Archive for the ‘Tony Awards’ Category

Two options with blank road signs

Greetings after a bit of a hiatus, and welcome to the 2014-2015 touring season!

Actually, the season pretty much started back in September, so we’re in the thick of it now!

But how did we get to this point? Hundreds of touring engagements will make their way across North America this season, as they do every season. What are the basic mechanics of the business that make that happen year after year? What’s the timeline?

Well, aren’t you glad you found The Road 101, because it is here where you’ll find out how that wholllle process works! A process that is a long, complex, ongoing cycle. There are many places I could begin, but for this post, I am going to begin discussing this cycle with the Tony Awards Nominations as a starting point, which typically take place at the end of April.

There are many types of shows that are out on The Road in a season and it is often a foregone conclusion that many of these will be back out there — the blockbuster, the second and third year tour, the non-Equity tour, the special attraction, and the smaller Off Broadway type show that has built its brand over many years, are just some examples.

Then, there are the new shows coming from Broadway in the current season. So, in this case, we’re talking the 2014-2015 Broadway season. These shows are the touring question marks. Which ones will make it out on The Road in 2016-2017? That’s right. Wrap your head around that for a second so you can follow along. The shows running on Broadway in 2014-2015 are being considered for touring in 2016-2017.

The Broadway 2014-2015 season is still evolving as I write this post, and booking agents (some already representing some of these shows) and presenters are watching closely which Broadway shows will make it through the season and rise to the top. When the Tony nominations come out in April 2015, that is a moment when certain shows could get a key boost, especially those shows nominated for Best Musical. Though agents and presenters are seeing shows throughout the entire season, it is typically during Tony Awards season when many in the industry check out Broadway to see which are most likely to end up being viable touring properties. A lot of this theatre-going happens during the annual Spring Road Conference, which typically takes place between the Tony nominations and the Tony Awards. Now, winning a Tony Award this season does not necessarily guarantee that a show will go out on tour for the 2016-2017 season. There are many factors that a producer and a general manager need to take into consideration before deciding if their show is viable enough for a tour:

  1. Did the show make it through Tony season in good shape both from an awards standpoint and a box office standpoint?
  2. Did the show make a good impression on enough presenters?
  3. Can the show offer a deal that presenters can work with?

Okay, so, the 2015 Tony Awards have happened and we are now in summer 2015. The blockbusters, second year tours and non-Equity tours are largely routed and slotted in for the 2016-2017 touring season. The booking agents are also more clear at this point regarding which of the new 2014-2015 Broadway shows they represent will likely make it out on The Road in 2016-2017, and which will fall by the wayside. The final part of the 2016-2017 touring season programming process is now in full swing as booking agents and presenters work through final deals and tour routing. Again, these interactions happen throughout the year, but it is during the summer and into the early fall where all programming MUST be finalized.

Why must programming be finalized by fall 2015? Because it is at this point that presenters need to then begin figuring out how they want these shows to be priced. It is important to be thoughtful about all the details that go into pricing and to consider all data and history available to maximize profit. If an engagement is not priced and discounted correctly at the outset, there is the chance that the engagement could lose money, or, conversely, it may make money, but if it was underpriced and over-discounted at the outset there is a chance of “leaving money on the table,” meaning even more money could have been made. The opportunity to maximize profit is then further exploited via dynamic pricing.

So, once the presenter decides on the pricing for a show, which includes prices for singles, subscribers and groups, the presenter then sends this pricing to the show’s booking agent for consideration, which oftentimes ends up turning into a back and forth negotiation. Again, multiply this step by many, many engagements that need to go through this detailed process. For a large company like Broadway Across America with numerous markets, the ticket pricing process takes several months to complete. During the pricing process, things move fast and timing is everything, as prices need to be agreed to by the show and the presenter and locked in quickly so the marketing teams can then get to work on creating the brochures, which will include these prices and discounts, and which need to go into the mail to subscribers by certain established deadlines.

The time is now winter of 2015-2016. The 2016-2017 pricing process is beginning to wind down as we move into March. The booking agents and presenters are making any final little programming and deal tweaks to the 2016-2017 season while at the same time are also in the process of booking the 2017-2018 touring season. Meanwhile, as all this is happening, don’t forget, the 2015-2016 engagements are currently out on the road on tour requiring constant management through the end of their tours in May or June, each engagement culminating in its own final bravo – settlement.

And now, it’s Tony Awards season again. Which brings us back to where we started.

Pfew. Did you follow all that? Yeah, I’m still learning to wrap my head around it, too, and I WORK in the business!

In the end, this is just a broad overview of how the booking and pricing cycle works as I have come to understand it. It is likely that others in the industry would have other details to add, but this should give you a pretty good sense of the general timing of it all.

If you have questions, feel free to email me anytime at robin@theroad101.com. If I don’t get back to you immediately, please forgive me. I’m probably swamped in pricing for 2015-2016.


