It’s official: Broadway to Off is not just a fad. It’s a phenom.

Earlier this week, Million Dollar Quartet announced that it would be closing June 12th.

But it won’t be gone for good.

MDQ will become the latest show to transfer from Broadway to Off-Broadway as it moves into New World Stages in July.

It’s the fourth show to make such a move:  Avenue Q, The 39 Steps, the upcoming Rent, and now, MDQ.  And all of them taking up tenancy at New World Stages (Boy, there were times during the run of Altar Boyz when we were the only show in the building – I don’t expect a show to feel that lonely anytime soon – good news for the owners in what is a fantastic turnaround play.)

It was almost three years ago that I wrote this blog suggesting that Broadway producers look at this model, and it has been almost two since the Producers of Avenue Q courageously decided to go where no Producers had gone before and made the move (and brought us on to GM).  And then the domino effect began.

Because of that blog a few years ago, and because of the surprising MDQ news, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from readers and reporters alike about what I think now that four shows have done it.

So what do I think?

It’s awesome for all the reasons I wrote about before.  Avenue Q was about to close.  As was 39 Steps.  One can only assume MDQ was about to do the same.  And I don’t think a Rent revival was in the cards in the short term.

Jobs were created.  Theaters were filled.  Investors continue to make money or have a shot at getting more back in the case of unrecouped shows.  What could be bad about that?

Well, there is one thing.

What about new commerical Off-Broadway shows?

As if it couldn’t get any tougher for anyone trying to make a go of it with a new commercially-produced play or musical, it just did.  Because Broadway . . . just got bigger.  That’s right, with Broadway branded shows now appearing in Off-Broadway venues, guess where patrons are going to go first when considering an Off-Broadway show?  Oh, and remember those good deals you used to get because Off-Broadway venues needed to fill a hole, or a vendor needed the biz wherever and whenever he or she could get it?  Well, there’s not as much desperation anymore since mini-Broadway was born.

I’m thrilled about this new distribution model for our industry.  Overall, it’s a great thing.  But now, looking at the landscape, I fear for the commercial Off-Broadway musical . . . as it’s becoming an endangered species.  Oh, they may pop up every now and then, but are they making money?

And the commercial play?  Well, shoot, it’s becoming as much of a myth as the Big Foot.

 

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Never let a cash machine pass you by.

So there I am, trotting down the streets of London, on my way to a restaurant that serves squirrel, when I realized I was out of pounds.

I saw a Barclay’s cash machine on the next corner (international traveler tip: cash machines often have the best exchange rates).  Since I was still a good mile or so from my squirrelicious destination, I let it pass me by.

“There will be another one along the way.  I’ll just get cash later,” I muttered in my faux British accent (I just can’t help it – whenever I’m there I start saying things like “Bollocks!” and “Cheers!”).

Well, wouldn’t you know it . . . there wasn’t another cash machine along the way.  Not a one.

Bollocks!

The point?

When you need something . . . or when you want something . . . or when you like something . . . get it. Then.  Now.  Don’t wait.

Do you know how many people passed on Rent, probably intrigued by the melodies but thinking that they’d find something better . . . later.

Producing, creating, taking risks . . . this is hard stuff.  So it’s easy to come up with a reason to pass.  It’s harder to seize the opportunity when you find it and make the most of it.

If you don’t, you’ll end up at the end of your lonely journey with empty pockets.

Our fourth and final reading of the year announced.

It seems like just yesterday we announced our reading series, and now, here we are, 9 months later, announcing the fourth and final reading of the year!

Usually we announce the next reading the day after our previous reading, so we’re actually a little late in this announcement.

Why are we late?

We chose a musical . . . and true to form, those f’ers just take more time to pull together.  🙂

So what will we be reading on Monday, December 13th at 8 PM?  (Shouldn’t musical readings be called singings?)

Date of a Lifetime, with book and lyrics by Carl Kissin, who comes from over 4000 shows with Chicago City Limits, and music by Robert Baumgartner, Jr., who comes with a MFA from Tisch’s Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program.

Date is about a man at a speed-dating event who introduces himself to a potential mate.  During their limited time together, he hypothesizes what their life as a couple might be like – going all the way from present day to her death.  Then . . . it’s her turn.

Now, I have a little secret to tell you about Date.

It’s not done.

We didn’t get a full script and score to this one, but we believed in the material we did see, we believed in the concept, and more importantly we believed in the team.

And that’s what Producers have to do half the time.

When I look back at the day Robyn Goodman, my partner on Altar Boyz, signed on to produce the show with me, I can’t believe she did it. ‘Cuz the script was certainly not ready for prime time.  But she saw the same potential I had seen two years prior.

Part of your job as a Producer is to see the swan in the disgusting duckling. Rent had been kickin’ around the city for years, before the right Producers saw what no one else could.

