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Archive for the ‘Broadway’ Category

Digital Image by Sean Locke Digital Planet Design www.digitalplanetdesign.com

Hey there, Road 101 fans! I’m back here in the blogosphere after a super busy several months during which I was completely immersed in a time-sensitive musical theatre commission, as well as deeply involved in our hectic, and, often-times dramatic New York City 2013 primary elections! For those of you who do not live in NYC, we’re in the midst of a significant change-over here, from the Mayor on down.

In addition to the work I do at BAA, I am also a member of a 501 (c)6 here in NYC called The League of Independent Theater and this election year has been crucial towards achieving our goal of helping to get candidates elected who are pro-performing arts, and who pledge to do everything in their power to help our economically and culturally vital, but ever-struggling independent theater scene throughout New York City’s five boroughs.

Being engaged in the local elections was an amazing and educational experience. Quite a few of the candidates who we endorsed won their primary races (which in the preponderance of NYC races is tantamount to being elected), and so we are excited about this being a real beginning towards sustainability, and making sure that the performing arts don’t get short shrift. I encourage everyone out there, wherever you live, to get involved during an election year. It could make all the difference to the future of the arts in your community!

LIT based its endorsements on a candidate’s willingness to commit to our 8-plank performing arts platform; if not the whole platform, then as many planks as possible. The most challenging of our planks, but one we feel is absolutely vital, asks our lawmakers to: “Implement a proposal that would reduce or eliminate property tax assessments for those non-profit organizations that have an artistic mission and/or rent performance space to similar non-profit performing arts groups with artistic missions of their own.”

Okay. Ho-hum, Whatever. What does any of this have to do with commercial theatre touring, you ask? Well, the independent theater sector in NYC is not the only sector looking for a little bit of a tax break. The Broadway League, and other stakeholders in the theatre presenting world, are currently in the midst of their own tax-credit initiative proposal that they are seeking from Albany that would incentivize touring productions and pre-Broadway productions to do their tech and initial productions in New York State. Tours have continually shown that they invigorate local economies, so it makes sense for New York State to find ways to get more productions to come and launch their tours here. Whether it was as a result of these efforts, or perhaps they saw the light on their own, Albany lawmakers via the New York State Senate’s Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Committee, chaired by Sen. Betty Little, (a committee that thankfully also includes my fabulous, pro-arts State Senator, Brad Hoylman) will be considering a kind of tax credit for these sorts of productions during the 2014 legislative session. Here are two articles on the topic:

‘On with the show, with tax credits’

‘Proctors CEO: Boost local economies with tax credits for touring Broadway shows

As you already know because you are someone who is “in the know,” or because you read my previous posts on the topic, Louisiana and Illinois have already implemented a tax-credit for touring productions, and Massachusetts may potentially be next. Or, maybe, my home state will beat Massachusetts to the punch. 🙂

But the point I want to leave you with is that theatre touring, and performing arts in general, is ultimately a business, whether it be commercial or non-profit, that benefits the economy, and every once in a while, it’s important that those of us who participate in the performing arts, whether as a booker, a presenter, a producer, an actor, a stage manager, a director a designer, etc., get a bit more pro-active on the political front, so our elected representatives remember that they need us, and that we’re not just all song and dance.

Don’t forget to vote November 5th!!!

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Tony Award-winning Best Actor in a Musical, Billy Porter as Lola in the Tony Award-winning Best Musical,  KINKY BOOTS

Tony Award-winning Best Actor in a Musical, Billy Porter as Lola in the Tony Award-winning Best Musical, KINKY BOOTS

With the Tony Awards behind us, talk has started about what shows will tour in 2014-2015. My personal opinion has been that, while receiving a Tony Award is wonderful, it doesn’t have a major effect on whether a tour will succeed.

Here’s a post from a few years ago where I talk about Tony Awards and tours.

The Columbus Dispatch, per this article from a few days ago, also has some opinions.

What about you? What’s your opinion?

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tony award trophy

At the end of this post is a link to a recent New York Times article giving a bit of a Tony Awards wrap up. Despite not winning Best Musical, MATILDA THE MUSICAL was already doing well at the box office and has a solid advance. However, the challenge now is trying to decide whether or not to go on tour in the 2014-2015 season. Seems like a no-brainier given the show’s popularity, but the producer, Michael David, while expecting the show to go on tour, realizes the challenges of building a touring version that retains what makes the show so dynamic and special, while at the same time is practical enough from a costs standpoint, as well as creating a version that will fit technically and aesthetically into all the different theaters it would tour in around North America.

