This blog written by the President of the United States.

Last night, some of Broadway’s Best were invited to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to perform as part of the White House Music Series.  Nathan Lane, Elaine Stritch and Jerry Mitchell were just a few of the names that helped entertain the President, his family, and all the other West Wingers invited to the show.

Before the entertainment began, Mr. Potus shared a few words of his own about what Broadway means to him, and to the country.

And well, I think I’ll just let him take it from here.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States.  (You don’t have to stand)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Let’s put on a show.  (Laughter.)  Welcome to the White House.  I am just thrilled, and I know Michelle is thrilled, to host the sixth in a series of evenings celebrating the music that helped to shape America.

Now, so far we have heard from some of the biggest names in jazz, in country, in Latin, classical, and the music of the civil rights movement.  And tonight we are honored to be joined by some of the biggest and brightest stars on Broadway.

And I notice — I should just point out that I see a lot of members of the New York delegation here.  (Laughter.)  They take great pride in Broadway.  I want to start by thanking George C. Wolfe and Margo Lion for making this event possible.  So please give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank all of tonight’s performers for sharing their gifts with us.  They are just so generous with their time, and this will be a wonderful evening.

I also want to recognize my outstanding Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, who is in the house.  Here she is right here.  (Applause.)  As well as the other members of the administration  — thank you guys for the hard work you do each and every day.

Thank you to the National Endowment for the Arts, and the President’s Council on the Arts and the Humanities for their continued support.

And I finally want to recognize Jerry Mitchell and everybody who participated in the dance workshop earlier this afternoon and helped inspire the next generation of performers — as well as my wife — to do a few dances.  (Laughter.)  She was showing off backstage.

Now, as we’re about to see this evening, there’s nothing quite like the power and the passion of Broadway music.  At its heart, it’s the power of a story -– of love and of heartbreak; of joy and sorrow; singing witches, dancing ogres.  Musicals carry us to a different time and place, but in the end, they also teach us a little bit of something about ourselves.  It’s one of the few genres of music that can inspire the same passion in an eight-year-old that it can an 80-year-old –- and make them both want to get up and dance.  It transcends musical tastes, from opera and classical to rock and hip-hop.  And whether we want to admit it or not, we all have the lyrics to a few Broadway songs stuck in our heads.  (Laughter.)

In many ways, the story of Broadway is also intertwined with the story of America.  Some of the greatest singers and songwriters Broadway has ever known came to this country on a boat with nothing more than an idea in their head and a song in their heart.  And they succeeded the same way that so many immigrants have succeeded -– through talent and hard work and sheer determination.

Over the years, musicals have also been at the forefront of our social consciousness, challenging stereotypes, shaping our opinions about race and religion, death and disease, power and politics.

But perhaps the most American part of this truly American art form is its optimism.  Broadway music calls us to see the best in ourselves and in the world around us -– to believe that no matter how hopeless things may seem, the nice guy can still get the girl, the hero can still triumph over evil, and a brighter day can be waiting just around the bend.

As the great Mel Brooks once said, musicals “blow the dust off your soul.”  So to everyone watching, both here and at home, here’s a taste of Broadway to help us do just that.

Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.) 

The Top 5 Tony Nomination Surprises.

The 2010 Tony Award Nominations were announced just two-and-a-half hours ago and, as always, they included a few surprises.

Here are my top five head-shakers:

1.  The season’s biggest hit doesn’t get a shot at Best Musical.

Poor Addams Family.  On second thought, with their last week’s gross topping $1.3 million, I think the last word that we can use in the same sentence as Addams Family is “poor.”  However, for the 3rd year in a row, the Tony Nominators snubbed a big, fat (yet original), commercial show that steamrolled into town to less than enthusiastic critical acclaim, but a lot of popular love.  Legally Blonde, 9 To 5 and now The Family.  Honestly, this wasn’t much of a surprise.  What was a surprise was that the jukebox-y Million Dollar Quartet took the fourth spot over Come Fly Away . . . and frankly, I’m still surprised at how both of them were considered more of a contender for this slot than Family, considering that Family is more of a traditional musical than both of them combined.  Let’s face it . . . the nominators officially like the jukebox musical. They embraced Rock of Ages last year, and this year, MDQ.

So, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert . . . fear not.

Two questions come to mind as a result of this surprise:

– Will Addams Family get a number on the show?

– Will their grosses suffer an immediate drop as a result of the snub?

Answers?

– Yes.

– And no.

2.  Stars actually got nominations.

Sometimes the Tony nominators like to tell Hollywood stars to go back where they came from, by overlooking them for a possible Tony trophy.  Not this year. Denzel Washington (who was overlooked in 2005 for his Caesar), Catherine Zeta-Jones, Liev Schreiber, Scarlett Johansson, Kelsey Grammer, Jude Law, Christopher Walken, Linda Lavin, David Alan Grier, and Sean Hayes all got nods for their work on the boards this year.  (Left off the list were our usual favorites, Kristin Chenoweth, Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth, but their mantles are doing just fine, I’d say).  The fact that the nominations look like the invite list to the Vanity Fair Oscar Party is a good thing.  Most importantly, all of these stars did fantastic work this year and deserve the kudos.  Now let’s hope this will go a long way in getting more of their brothers and sisters from the Hollywood Hills to come join us for a “limited time only.”

3.  There are four nominees for best score.

We saw this one coming last week, when the Tony Admin Committee announced that both Enron and Fences would be eligible in the Best Score category.  It was a good move, IMHO, because Shubert Alley had been buzzing about the dearth of original scores this year.  I don’t think they need to seat those two scores too close to the podium on award night, but it’s nice to see the category rounded out. And the scores are unique, interesting, and definitely deserving of some love.

4.  Sherie Rene Scott owes Megan Mullally a drink.

Six weeks ago, SRS was looking at an uneventful spring.  Then, MM ups and walks from Lips Together, Teeth Apart, and now, SRS has two Tony nominations to keep her busy!  (Interesting side note:  Sherie Rene Scott replaced Megan Mullally in the Rosie O’Donnell Grease that I worked on back in ’94).  This surprise story isn’t over yet . . . because by my read, SRS has a good shot at taking home a trophy on Tony night.  And all this star-aligning-stuff couldn’t happen to a nicer gal.

5.  The British hit about an American company won’t be Best Play.

You know what the most difficult translation in the world is?  From English to American and American to English.  You’d think it’d be so much easier to predict what works in each of these markets based on the success in the other.  Alas, it ain’t that easy.  Unfortunately, Enron, a British play based on American subject matter, didn’t impress the nominators and failed get a Best Play nom.  Nine months ago, I would have bet big on this one not only getting a nomination but also taking home the top prize.  Just goes to show you, you never know what’s going to happen until that curtain goes up.

How did I do with my predictions?  I scored a 75% overall, missing one show in each of the three categories I predicted (which, coincidentally is exactly how I scored last year).

How did you do?

And stay tuned . . . The Producer’s Perspective Tony Pool will be announced shortly.  We’ve just got to figure out what the prizes are going to be . . .

I’m a celebrity, so see this show.

A few weeks ago, our President urged citizens to buy cars.  American cars.

And guess what?

The day after the speech, Chrysler sold more cars.

The endorsement is an age-old advertising trick that takes advantage of the Cialdini-styled social proof in all of us.  Put a well respected politician, athlete, or doctor, etc. right next to a product, and let the influence take over.  Tiger Woods appears in ads for Accenture.  Jared, the miracle dieter, sold Subway sandwiches.  And Bob Dole pitched for Viagra.

It works.  Don’t you want to be like Mike?  Just wear these sneakers!  Want skin like Scarlett’s?  Use this make-up.

Want to #$@ like Bob Dole?  (Ok, I just threw up in my mouth.)

If endorsements work so well, why haven’t we seen more of them in the theater?

Could an email blast from Stephen Sondheim help sell a struggling new show by an up and coming composer?  Could a TV commercial with Kristin Chenoweth sell a musical comedy?

What about Nathan Lane and Faith Prince selling the new Guys and Dolls revival?

Would the expense of the endorsement be worth it?  Could we afford it?

There’s only one way to find out.  And it wouldn’t even have to be the President for me to pay for it.

– – – – –

Only 18 days left to enter The Producer’s Perspective Tony Pool.  You could win $500!

Play today!  Click here!

Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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