“What’s the difference between a lead Producer and a Producer?”

Here’s a question from a reader that wouldn’t have even been a question a few decades ago.  In the days of David Merrick, there weren’t 142 names above the title, all calling themselves producers.  There was one, maybe two or three, and everyone knew who was wearing the top hat in that relationship.

Times have changed, as shows have gotten more expensive.  Producers have given up big pieces of profit, as well as diluted the strength of the title of Producer, in exchange for making sure shows still happen (laugh all you want about the umpteen producers above-the-title on Spring Awakening, but without them, that show never would have happened, and we all would have missed out on something spectacular).

Amongst those many names, there is one person who is now affectionately referred to as the Lead Producer.

But just what does this person do?

Well, as with most positions in the theater, the Lead Producer’s list of duties changes depending on the person and the project.

Generally speaking, the Lead Producer is the person that is not only driving the ship, but he or she is usually the person who convinced everyone to get on board in the first place.  The Lead is the explorer, the Columbus, if you will, that says, “I’ve got an idea and I need help to get where I want to go. Who’s with me?  I need money.  I need a staff.  Who’s up for the craziest journey ever?  We could die, or we could discover the new world!”

Along the way, the Lead can help with the development of the script, bring in additional partners, hire the General Manager and primary vendors.  The Lead calls the shots, consulting as he or she goes, with the other Producers.

To put this into business terms, imagine the LP as the Chairman of the Board, who has a bunch of board members (the other Producers) who chime in on big decisions.

But at the end of the day, it’s the Lead’s ship.

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First show to get one of these wins.

The most explosive entertainment medium of the last several years, which shows no sign of slowing down, is the home video game market.

We’ve come a long way since I played Asteroids on my Atari and Donkey Kong on my Colecovision.  There have been upteen game systems and a zillion and a half games since then, from Pong to Pitfall, from The Godfather to E.T.

But in the 30 years of the home video game market I can’t name a single video game based on a musical.  Can you?

It’s not surprising, I guess.  In addition to the monster brands that are usually made into games (i.e. James Bond), video games are still mostly played by young men, who aren’t exactly the target audience of the musical.

Still, if Universal expects Wicked to be one of their most profitable entertainment ventures, why isn’t a video game a part of that mix?  And why No Mamma Mia! game for all the women who play Nintendo Wii?  (You would be Sophie and your goal would be to find out who your real dad is and then get married?)

Forget the potential profit – think of the marketing value.  A good game will get a player in front of a monitor for hours, which means your characters, story, music, and message are getting continual exposure.  It’s the ultimate form of content based advertising.  You can’t tell me that if you were Val Jean, and after rescuing Marius from the barricade and confronting Javert in the sewers, you wouldn’t want to run out and see Les Miz again.

(That was our idea at Altar Boyz when we developed our own simple game – ‘Don’t Wreck The Van’.  I’ll post the link tomorrow).

I don’t expect the vid game industry to ever embrace us.  Video games, like top 40 music, is an area of pop culture that the theater just can’t find our way (back) into.

That’s a pretty disappointing fact.

Although, in some cases, that’s probably good.  Can you imagine what the Spring Awakening game would be like?