I can’t see it from my favorite musical Improv Team, The Nuclear Family (which has shows coming up in LA, by the way), then Baby Wants Candy is next.  So putting my fascination with this genre aside, why did this show stand out?  Because Baby Wants Candy has been around the block.  They have a history, and a respected one.  Anyone that can keep producing entertainment year after year instead of trading it in for a real estate license has to be doing something right.  For more info, visit:  www.babywantscandy.com.

6.  HOW NOW DOW JONES

The Fringe is all about new stuff, right?  Wrong.  Here’s something that stands out just because it’s old!  How Now Dow Jones is a revised version of a 1968 (same year as Hair (see below), ironically!) musical comedy.  Could it be the next Chicago? Doubt it, but it does have some poignant relevancy, since it the stock market plays a big part in the plot.  And no one is thinking about the stock market these days, right?  For more info, visit:  www.hownowdowjones.com.

7.  PENUMBRA

It used to be that popular music was the same music heard on Broadway stages. Nowadays, it takes a while for the music of the day to appear in a play.  Hair is called the first rock musical by many, including this gal, and it didn’t open on Bway until 1968, almost 20 years after the birth of rock ‘n roll.  The next genre that will hit a Broadway stage?  Hip-hop.  And a harder hip-hop than Heights.  And I’ll tell you a little secret that’s just between you, me and the rest of the blogosphere . . . I want to be the Producer of the first hip-hop musical on Broadway (Yep, I was even crazy enough to inquire about the rights to 8 Mile (not available, fyi).  Watch this scene, wouldn’t you . . . (it’s a musical Rocky!)  That’s why Penumbra, a one man hip-hop musical by Fascious, got my attention.  This guy is on the right multi-track.  For more info, visit: www.fascious.com.

8.  TEAROOM TANGO

Tearoom opens the (bathroom) door on a world many people haven’t seen before.  This show-me-a-subculture tactic is a smart way to grab attention, especially when the subject is sex.  Add in nudity and “parental discretion” warnings, and anyone, I don’t care if they are straight, gay, or asexual, has to wonder what is going on during Tearoom.  For more info, visit:  www.mercuryplayerstheatre.com.

9.  TRUTH VALUES:  ONE GIRL’S ROMP THROUGH MIT’S MALE MATH MAZE

I like true stories.  This country likes true stories.  All thanks to what I call the “lean forward factor”.  Truth Values is a true story about an underdog, and this country also loves underdogs (partly because this country WAS an underdog). It’s about a woman pursuing her PhD at MIT.  It’s got a Good Will Hunting meets Legally Blonde type of feel, from what I can tell.  We’ll see what makes this one different.  For more info, visit:  www.unexpectedtheatre.org.

10.  VOTE

A musical about student council elections?  Since we don’t have an adaptation of Election (yet), this sounds like a commercially promising production to me.  Promising premise aside, Vote has also attracted some top-notch Broadway talent with Rachelle Rak teaching the dance steps, and a cast including Deidre Goodwin alongside everyone’s favorite reality show winner, Bailey Hanks.  Recognizable names help you stand out and lend credibility, on Broadway, off-Broadway and yes, at The Fringe.

So there’s my list of the top ten shows that stood out for me in this year’s 63 page Fringe Festival catalog (honorable mentions go to:  TerranovaAnd She Said, He Said, I Say YesMCrossings, and Sorority Queen in a Mobile Home).  I won’t see all of them, but there was something unique about the presentation of each one that that made them memorable.  

But memorable doesn’t always mean good.

See, the funny thing is that although it may seem like hard work to stand out amongst a field of over 200 shows, that’s actually the easy part.

Because once you get someone’s attention, you have to deliver.

It takes a courageous and confident kid to raise his hand higher than the others, but it takes a brilliant kid to have the right answer.

Good fringe, everybody!

 

_ _

Looking to learn how to get your show to stand out?  Here are two quick tips:

1 – Read Seth Godin’s book The Purple Cow, my bible to product development and marketing.

2 – Take my Get Your Show Off The Ground seminar, which I guarantee will give you a bunch of great takeaways on how to get your show to stand out at the Fringe, NYMF, and on Broadway!  Take the seminar today.

Oh no, you’ll never get the rights to . . . [UPDATED RE: THE NOTEBOOK MUSICAL ON BROADWAY]

I have a good female friend who is obsessed with The Notebook.  She watches it like three times a week.  I mean, it was like a teddy bear to a two-year-old.  She never went anywhere without it.  When I finally gave in and agreed to watch it with her, I didn’t know what she enjoyed more . . . watching it, or watching me watching it, just to see my reaction.

One day, when I told her I was looking for things to turn into musicals, she said, “You know what would make a beautiful musical?  The Notebook!”  Then she stopped and didn’t speak for like three minutes.  I think she was imagining the duet that Noah and Allie would sing to each other right after Allie found out that Noah wrote her a letter every day that they were apart, even though the letters never got to her (if your eyes just got a little watery there, it’s not because you’ve been staring at your computer too long).

I sort of blew her off.  “Too big a movie and too big a book,” I thought, “No way anyone is getting the rights.  Maybe Cameron Mac or Disney, but unless you’ve got a Broadway pedigree and a bank full of bucks, there is no way that musical is going to happen.”

“But It would be sooooooooo good,” she said.  “Come on, let’s watch it again and I’ll show you.”

Well, look what I read today.  The Notebook is going to be a musical.  And it doesn’t have Cameron or Disney or even any New York Producers behind it.  An actress fell in love with it, probably watched it more often than my friend, and convinced the powers that be to give her the rights.  All because of her passion.

And she’s doing a workshop in October with the hopes that it will be the first step to a Broadway production.

You know what else is cool?  Just like White Noise, the workshop isn’t at The Old Globe or La Jolla or any of the usual tryout spots.  Oh no, they are doing this tryout at a community theater in North Carolina.

It’s “Give Props” week here at The Producers Perspective. Yesterday, Hair, and today, Bethany Joy Galeotti, the girl who got The Notebook.

And I write this blog to remind myself that no matter how difficult things may seem, it never hurts to ask the question.  The irony is that it took me the same amount of time to come up with a reason why I couldn’t get the rights to The Notebook as it would have to call someone and actually ask for the rights!

Now I gotta go.  There’s a 1-800-FLOWERS site with my name on it.  I gotta send a big bouquet of flowers to a friend that is going to be pretty peeved when she hears that this is happening and I’m not attached.

Oh, and guess where I’ll be in October.

UPDATE AS OF 1/3/19:  9 Years later and The Notebook is finally headed to Broadway.  But with an entirely new team than the above.  Click here to read an article about it.

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