First recoupment and now this!

It’s raining good news over at the Booth Theatre on Broadway.

Less than two weeks ago, the unlikely hit, Next to Normal, defied expectations and announced that it had recouped its investment.

Yesterday, in another “shocking” turn of events (get it?), N2N took home the biggest drama prize of them all . . . The Pulitzer!

To say that this was a surprise, would be like saying Alice Ripley’s character in N2N is just “in a mood.”

From the sound of the fallout, the choice was a surprise to the prize.jpgckin’ insiders as well.

First, Charles McNulty of the LA Times, and a member of the Drama Jury that was chosen by the Pulitzer Board to give recommendations on nominees, ripped the board a new one for ignoring the Jury’s recs in his article entitled, “On The Year’s Drama Award, The Pulitzer Board Blew It.”

Then came Patrick Healy’s revelation that “a lot” of Pulitzer Board Members saw N2N the night before their important vote for the winner (and you and I both know that awards are most likely to go to shows that are “fresh” in voters’ minds, right?).

And this morning, the HE in DidHeLikeIt Himself, Mr. Ben Brantley, wrote a very interesting op-ed piece in the New York Times expressing his frustration about the process, having been the Chairman of the Drama Jury in 2007, when the board overrode the Jury’s recommendations as well.

Whatever happened, it’s a fantastic story for a show that almost didn’t make it to Broadway and has now not only recouped, but also been awarded an incredible distinction.

Will this big prize have an impact at the BO?  Let’s watch and see . . . (my guess is that the people who the Prize means the most to have already seen the show, although I’d also bet that the ad agency is designing a big sign for the front of the theater to trumpet this news to all those tourists).

Congratulations to everyone involved for this incredible honor.  I’m sure they are all thrilled.

In fact, I heard a rumor that that lead character was so happy about the big win, it cured her depression.

– – – –

Normal is only the 8th musical to take home the P Prize, and it’s in great company.  Can you name the other seven?  Give it a shot, then click here for the answer.

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.

Who says a Broadway Show can’t be at the top of pop culture?

In today’s world, it sure is hard for a Broadway show to compete with the likes of Paris Hilton, MTV, Anderson Cooper, Lindsay Lohan, and the like.

But on Twitter, one show has not only competed with them, it has crushed them.
Next To Normal is now up to 618,703 followers (and growing), besting so many other seemingly more “popular” people.  It’s ranked as the 205th most popular tweeter on the web!
How’d they do it?
 
N2N used this new technology the old-fashioned way, with tried and true unique and interactive content unavailable anywhere else.  They tweeted the entire musical in twitter-ese, the actors have been tweeting what they’re feeling behind-the-scenes, and now, the composers are asking all 600k of those followers for ideas for a new song for the show.
Pretty great, right?  Without a doubt, it’s the best use of Twitter by a musical since the technology was born.
But before we go celebrating just yet, let’s remember the most important question to ask yourself when you engage in any marketing campaign:  what has it done to the box office?
Obviously, it hasn’t dropped 600,000 butts right into the seats of the Booth Theater, but that’s not what it was meant to do, and luckily the smart folks behind the campaign know that.  Twitter wasn’t designed to be a direct response tool.  Pushing a ticket offer out to that group on a repeated basis would be a sure-fire way to disengage all of them and fast.
Social media was designed to be . . . well . . . social.  And a campaign like this builds brand awareness inexpensively and at the same time, revs up your passionate users like nothing else could.
And that’s why there’s a long line at the box office every morning for Normal rush tickets.
You can’t bet your brand on social media.  It’s not going to make you or break you at the bank.  But done right, it’s a way to get your brand mentioned in the same sentence as the big boys.
And that certainly can’t be bad.

My Tony Award Predictions

Ok, here they are, as promised:  my predicts for what the 800 or so Tony Voters will select as the winners of this year’s Tony Awards.  To clarify, this is not what I think should win, nor is it what I necessarily voted for myself, but rather this is who I expect to be standing on that stage on Sunday night.

Drumroll, puhleeze.

BEST PLAY:  GOD OF CARNAGE

The French can be snooty and smelly, but neither of those adjectives apply to French writer Yasmine Reza or her work of “Art.”  Her star-studded, super-grossing ($900k for a play?), smart yet accessible comedy (complete with barf jokes) will win out over the primary competition, Labute’s reasons to be pretty.

