Trust me. There is an after-life. I’ve seen it.

This blog may fall under the category of “duh,” but I couldn’t help myself.  It’s a pretty basic concept, but I got slapped in the face with it again the other night, so I thought I’d share it this morning.

At the 3rd annual National High School Musical Theatre Awards (aka The Jimmys), the judges grouped the actors and actresses competing for the coveted prize of Best Actor and Best Actress into groups of 5.  These groups then sang medleys, with each performer getting a featured spot.  A typical group would be a Baker from Into The Woods, J. Pierrepont Finch from H2$, a couple of Tevye’s and a Bobby Child from Crazy For You.

Then there was a very special group of five . . . count ’em . . . five Millie’s.

That’s right, five of the twenty five girls in the competition had all played Thoroughly Modern Millie at their high school.  20%.  That’s a pretty high number, don’t you think?

Extrapolate that to give yourself some sense of the number of high schools that licensed that show last year, which will give you some sense of the amount of royalties paid to to the authors, which will give you some sense of the amount of money that trickled back to the original investors and producers.

“Everything today is Thoroughly . . . ”

I was the Company Manager of Millie on Broadway, and while I was watching the show come together, I don’t think I ever thought about the life that Millie would lead years after the Broadway show had closed.

But you can bet Millie’s bob that I think about it now on every show that I produce or invest in.  The after-life of a show is an essential part of evaluating the risk, and it can be the deciding factor in whether I get involved or not.

I’d bet that if you asked a Writer or Producer of a new show what their fantasy was they’d say, “My dream come true would be seeing my show on a Broadway stage.”

Ironically, the dream of a financial success might just be seeing the same show on a high school stage.

Oh, and if you missed The Jimmys this year, don’t worry.  You’ll be seeing these kids again very soon, I’m sure of it.

 

(Got a comment?  I love ’em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)

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FUN STUFF

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10 Questions for a Broadway Pro. Volume 3: A Tony Award-Winning Designer

David Gallo is one of the hippest guys around, and he’s one of the most in-demand designers in town, thanks to his terrific work on a ton of shows, from Drowsy Chaperone (Tony, Tony, Tony) to Xanadu to Memphis to Thoroughly Modern Millie (where I first worked with him).

In addition to his theatrical work in town, David does a lot of stuff all over the country and all over the world, proving that great theater doesn’t have anything to do with a street address . . . it’s about the people involved.

Enjoy these 10 Questions with David Gallo!

 

1. What is your title?

Designer

2. What show/shows are you currently working on?

Right now I am in Vienna doing a new company of the show Ich war noch niemals in New York.  It is a large-scale musical based on the work of the renowned pop star Udo Jurgens.  The show originally opened to acclaim in Hamburg and the producers have decided to extend that success to the rest of the continent.

I am also thrilled to be working on some new plays such as Stickfly by the remarkable young playwright Lydia Diamond.  We produced it at the Arena Stage in DC and the next venue will be at the Huntington Theater in Boston.  It was a great return to work with my old friend Kenny Leon as director.

Added to that I recently spent time with my favorite regional theater: the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park where I was thrilled to be a part of the theatrical debut of the bestselling author Walter Mosley.  His play The Fall of Heaven is something special and the work of director Marion McClinton is worth noting as well.

3. In one sentence, describe your job.

Claw your way into the mind of the playwright and director and give them what they desire (whether they like it or not).

4. What skills are necessary for a person in your position?

Be available to all sources.  Know inspiration is everywhere  What works…works.

5. What kind of training did you go through to get to your position?

Years of working on Theatre Row.  The theaters on West 42nd Street were my finishing school.  I was pleased to spend time working for many of the companies that produced there.

6. What was your first job in theater?

I made masks for a production of Pippin.  That was a great start.

7. Why do you think theater is important?

It just is…and it will always be.

Theater is the most basic form of human interaction.  We desire to see ourselves.  On stage and in the living moment.

8. What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?

Keeping things real.  Lots of media have been elbowing itself into the basic nature of true design but who can argue that what is seen before the audience is what really matters.

9. If you could change just one thing about the industry with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be?

I wish we had more time.

10. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do what you do?

Read, watch, learn, experience.  Ask others that have gone before you.  The future is yours.  Don’t concern yourself with pointless issues.
For more on David, including a look at some of his stuff, visit his website at www.DavidGallo.com.

A star above the title . . . but not how you think.

Last week, in one of the biggest surprise announcements of the year, Elton John and partner David Furnish announced that they were joining the Broadway producing team of Next Fall.

Before this announcement, many of us on the inside were wondering just how Next Fall, which lacks the marquee wattage of a Scarlett or a Denzel, would stand out in the year’s busy Spring season.

Nabbing one of the biggest names in the entertainment industry is one way, that’s for sure.

Celebrity producers have been around before, but ever since Oprah put her name above the title on The Color Purple (which put a lot of butts in the seats), putting the right producer on the right project has become a more sought-after way of gaining attention for our shows.

This fall, Fela! did it with Jay-Z and Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith (who have received a little critical drubbing for not stumping for the show like some of their counterparts).  Yet it still got a lot more attention for that show than it could have gotten on its own.

Whoopi Goldberg, who was a producer on Thoroughly Modern Millie, is also a Producer on the London and Broadway Bound Sister Act, which couldn’t make more sense.

Are these celebs investing actual dollars in the show?  Or are they investing the value of their names and their appearance at parties?  Only the show insiders know for sure, but I’d bet it’s a little of both, depending on the project.

And whatever the case, as long as it’s helping attract positive attention for your show and helping you break through the cluttered environment we work in, it’s a win for all parties involved.

So when you’re selling off places above your title, think about other names that might make sense for you and get you in a news cycle.

And it doesn’t have to be the name of a person.

It was no secret that I was interested in moving the magnificent Our Town from Off-Broadway to Broadway last Fall.  One of my ideas was to get a bunch of small New England towns to go above the title.  Imagine . . . Sturbridge, Massachusetts, Brunswick, Maine and Stowe, Vermont present Our Town.  We would have had whole towns behind us!

Got a musical about Ice Cream?  You and Ben and Jerry present . . .

Got a play about Golf?  You and Tiger Woods present . . .

Wait.  Scratch that.  Never mind.

There are more and more places on your production that you can turn into a marketing initiative than you can imagine.  Sometimes they’re just not out in the open.

The great Producers never stop looking for them.

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Favorite Quotes Volume XVII: The buck stops. Period.

There are a number of great quotes in this Variety article about how Broadway Producers will go about building productions both physically and creatively during the economic mudslide we’re in, but my favorite is from Legally Blonde and Catch Me If You Can Producer Hal Luftig.

Hal also produced Thoroughly Modern Millie (which I company managed), and with his partners, staged one heck of a comeback to win the Tony Award for Best Musical, despite a poor NY Times review that had us all worried that the toe-tapper wouldn’t last the summer.
When discussing how he was keeping a tighter rein on the economics from day one, Hal had this to say to possible critics of his current policies:

“Inexpensive doesn’t mean cheap.”

Hal is right.

It’s easy to be cheap.  And it’s lazy to be lavish.
But finding a way of doing something of the same value for a lesser price is an art.  And in this climate, it’s a necessity.

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