The Beatles: the best cover band ever.

The Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan show is one of the greatest moments on television, and one of the greatest moments in the history of popular music.

If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and watch the video below.  It’s thrilling.

The first song they do is “All My Loving”.

The second song they do for this monumental moment?

“Til There Was You” from The Music Man.

Oh how things have changed.

Wouldn’t it be cool if The Jonas Brothers covered “Mamma Who Bore Me” on The Tonight Show?  Or if 50 Cent covered a song from Curtains on SNL?

That doesn’t happen anymore.  In fact, what’s ironic is that pop music used to look to us for material.

And now, with the advent of the jukebox musical, we look to pop music for material.

Come on, pop singers, watch below and see how cool the Beatles look while singing Meredith Wilson.  If they can do it at the beginning of their careers in this country, surely you can too.

Paper got them in the paper.

Earlier this week, The Women’s Project announced they would give away 1000 free tickets to their latest play via “download” as their way of “thrusting the medieval enterprise of theatre into the Internet age.”

I’m not sure of all of that, but it sure sounds good in a press release, doesn’t it?  And, that press release went far and wide, including a juicy mention in the Times and on blogs all over the web (present company included).

The WP did one of my favorite things.  They took a problem and turned it into a positive.

Obviously, the show wasn’t selling.

Obviously, they wanted to put butts in the seats to generate word of mouth.

Obviously, they would have comped the 1000 seats anyway (which would have taken a lot of work).

But they got creative, and with this aggressive move, they accomplished the above goals, and got the press to take notice of a new Off-Broadway play.

Also, if you look at their free ticket sign-up site, you’ll notice that they are surveying and collecting snail mail and email addresses (I’d bet money that when they run out of tickets for this promotion, there will be a very nice email blast with a discount offer sent to the people who didn’t get in on time).

Congratulations to The Women’s Project for their courage.  It paid off.

They papered without papering, and got press that was worth a whole lot more than a paid ad.

More stats on who and what are winning Tonys.

In yesterday’s post we only looked at revivals.  Let’s look at new shows today.

In the last 20 years, there has only been 1 New Musical Tony Winner produced by a non-profit (and that new musical was Contact, which featured popular music on tape and no singing).

In the last 20 years, there has only been 3 New Play Tony Winners produced by non-profits.

Obviously you can see what business the Broadway non-profits are in
in this city:  revivals, which are generally regarded as safer
choices.

Seems odd, doesn’t it?  I know the mission statement for
each theater is different, but you would think that non-profits would
be the ones taking bigger risks, wouldn’t you?

And people crack on commercial producers all the time for not taking enough risks
with new material.
We do it more often and better on Broadway than anyone else.

Off-Broadway however?  Give props where it is due.  The only new plays are done by non-profits.

The war of the revivals. Who has the advantage?

The biz is buzzing about the battle of the two major heavyweight revivals this year.  Who will take home the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical?  Will it be the mother of all mother-daughter stories, Gypsy?  Or was the wait worth it for R&H and South Pacific?

And, more importantly, does Pacific have an advantage over Gypsy because it was produced by a Non-Profit?

I decided to look at some numbers to see who was taking home the most trophies on Tony night, NPs or commercial producers.

We start our research in 1994, because that was the first year there was a delineation between revivals of musicals and plays.  It used to be one big category.

Since then, 5 of the 14 awards given out for Best Revival of a Musical were produced by non-profits or 36%.

Best revival of a play?  7 of the 14 winners were producer by non-profits or 50%.

Sorry my pundit friends, no clear cut favorite here based on these numbers.

Still, does Pacific have an advantage because it could afford to employ more musicians, employ more actors, previewed as long as a new musical would preview, etc. because they weren’t relying on ticket sales to fund the production?

Yes, they have an advantage.

But they only have it because they wanted it.  And the commercial producer could have taken the same risks, if they could convince their investors it was worth it.

I’ve seen NPs underproduce shows and look cheap, and I’ve seen
commercial producers overproduce and have almost no regard for the
bottom line (Show Boat, anyone?).

Either way, it’s a choice the producer has to make, no matter who is paying the bills.  And whoever have the most guts usually wins.

In this case?  It’s South Pacific.  The scarity rule plays here.  By
keeping SP off the boards for so long, they’ve created something
super-special that yet another production of Gypsy can’t beat.

Could universal health care revolutionize the theater?

As I listened to Barack and Hillary talk about UHC a few weeks ago, I selfishly started to wonder what universal health care would do for the Broadway and Off-Broadway industry.

One of the biggest expense issues we face on and Off-Broadway is not union mandated minimums.  It’s union mandated benefits.

Even after some fancy maneuvering in the last AEA negotiation, producers are still required to pay $153 per actor for the AEA Health Plan.  That’s $612/month or $7956/year.  That kind of cash would buy a few health plans on the individual market.

Imagine 30 actors . . . that’s $238,680 a year.

And that’s only one union.  Add stagehands, musicians, company managers, press agents, ushers, etc., etc. and you’re easily up to $500,000 a year, or 5% of the capitalization of a $10 million dollar musical.

What happens to that cash if everyone is covered by some sort of UHC?  Would the unions allow us to put our employees on a National Plan and save money?

From what I have read, both Barack and Hillary’s plans provide everything that I have heard union reps say is necessary, including the most important element, portability (the ability to take your insurance from job to job, since the length of a run of a show is so unknown).

So will all that money go back into the shows?  Or will the unions see that as a “giveback” and ask that it be paid directly to the employee or put in the pension funds?  Oooooh, the drama is building already!

If a Democrat gets into the big house, and actually passes his/her plan, all hell-th care is going to break loose, and we could witness one of the most radical economic reforms in our industry to date.

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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