BEST MUSICAL:  BILLY ELLIOT

The Best Musical landscape is similar to Best Play.  Another import, this one British, squares off against a smaller, perhaps more challenging, American musical, Next to Normal.  Unfortunately for all you patriots out there, the British and Billy will take the big prize of the evening.  And seeing the 147 kids in the show storm the stage at the end will be a sight to see, so stay up!

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:  TOM KITT & BRIAN YORKEY, NEXT TO NORMAL

The Americans strike back here, as N2N deservedly picks up the score trophy.  This award also comes with a note from many voters that reads, “Sorry we didn’t vote for you for Best Musical.  We loved your show, but . . .”

BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL:  LEE HALL, BILLY ELLIOT

For awhile, I thought N2N would pull a Urinetown or Falsettos split (and take both score and book while giving up the big prize to a more commercial choice, Millie and Crazy for You, respectively), as the voters like to reward writers of challenging work.  The upset of the night would be if the voters tipped their hat to Hunter Bell and the TOS crew with an award.  But frankly, I just don’t think enough of them saw the show last fall to make that happen.

BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY:  THE NORMAN CONQUESTS

Great revivals were like foreclosures this year . . . on every block!  (Too soon?)  This category would have been even tougher to pick, had the nominators not forgotten about some of the fall shows (specifically, The Seagull).  Norman gets the girl in this category, partly for its great production, and partly because of the degree of difficulty in staging three British comedies and running them in rep  (I’d also bet that a bunch of voters voted for Norman while only seeing one of the plays.)

BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL:  HAIR

The Most Improved Show award goes to Hair this year.  Luckily, West Side doesn’t need it with its Wicked-like grosses (it’s a revival!).

BEST SPECIAL THEATRICAL EVENT:  LIZA’S AT THE PALACE

Obviously, I’m praying that I’m wrong with this one.  Will’s got a chance, thanks to the phenomenal success of the run and because it’s fresh in everyone’s memory.  But a Hollywood A-lister bringing down Broadway royalty seems like a long shot to me, so I’m putting my money on the safe bet. That’s ok.  I’m still happy having put my investors money on the other guy.  🙂

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR IN  A PLAY:  GEOFFREY RUSH, EXIT THE KING

This is the easiest to call, which is unfortunate for Raul Esparza, who deserves to have a couple of trophies on his mantle.  But God knows, he’ll have more chances to get up on that stage, as I don’t see him making an exit anytime soon.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTRESS IN  A PLAY:  MARCIA GAY HARDEN, GOD OF CARNAGE

There is a 60 second section in God of Carnage where Marcia doesn’t utter a word.  But you can practically read her thoughts as if they were written in a bubble above her head.  She wins for that moment alone.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR IN  A MUSICAL: THE THREE BILLYS, BILLY ELLIOT

Tatum O’Neal, Daisy Eagan , Anna Paquin.  Voters love to give a kid a trophy.  And the only thing better than one kid nominee  . . . is three.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTRESS IN  A MUSICAL:  ALICE RIPLEY, NEXT TO NORMAL

In an example of the Hollywood Rain Man syndrome (where playing a challenged individual of any type, physical or mental, gives you a boost at award time), Alice will win for her terrific portrayal of the challenged mom in N2N.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTOR IN  A PLAY:  JOHN GLOVER, WAITING FOR GODOT

This one could also be called the Best Spitter Award (previous winners would have included Jonathan Groff in Spring Awakening).  John wins for saying the most with the least to actually say.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTRESS IN  A PLAY:  ANGELA LANSBURY, BLITHE SPIRIT

There is currently only one woman who has won five Tony Awards.  After Sunday, there will be two.  Watch for the standing ovation when Angela takes the stage.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTOR IN  A MUSICAL:  CHRISTOPHER SIEBER, SHREK

The guy is on his knees for the whole show for Shrek’s sake!

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTRESS IN  A MUSICAL:  HAYDEN GWYNNE, BILLY ELLIOT

Hayden hits a trifecta here:  Outer Critics, Drama Desk, Tony.  That much momentum can’t be stopped.

BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY:  MATTHEW WARCHUS, GOD OF CARNAGE

For awhile, I thought Matthew’s two noms would split his vote, but then I saw I took another look at God’s grosses ($900k for a play?), and realized that he would take the Tony on the back of the show’s success, and deservedly so.

BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL:  STEPHEN DALDRY, BILLY ELLIOT

For awhile, I was calling a bit of an upset here, because without Diane, Hair would not be the hit it is.  But at the end of the day, I think the majority of voters will give it to Daldry for the sheer magnitude of the work he did in directing Billy.