Tony Win Gives Box Office Boost to ‘Kinky Boots’

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I’m writing this post from my mobile phone. I’ve never done this before, so apologies in advance for any typos or weird formatting!

Day 2 of the Spring Road Conference has been a full day of diverse panels and creative conversations that began at 8am. Below is a small sampling of just a few of today’s discussions…

EVOLUTION OF THE ROAD

In this panel, a group of presenters, producers and booking agents discussed general observations, as well as some of the economic challenges involved in commercial theatre touring from their varying perspectives. Here is an overview…

– In the course of laying out a tour presenters and producers feel there is room to improve with regard to balancing the strength of sub load-ins from one market to another. In other words, perhaps adjusting the deal for a show from market to market in relation to the size of the sub load-in is worth considering, as a larger sub load-in involves less risk compared to a sub load-in that is not as robust.

– Bookings are happening further and further in advance, allowing for more lead time.

– The success of family titles was seen as varying from city to city from one presenter’s standpoint. Certain cities will have more family programming over another and the popularity of family programming is not necessarily uniform across markets.

– The question of whether there is too much product out there was brought up, and how that might be affecting the success of an engagement, as well as the number of weeks competing tours are able to get as a result.

– Revenue Management: Dynamic Pricing, also called Demand Pricing, is becoming an increasingly popular and effective tool for presenters and producers to maximize revenue and the panel concurred that demand pricing has even much more potential. Demand pricing, when implemented effectively, in addition to increasing gross revenue also helps to offset show and venue related expenses that continue to increase year after year.

– On a universally positive note, the panel agreed that Broadway is becoming more mainstream. Songs are getting out there due in large part to the recent theatre reality shows, as well as TV shows (such as “Glee”) that have helped to educate a larger population about musical theatre.

– The panelists agreed it was wise to think more about seeing how to effectively harness the digital activity that goes on during Broadway runs and apply this momentum to touring shows. The first time theatre ticket buyers hear about a tour coming to their town should not be when they are being sold a ticket.

“HAVE SAFE TIX!”

This panel discussed the ongoing problems presenters have with ticket scalping websites that make themselves appear as though they are associated with the presenters and their theaters. Many presenters are trying to get state and federal legislation passed to combat these companies, as many patrons are buying their tickets from these sites thinking they are buying tickets from the actual theatre organization. These sites overcharge and also don’t provide customer support when something goes wrong. The theater then ends up holding the bag and dealing with angry, confused patrons who thought they bought their tickets from the theater. It seems presenters are fighting an uphill battle against the savvy scalpers, but they are indeed fighting hard, and have been finding better ways to educate their audiences about these sites.

CREATIVE CONVERSATION

We were super fortunate to have the leads of KINKY BOOTS along with Harvey Fierstein, Jerry Mitchell and Cyndi Lauper as a creative conversation. These conversations are fun, informal panels about the creative process and other behind the scene tidbits. This group had a wonderful chemistry, which is also apparent when you see the show!

* * * *

The most significant takeaway for me from this year’s conference is how much more digital the commercial theatre industry has become since I first started attending this conference six or seven years ago. Producers, presenters, and their teams are clearly beginning to embrace digital media and strategies to strengthen their marketing and ticket sales. Even the conference schedule was accessible via an app!

It’s both exciting (and a relief!) to see that the commercial theatre industry is starting to implement technology more assertively, and in creative ways. Using digital marketing and social media enables audience members to interact with the brand in a more direct and constant way, and also extends a sense of the live experience. This, combined with effectively reaching ticket buyers through all the various electronic devices we have now, and will continue to have, will help sustain the industry and make theatre remain a prominent entertainment choice for years to come.

20130516-165004.jpg

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Today was the first full day of the 2013 Spring Road Conference. I am a big fan of this annual conference, as it provides the chance to meet up face to face with Broadway Across America colleagues and BAA partners from all over North America who I usually only get to interface with on a virtual basis, as well as reconnect with others in the industry, and meet new people as well. This conference is also a time for all of us to check in regarding where the industry stands, how far things have come, and how far we still need to go.

Artist: Ken Fallin

Artist: Ken Fallin

Today’s first panel, for instance, covered the continued lack of diversity of theatre audiences. Panelists from different touring markets and different areas of the commercial theatre industry introduced some exciting programs they are currently instituting to try and address this issue.

