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.

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.

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