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY:  PETER DARLING, BILLY ELLIOT

When dancing is a major part of your plot, you better win choreography!  Hands and toes down, Darling is the winner.

BEST ORCHESTRATIONS:  MARTIN KOCH, BILLY ELLIOT

Big show + big score = Tony.

BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY:  DEREK MCCLANE, 33 VARIATIONS

The other nominees in this category are mostly stationery sets, so Derek’s “musical” set wins.

BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL:  IAN MACNEIL BILLY ELLIOT

They had to drill a giant hole in the basement of the theater to allow for that house to come up through the ground, like a man from a mine, but it’ll earn this man a Tony.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY:  DALE FERGUSON, EXIT THE KING

Whenever Kings and Queens are in a play, the odds for winning a costume award jumps up tremendously.  Normally, I’d say give this one to Mary Stuart, but I’m going with Dale, for the absurdist suit of armor.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL:  TIM HATLEY, SHREK

Costume awards go to designs that stand out, and in a field of nominations that include one show about the 60s and two shows about the 80s, Shrek certainly stands out.

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY:  HUGH VANSTONE, MARY STUART

On Broadway, “rain” is an electrician and a lighting designer’s job. It rains in Mary Stuart. And that’s cool and memorable. So it’ll rain a Tony on Hugh.

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSCIAL:  RICK FISHER, BILLY ELLIOT

With the design awards, sometimes bigger is better.  The bigger the show, the bigger the budget, and the more toys the designers have to play with.  In this case, bigger is Billy.

BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A PLAY:  RUSSELL GOLDSMITH, EXIT THE KING

This is a tough one.  Your guess is as good as mine.  I went with the sounds of a dying king.  Creepy.

BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A MUSICAL:  PAUL ARDITTI, BILLY ELLIOT

Paul will win for excellent work, yes, but also for a syndrome I call, “Tony By Association.”

So that’s it!  Make sure you tune in on Sunday to see how I do!  And don’t forget to make your picks on my Tony pool!  There is only 2 days left to play and win $500!  Click here.

If you’re not following me on Twitter, click here. Just like last year, I’ll be tweeting from my $900 seat (yep, that’s how it costs – crazy, huh?) and I’ll fill you in on everything that’s going on from inside Radio City, including the not-suitable for airing, in between commercial breaks stuff.

If you don’t yet have a place to watch – try Times Square!  The Tonys will be on the Big Screen!  With the new blocked off streets, it should be fun.  Tweet me from there if you go. I’d love to hear what the party is like.

Oh, one more prediction before I sign off:  during the telecast, I predict there will be two Jeremy Piven jokes.  🙂

Play The Producer’s Perspective Tony Pool! Win $500!

Calling all Broadway handicappers!  It’s time to put your Tony pickin’ skills where your mouth is!

Will Next to Normal be the Avenue Q of 2009 and send big Billy
Elliot
back to the mines?  Will Angela Lansbury become only the 2nd
woman in history to win 5 Tony Awards?  Will Triumph The Insult Dog be
allowed back on the red carpet?

Everyone has an opinion these days, but the only opinions I care about are yours!

Click here to play the 2nd Annual Producer’s Perspective Tony Pool!

For prizes, this year The Producer’s Perspective is offering its own version of an Economic Stimulus Package!  Since so many of you have told me that your biggest challenge as a Producer is raising money, I thought I’d give you some!

The blog reader who picks the most winners will win the Grand Prize of a $500 American Express Gift Card.

The 1st runner up will win a $200 American Express Gift Card.

The 2nd runner up will win a $50 American Express Gift Card.

And, all winners will receive a copy of my book.

The rules of the game and the restrictions are all on the site, but a few super important ones:

– Only one entry per reader.  Multiple entries will disqualify all of your entries.
– In order for us to verify entries, only email subscribers to the blog are eligible.  If you are not an email subscriber, use the box to the left to subscribe now.
– Make sure you fill out ALL of the information on the “Verification Page” of your entry.  Incomplete entries (and there were a few last year) cannot be counted.
– When asked for your email on the “Verification Page”, make sure you enter the same email that you use to subscribe to the blog.

Please read all of the rules carefully on the site before submitting your entry!  Don’t forget, you’re picking what you think WILL win, not what you want to win.

The Tony Pool will officially close on Saturday, June 6th at 11:59 PM, so don’t wait!  Play today!

Good luck to everyone!

Click here to enter The Producer’s Perspective Tony Pool.

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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