When is Broadway’s birthday?

I had a bday over the weekend, and it got me thinking . . . just when is Broadway’s birthday?

My History of American Musical Theatre Professor at NYU, Jack Lee (the guy who gave me my start by recommending me for a production assistant position on My Fair Lady), would say that the birth of the Broadway musical was on September 12, 1866 when the curtain went up on the infamous, designed-by-fire, Black Crook.
This WikiAnswer says that the “first-known professional musical production was a five performance run of John Gay’s satirical British ballad opera, The Beggar’s Opera, offered by Walter Murray and Thomas Kean’s traveling theatrical troupe at the Nassau Street Theatre.”
We celebrate a lot of Birthdays through the year.  Broadway should be one of them. As an industry we should pick a day and build a celebration around it. And hey, it doesn’t even have to be accurate. The Declaration of Independence is widely believed to have been officially executed in early August, not on July 4, 1776.  And most people, whether they believe in Him or not, acknowledge that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th.
Birthdays are marketing tools.  Think about yours for a second. What does your birthday do?  It makes people, by societal convention, turn their attention and their focus to you, right?
Let’s use society’s natural desire to celebrate a birth to our advantage.  Because Broadway could use every extra bit of attention it can get.
 

Favorite Quotes Vol. XXII: Fair is fair.

I was fortunate enough to be tapped to produce this year’s NYU Tisch School of the Arts Gala honoring Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, Sheila Nevins, Marcia Gay Harden and Diana King (I was even more fortunate to actually go to Tisch, where thanks to one of my professors, I was introduced to a guy who would kick start my career).

We had a kick-off party in LA at the beginning of the summer, and one of NYU’s benefactors, Steve Tisch (who knows quite a few things about kick-offs, since he’s a co-owner of the NY Giants), offered this piece of advice for folks beginning their careers:

Remove the word fair from your vocabulary.

Things happen all the time in this world (and so often in this industry) that just don’t make sense, that don’t seem fair, and sometimes, that just aren’t right.

Don’t try and figure it out.  You never will.

Scream it out for ten seconds, then suck it up, and soldier on.

It sounds like Steve does something like this.

And if you read that Wikipedia entry, it looks like it’s working for him, so it’s gotta be a good idea for the rest of us.

Does a good review from the NY Times guarantee a longer run?

A few months ago, I started pulling together some data on this very question.  I’m glad I stopped.

Because Lan Ma Nygren of Rider University and Jeffrey S. Simonoff from NYU did similar research and they did it a whole lot better.

You can download the report here, which is entitled:  Bright Lights, Big Dreams – A Case Study of Factors Relating to the Success of Broadway Shows.  

But break out your geek glasses, because it’s a serious statistician’s look at our biz (how rare, and how awesome!).  It includes phrases like “linear regression model” and “Kaplan-Meier estimator of the survival function” and “The Daily News.”

You have to read the report to get their full analysis of the factors that contribute to a hit (you’ll be impressed by how many you know already), but I will leave you with this quote from page 8:

On the other hand, reviews in the Times are not at all related to show longevity.  The essence seems to be that while a review once had a strong effect on the success of a show, that is no longer the case because of the way that the audience for and marketing of Broadway shows has changed in the last 20 years.

 

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