Sue Frost, Producer at Junkyard Dog Productions and member of The Broadway League’s Education and Community Engagement Committee presented a moving video about The Broadway League’s exciting, new internship program for high school students that introduces the participants to the many different jobs in the theatre industry, and Megan Riegel, President and CEO of The Peace Center for the Performing Arts showed footage of a program called Peace Voices, an outreach initiative that encourages both youths and adults from different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds to write poems on particular themes and perform them publicly for their family, friends, teachers, and peers. While not directly Broadway-related, Peace Voices is an empowering experience that encourages both youths and adults to believe in themselves, connect with who they are, and express themselves freely in a performance setting.

These presentations were moving and inspiring, and hopefully these and other initiatives will connect with people who are unfamiliar with theatre and Broadway to make them feel welcome and turn them into regular theater-goers, as well as expose them to a whole new world of career options.

Looking forward to bringing you another update in the next day or so!

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I’ve discussed live theatre tax credits on this blog on a number of occasions. Recently, I specifically posted about Boston becoming a city where this credit may go into effect if a recently introduced bill is passed into law. You can check that post out here. The theatre tax credit bill, according to The Boston Globe, was filed on January 17, 2013.

I have also posted about New Orleans, which already has a theatre tax credit in place, and which is referred to in relation to the proposed bill in Massachusetts.  You can check out my post about the theatre tax credit in New Orleans here.

My colleague, Rich Jaffe, President of Broadway in Boston, discusses the potential that this tax credit has to grow the economy in Boston, as part of this informative coverage on the topic:

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big fish

It’s generally expected that most shows will play Broadway first, and THEN go out on a national tour. However, it seems lately that it’s becoming a bit more common that this is happening the other way around, with a show having a pre-Broadway tour first, followed by a Broadway run, which was a more typical scenario many decades ago.

FLASHDANCE, for example, currently on the road, has a target Broadway opening of August 2013 according to the Theatrical Index.

Why the change?

A pre-Broadway tour potentially makes sense. There is a good chance that a show with a well-known title will sell well and create buzz, and creative teams will also have more of a chance to work on the show, and get it more ready for Broadway. Also, a set is pretty much built and ready to be loaded into a Broadway house. And the city of Chicago is now especially a big draw to Broadway producers to get a show on its feet pre-Broadway because of the tax breaks being offered to pre-Broadway tryouts in the state of Illinois. A couple of posts where I bring up tax breaks for pre-Broadway runs in other states can be found here and here.

Possible issues, though, with a show starting out as a tour before coming to Broadway is that a touring show often has a different feel than a Broadway show. It’s an intangible thing, but there is a certain quality that is needed on Broadway for a show to succeed. NYC area theater-goers are not accustomed to seeing tours, so if a production seems a little cheaper or less seasoned, it will be evident.

Below is a link to a recent article in the Chicago Daily Herald that brings up both the pre-Broadway and post-Broadway tour scenarios. It also touches on several other topics that producers and presenters are constantly weighing, such as Equity vs. non-Equity tours, and tours with stars versus tours without stars.

‘Jekyll and Hyde’ helps bring back extensive pre-Broadway tours

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The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess

The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess

Not specifically about touring, but not a huge leap…Boston is considering legislation that would establish a tax-credit for pre-Broadway shows. This bill is just another example that proves how theatre clearly remains culturally relevant and popular in the U.S., and is also desirable as far as boosting local economies. Theatre productions put people to work, as well as bring patrons to nearby businesses such as restaurants, parking garages, and shopping. So in a macro, long-term sense, Boston will likely earn this tax credit back, and more.

In addition, while Boston is indeed a prominent cultural city and, therefore, a desirable market for commercial theatre productions, it tends to be an expensive place to produce or present, so a tax credit seems like it would definitely lure pre-Broadway shows that might consider other cities that already have similar tax credits in place, such as Illionis.

Here is an article regarding the pending tax credit legislation in Boston:

‘Legislation seeks to lure Broadway shows to Hub’

And here’s some recent coverage about the upcoming pre-Broadway run of TUCK EVERLASTING in Boston

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The cast and crew of the National Tour of ‘Anything Goes’ get some quality time with a Broadway great before hitting The Road for the 2012-2013 touring season…

Before ‘Anything Goes’ hits road, a history lesson

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China continues to love Western-style musical theatre. I talked a bit about this phenomenon in this post, this post and this post.

Here is a recent article about how the Great White Way continues to flourish in the land of the Great White Wall:

ECONOMIC OBSERVER

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