Monday, December 8, 2008

Seven Reasons to Believe in Broadway Now

7. When fire clears the forest floor, death leads to rebirth and life. In the long run, the destruction can help the forest. Yes, these shows closing is tragic on some levels, but only when the old voices have gone away can new ones enter.

It’s sad to see Hairspray, Spamalot, Spring Awakening, et al go, but let’s get ready to fall in love with some new shows.

6. Even during the Great Depression, Broadway flourished. My great uncle, who has the typical post-traumatic stress disorder related to the Great Depression—he is exceptionally frugal to the point of using napkins many times before throwing them away—gave my family comfort when he said things were entirely different back then because nobody had anything to begin with.

So, the audience may change, the subject matter of the shows may change, but it will survive. If Broadway survived then, it can survive this, a time when we, as a nation, are better equipped to survive.

5. The core of Broadway is great shows with great performances. Everything else is excess. Shows can be created for limited means and still turn a profit, even if things get really tough.

Once, in a college production of Little Women, there were some concerns related to the set. My director said, “It won’t matter if we have a set. People are coming for the story, not the set.” Yes, we all love a Broadway show with great showmanship, but it’s better to have a modest set than a dark theatre.

That’s why I’m shocked the Godspell revival never made it to Broadway. An inexpensive show with a name attached and the music of Stephen Schwartz, that’s a no-brainer.

Some investor should’ve had a V8.

4. Necessity is the mother of invention. If you’re scrambling to get a larger market share of a smaller market, you get scrappy. I have a feeling the more creative of producers out there will learn new marketing and producing tricks that will inform the industry for years to come.

3. We still have Wicked. As long as Wicked runs, there will be an audience for Broadway. Just today I talked with a high school student who saw Wicked and realized she wanted to sing on Broadway or in opera. Wicked and Legally Blonde on MTV have probably done more to get people hooked on Broadway than anything else. As long as Wicked is running, new audiences will be nurtured.

2. Broadway has always been risky. But for every floundering show, there’s a Wicked, In the Heights, Rent, The Drowsy Chaperone, or The Color Purple. Even if the economy gets worse, shows that get poor reviews and fail to grab the audience’s imagination will lose money, and the shows that tantalize and get great word of mouth will make money.

I’m not a mathematician, but it sounds like your chances of investing in a dud are about the same in any economy. And let’s be honest, you can’t take it with you anyway.

1. When the economy recovers—and it will—only the shows that are running will get the benefit of consumer confidence. I’ve always read that the smart people are the ones who make money when everyone else is losing and afraid to buy. Buy low, sell high. Getting a great show up now means that when people are back into treating themselves to a Broadway show, the shows that are still open and running will be ready for the influx of butts in seats.

If you’re waiting to produce or invest until after the economy has recovered, you’ve waited too long. You’ll have missed the upswing, and instead of riding the wave, you’ll be running to catch up.

The time to start producing or investing in a show, starting a project that will take three years to get up and on the boards, is not after the economy has recovered. There will be less competition in the spring, and that sounds like a good time to be in the running for the Tony to me.

the Broadway Mouth
December 9, 2009

1 comment:

diannaduffy said...

Thank you for this entry. I completely agree with everything you have just put into words for me. I am a Musical Theatre and Public Relations double major at the University of Alabama, and I am working on an article for an student-run online publication on this exact topic. Broadway is an American icon that will not go down without a fight. I spent seven weeks in the city last summer taking classes at Circle in the Square, and seeing the lines outside of shows like Wicked and Mamma Mia everyday is proof enough to me that the show must, and will, go on.