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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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With the 2012 Tony Awards behind us, it is now much clearer which shows will have a tour in the 2013-14 season. Even before it’s numerous Tony wins, ONCE The Musical announced it would be going out on The Road.

I believe ONCE, though, could potentially face some challenges on The Road. The show is based on a film, but it was a small indie film, and because the title lacks the kind of name recognition that a more widely-released movie does, the show is probably going to need some sort of “sellable” name in the cast to give it a bit more of a boost in attracting single ticket buyers. ONCE will be on subscription, but being on subscription alone is no longer a guarantee that an engagement will be profitable. I believe selling single tickets will more than likely be necessary for the engagement to go into decent overage in larger theaters, more or less so depending on how reachable break-even is, what the labor costs are, the rate of the weekly guarantee, and just overall how shrewdly and economically the touring production is built.

And that is what is possibly going to be the biggest challenge – how to successfully build an intimate show for The Road that will sometimes be presented in very large houses. Yes, ONCE is now on Broadway, but the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater only has a capacity of just a little over 1,000, which practically feels like a black box in comparison to some of the gigantic houses on The Road such as in Atlanta, St Louis, Costa Mesa, Portland and Toronto. That said, it is the responsibility of experienced producers to know The Road, and to know how to build all sorts of shows to work in the many different kinds of houses throughout North America. So my concerns about the intimate and delicate ONCE fitting well in large houses could very well end up being completely quashed, which is what I’m certainly hoping for! After all, the show did make an incredibly successful transfer from New York Theatre Workshop to Broadway when many doubted that the scale of the story and overall show itself would translate in a Broadway house. Other shows making Off-Broadway to Broadway transfers have not always had such good luck.

Here is a recent article that touches a bit on ONCE and some concerns about it playing in a larger space, suggesting if the show can be persuaded to do a sit-down at a smaller theater, that this would be the ideal scenario.

I tend to agree, but I’ve been wrong before…more than once.


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On May 1 at 8:30AM EST the 2012 Tony Award nominees were announced. There are a number of exciting races, but with regard to The Road and the 2013-2014 touring season, it will be interesting to see if the charming and romantic ONCE, beloved by many, can beat Disney’s popular, large-scale NEWSIES. Will Road presenters “vote with their heart” for ONCE, as many did back in 2004 with the modest AVENUE Q, which beat out the mammoth WICKED for Best Musical? NEWSIES doesn’t need the Tony accolade as much with the well-established Disney brand behind it. If the lesser-known ONCE does not win for Best Musical, might that affect presenter confidence in the show’s ability to attract subs and singles, who may not be acquainted with the title?

And here are the nominees …

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Check out this informative article from yesterday’s New York Times regarding the Buffalo market and its relationship with Broadway shows where local presenters discuss their thought process when programming their Broadway series at Shea’s Performing Arts Center. A number of other major presenters from around the country also add their two cents …

“Broadway Hits Gold in Buffalo”

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You would think that a show that has garnered a Tony Award, a stellar review in The New York Times, or certainly both would be an easy sell on The Road. The truth of the matter is, though, while these endorsements are wonderful stamps of approval, no doubt about it, they don’t mean as much out on The Road as they do to local New York City area ticket buyers, or to those who come to New York from out of town who seek out shows with these sorts of accolades. Also, by the time a show that was on Broadway begins a national tour, the knock-out reviews and the Tony win are a good year or more in the past, so that initial excitement and momentum are essentially lost.

What seems to be a primary lure to get ticket-buyers on The Road is familiarity. Familiarity with a show’s title, or, if the title isn’t familiar to them, then someone in the show — a “name.”

Year after year you will hear about certain names going out on The Road. Some are known through television and movies, and some mainly just through Broadway. But these days, is being a Broadway name alone enough?

‘Following in past actors’ footsteps, more Broadway stars take to the road’

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Now that the THE BOOK OF MORMON has been anointed with 9 Tony Awards, will that have an effect on more presenters feeling comfortable about booking the potentially offensive show in their markets? Is THE BOOK OF MORMON simply the controversial show of today as RENT once was, which became a show that gained nationwide acceptance, and ultimately enjoyed a solid touring life for quite a number of years?

“Civic Center hopes to land ‘Book of Mormon’

“‘Mormon’ more than Charlotte can stand?”

“Broadway Can be Tame in Tulsa”

“‘Book of Mormon’ could make Smith Center of hot ticket”

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Tony Awards 2009 Final Dress Rehearsal

Tony Awards 2009 Final Dress Rehearsal

One of the perks of working in the theater industry is getting to do some pretty cool stuff sometimes. One of those recent perks for me was attending the final dress rehearsal of the 2009 Tony Awards(TM). You really haven’t lived until you’ve seen Liza singing live in that full throttle Liza way, but instead of being all glitzed out, wearing a track suit and looking like she just rolled out of bed.

