When Hal and Stro talk, you should listen.

I was lucky enough to witness the first Hal Prince and Susan Stroman collaboration firsthand, when I was the Associate Company Manager on the mammoth Show Boat at the Gershwin Theater.

It was a genius collaboration.

The two of them are at it again, co-directing the new musical, Paradise Found, which opened on Wednesday, May 19th, at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London-town.

H&S gave an interview with The London Times recently that has more nuggets of Producing and Directing wisdom than in all of my blogs combined.  They talk about flops, financing and why they’re debuting this show across the pond.

Read it here.

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A star above the title . . . but not how you think.

Last week, in one of the biggest surprise announcements of the year, Elton John and partner David Furnish announced that they were joining the Broadway producing team of Next Fall.

Before this announcement, many of us on the inside were wondering just how Next Fall, which lacks the marquee wattage of a Scarlett or a Denzel, would stand out in the year’s busy Spring season.

Nabbing one of the biggest names in the entertainment industry is one way, that’s for sure.

Celebrity producers have been around before, but ever since Oprah put her name above the title on The Color Purple (which put a lot of butts in the seats), putting the right producer on the right project has become a more sought-after way of gaining attention for our shows.

This fall, Fela! did it with Jay-Z and Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith (who have received a little critical drubbing for not stumping for the show like some of their counterparts).  Yet it still got a lot more attention for that show than it could have gotten on its own.

Whoopi Goldberg, who was a producer on Thoroughly Modern Millie, is also a Producer on the London and Broadway Bound Sister Act, which couldn’t make more sense.

Are these celebs investing actual dollars in the show?  Or are they investing the value of their names and their appearance at parties?  Only the show insiders know for sure, but I’d bet it’s a little of both, depending on the project.

And whatever the case, as long as it’s helping attract positive attention for your show and helping you break through the cluttered environment we work in, it’s a win for all parties involved.

So when you’re selling off places above your title, think about other names that might make sense for you and get you in a news cycle.

And it doesn’t have to be the name of a person.

It was no secret that I was interested in moving the magnificent Our Town from Off-Broadway to Broadway last Fall.  One of my ideas was to get a bunch of small New England towns to go above the title.  Imagine . . . Sturbridge, Massachusetts, Brunswick, Maine and Stowe, Vermont present Our Town.  We would have had whole towns behind us!

Got a musical about Ice Cream?  You and Ben and Jerry present . . .

Got a play about Golf?  You and Tiger Woods present . . .

Wait.  Scratch that.  Never mind.

There are more and more places on your production that you can turn into a marketing initiative than you can imagine.  Sometimes they’re just not out in the open.

The great Producers never stop looking for them.

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Desperately seeking: Devoted and Disgruntled in New York

I’d bet my original Carrie playbill that if you’re reading this blog, then there is something about the theater industry that frustrates the f*** out of you.

I’d also bet that if you’re reading this blog, you’re interested in voicing your opinion, getting your hands dirty, and doing something about it.

This weekend, you have your chance.  And you won’t be alone.

On Saturday and Sunday, The Under The Radar Festival is sponsoring the first ever D&D in the U.S.

No, D&D isn’t an 80s role playing game (and yes, I was a Dungeon Master).  It stands for ‘Devoted and Disgruntled’ and it’s a town hall-ish type event where you can express your frustration, and then you can come up with a way to do something about it.  And you’ll have other D&Ders to help, because I’d bet if something is frustrating you, it’s frustrating someone else, too.

It’s like a theatrical activist dating service.  And I think it sounds pretty awesome.

It’s been done in London for five years to great success and thankfully, it’s coming here.

While I’m sure it will be heavy on non-profits and up-and-coming theater companies, it doesn’t have to be.  The founder of the event is Phelim McDermott, a director and designer who dances in both the non-profit and profit halls.  In fact, he’s got a teensy-tiny show coming up this Spring known as The Addams Family.

For more information on the event, click here.

I’ll see you there.

No 20-sided die required.

Leading is not misleading.

In late November, the London production of the stage adaptation of The Shawshank Redemption got busted for putting a quote on their marquee that said the following:

“A superbly gripping, genuinely uplifting drama.” – Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph

Good quote, right?

Only one problem . . . the quote was referring to the FILM version of Shawshank, and the reviewer had gone on to say, “In almost every respect, the stage version is inferior to the movie.”

Ballsy move on behalf of the Producers, right?

I’m a big fan of pushing the envelope, especially when it comes to promotion.  On the first poster of The Awesome 80s Prom, we put a quote on the top that said, “I’ve Had The Time Of My Life!”  We listed the source as, “The Awesome 80s Movie, Dirty Dancing.

But there is such a thing as going too far, and this certainly qualifies.  David Merrick’s Subways stunt had a wink to it (and hopefully The Prom’s did too), which made them work.  The Shawshank stunt is just about pulling the wool over a customer’s eyes.

And it gives us all a bad name.

Although, I guess it did get the show some publicity.  And I am writing about it here, and I bet that a lot of you never even knew there was a stage version of Shawhank in London, so . . . dang it, they succeeded in some fashion.

However, this stunt looks like the prods could get in some legal trouble as well, and more importantly could cause bigger problems for the Producers that have much smarter and savvier ideas in the future.

And that makes this stunt just selfish.

Oh, and for a future blog?  Why the bollocks are Londoners fascinated with play versions of successful movies?  Rain Man, Shawshank, When Harry Met Sally, etc.?  Think the movie companies would ever allow those productions here?  I bet not (and I’m sorta happy about that), but I am oh so curious how one would sell.  Your thoughts?

Lincoln Center gets its own TKTS booth.

Starting in the new year, Lincoln Center fans will be able to buy discounted tickets to LC events at the David Rubenstein Atrium on 62nd St.

That’s right, LC is setting up their own TKTS.

And why shouldn’t they?

With the volume of projects they produce, why not have their own discount distribution center?  Why not provide their niche audience with a place that they can call their own (and that has free WiFi, free performances and free restrooms!!!)?

Will this be the first of many?  Will we start to move towards the London model of half-price booths in more than one location?  (If you’ve been to the booth lately, you’ve seen that scalpers have already set up shop on the streets)

Will Roundabout be the next Non-Profit setting up their own half-price booth?

I know that I’ve had the sign below outside my office for months . . . and I can tell you firsthand . . . it works.  🙂

 

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