So come to the reading on Dec. 13th and see what Carl and Robert come up with.

Oh, and the reading will be held in a different location this time.  It will be held in . . . our own rehearsal studio!  We just underwent an office renovation here at DTE and I had to take a little more space than I wanted, so, I decided to turn it into a rehearsal studio!

And that’s where we’ll be doing the reading.

Hope to see you there!

To RSVP, email rsvp@davenporttheatrical.com.

Three reasons why Glee is great.

There is no question that Glee is great for Broadway.  Here are three reasons why I love it:

1.  IT PUTS BROADWAY PEEPS TO WORK

The transition from theater to television is a lot more difficult now than it was in the early days of both industries.  Look at how many great Broadway actors are out there that you haven’t seen headlining in movies and piloting pilots.

And then along comes a show like Glee, and the casting directors can’t get enough from our pool: Lea Michele, Matt Morrison, Jonathan Groff, John Lloyd Young, Debra Monk and more.

The longer it runs, the more our folks will get a chance to lend their talents and their pipes to that program.  And then they’ll hopefully come back to Broadway and bring some fans with them.

2.  IT PUTS SHOWTUNES NEXT TO POP TUNES

“Where Is Love,” “Tonight,” “I Could Have Danced All Night,” and “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat,” are just a few of the showtunes featured on Glee, and these classics are smacked right up next to songs like “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” “Rehab,” and “Single Ladies.”

The line between pop and showtunes is being blurred.

Who knows, maybe we’ll go back to the days when major rock bands like, oh, I don’t know, The Beatles, sang showtunes when looking to make a big splash on television.

3.  IT PUTS SINGING INTO STORIES

So often I hear people say, “I just don’t get musicals.  People start singing.  What the?  People just don’t do that!”

For the most part, Glee chose the Jersey Boys model (or Altar Boyz model, for that matter) where the musical numbers are actual performances and not “sung scenes.”  Still, having a show like Glee helps audiences get used to the fact that music can be incorporated seamlessly into entertainment.
The movie musical has helped Broadway significantly over the past decade, with shows like Hairspray, Chicago, Phantom and Rent ALL adding years to their runs (and millions to their box offices) thanks to their movie counterparts.

Broadway now seems to be making its way into television, in a subtler way, but in a way nonetheless.

Let’s hope shows like Glee continue to merge the two mediums.

Netflix for theater. It’s here.

Ok. It’s not here here.  It’s over there here.  Like in the UK.

The Brits beat us to the screen this week when www.DigitalTheatre.com went online with a few titles of taped theatrical productions that can be viewed in the privacy of your own home.

DigitalTheatre’s plan is to create a “library of diverse and acclaimed productions from some of the finest theatre talent around.”

They’ve got a production of Far From The Madding Crowd up right now available for 8.99 GBP (or about $15 bucks) and are promising more in the future.

Here are a couple of statements from the contributing theatres:

We’re always looking for ways to bring our work to the largest possible number of people. And the potential of digital technology to connect with a worldwide audience is genuinely exciting.

– Dominic Cooke, Royal Court

There needs to be a revolutionising of the capture of live theatre, and we are enjoying the pursuit of that ambition with Digital Theatre.

– Michael Boyd, Royal Shakespeare Company.

These guys have got it right.  A video revolution is coming.  It has to be.  Our attendance is waning.  A new audience isn’t being born.  It’s getting harder to pull people away from screens and get them into a theater.

So perhaps we use what has been our greatest fear (those screens) and turn it into an asset.

PBS has done it in the past. And seeing Into The Woods and Sweeney on TV certainly didn’t deter me from seeing those shows live when they came back to Broadway.

The Met has been successful in putting operas in movie theaters around the country.  My 80-year-old Dad loves them, and now he wants to come to NYC to see an opera more than ever.

– Legally Blonde didn’t lose all of its business here in NYC after a couple of plays on MTV.  And the tour is doing quite well . . . hmmmm.

– The Rent final performance DVD was pretty dang cool (I bought it), and even better than the movie in my opinion.

Of all of the options out there now, I think the Rent model is what could work the best.  Take a show that is closing, memorialize it, market it and use it to get people excited about another show live.

It’s like distributing a DVD after the movie has left the theaters.

The unions would have to play ball to make this financially feasible, but if the show is closing, shouldn’t they be more inclined to do it?  If all of the employees who worked on the show while it was being taped got a piece of future sales?  It’s found money for the employees (and the union benefit funds), and since the show would be closing, there shouldn’t be any fear that the Producers would be benefiting from the taped production as a promotional tool for Broadway (there is a question about using it to promote sub rights and tours, but certainly a profit participation for the union employees could make up for it).

The Digital Theatre folks are on to something.  And we better get on it as well, and stop guarding what we do like it’s the Queen.

Because this could be one of the few ways we have left to get what we do out to the masses.

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