I was shocked by the actual presence of Liza, and many other celebrities at the dress rehearsal, including Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, Ann Hathaway, James Gandolfini, and the list goes on, but what surprised me and delighted me nearly as much was when it was announced that several touring shows were going to be featured. I don’t recall this level of attention previously being given to national tours on the Tonys, but I thought it made a whole lot of sense. Broadway is certainly a major goal for many commercial shows, but it is by no means the end of the road, which these Tonys made very clear. Broadway needs people to not only come to New York to see theater, but to be excited by theater to the extent that they will buy subscriptions and single tickets to tours that come to their towns.

In essence, Broadway feeds The Road and The Road feeds Broadway. It’s a complicated, sometimes contentious, but ultimately symbiotic relationship. Theater around the country survives in large part because of the popular titles that make it to the Great White Way, and then go on tour. That said, Broadway producers owe a great deal to The Road for providing the possibility of a profitable life beyond Broadway.

Speaking of profitable life, I was quite surprised that of the dozen or so shows touring right now, it was Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia! and Legally Blonde that were the three productions selected for the high-profile Tony broadcast slots. These are three shows that have pretty solid tours, and so don’t need the exposure as much as other worthy shows currently out the on The Road that are struggling to connect more consistently with regional audiences. Week ending June 7 was evidence of that, with these three tours doing from $650,000 to over $1,200,000 in grosses.

Hopefully, this trend of highlighting national tours on the Tony Awards(TM) will continue, but shows needing more of a ticket sales boost will instead be the chosen ones.

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Cynthia NixonLin-Manuel Miranda

The 2009 Tony Award (TM) Nominations will be announced Tuesday morning by two previous winners, Cynthia Nixon and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Just a random aside — I find it kind of humorously coincidental that the nominations are being announced by two people named “Miranda.” Though, with the origin of the name Miranda meaning “worthy of admiration” it is certainly a fitting association for the theme of the day — recognizing theater artistry worthy of admiration by nominating it for this esteemed award.


There’s only room for one winner though, of course, per category. This includes Best Musical. So what happens to the shows that don’t make it past Best Musical nominee on June 7, 2009? Is being a nominee for Best Musical good enough to launch a successful National Tour, or do only the winners take all? Let’s take a look at some nominated and winning musicals from recent years and see what shakes out…



In 2002 Thoroughly Modern Millie was the winner for Best Musical, and while it enjoyed a healthy tour that ran from 2003-2006, grossing over a total of fifty million dollars, one of the nominees from that year, Mamma Mia, is not only still on The Road enjoying a popular and lucrative tour, according to this recent Variety article, but is still running strong on Broadway with recent great white way grosses hitting over $875,000, and the show at nearly 100% capacity according to Playbill.com 

In 2003 Hairspray won the Best Musical prize. The show only recently ended its Broadway run and is still represented on The Road. That same year, Movin’ Out was one of the nominees, and though it did not win Best Musical and its run on Broadway did not equal the length of Hairspray‘s run, The Movin’ Out tour has still managed to maintain a presence on The Road.

The big year, of course, is 2004, with Avenue Q taking Best Musical over its fellow nominees, one of which was Wicked. Both tours are still out there going strong and both shows are still represented on Broadway, but Wicked, despite not winning the Tony Award (TM) for Best Musical that year, along with receiving mixed reviews, has become a a phenomenon, with road grosses consistently breaking BO records, houses selling out regularly, and multiple tours going at once, along with sit-downs in the U.S and internationally.

2005 brought us Monty Python’s Spamalot, the Best Musical winner of that year. The Spamalot tour began in 2006 and has remained on The Road since, though The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a nominee for Best Musical that year, was also represented on The Road for several years, including a healthy sit-down in Chicago.

In 2006, the blockbuster Jersey Boys took the Best Musical prize and, much like Wicked, seems to be unstoppable both on Broadway and on The Road, as evidenced by consistently hefty grosses. That said, The Color Purple, a Best Musical contender that year, is in its second year on The Road, and beginning to schedule returns.

Spring Awakening came away with the Best Musical Tony Award (TM) in 2007 and has been enjoying a National Tour this year. However, Disney-branded Mary Poppins, which made it to only nominee status that year, hit The Road running in March and is going strong.

2008 brought four less than conventional Broadway offerings into the Best Musical race with Cry Baby, In The Heights, Passing Strange and Xanadu, and of the four it was In The Heights that took the award. Xanadu, however, will also be hitting The Road. It will be interesting to see how the tours of both of these shows fair outside of the Big Apple.



Which brings us to tomorrow when we learn which of this year’s new Broadway musicals will be among the 2009 contenders. Though winning is the ultimate goal of course, we can look at recent history to see that winning may not necessarily be everything. Also, while being a nominee for, or winner of, a Tony clearly supports a show’s chances of touring, there are a host of other factors that contribute to a show getting out and succeeding on The Road. Heck, we haven’t even gotten to the nominations yet and Shrek The Musical has already announced its 2010 National Tour launch! Guess the green guy doesn’t have such a low self-image after all.

For a complete list of Tony nominees and winners from all years since the award’s inception in 1947, check out this link at BroadwayWorld.com.

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