Industry Pro Newsletter: More Unruly Audiences in London, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Beats Their Emergency Funding Goal

Andrew Lloyd Webber says Broadway is a Vanity Project, and the University of Houston Expands Their MFA

By: Dec. 04, 2023
Industry Pro Newsletter: More Unruly Audiences in London, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Beats Their Emergency Funding Goal


This week, Cara Joy David dives into the eligibility decision surrounding Gutenberg!, and some good news on the regional front - success in one of the emergency fundraising campaigns at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley. Not only were they able to save their season, but exceeded their goal in a way that makes future planning possible and the full staff has been retained. And don’t forget - the BroadwayWorld Regional Awards are open for voting!

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Industry Trends

The New York Times: Navigating Jewish Identity in Theatre: A Personal and Profound Exploration

In a compelling piece, the New York Times explores the intersection of Jewish identity and theatre, delving into the experiences of playwrights, actors, and directors. The article sheds light on the complexities and nuances of navigating Jewish themes in a world sometimes marked by antisemitism, offering a poignant reflection on the role of theatre in addressing cultural and societal challenges.

Solidarity in Comedy: Actors' Equity Backs The Association of International Comedy Educators at Second City Chicago

Actors' Equity Association expresses support for The Association of International Comedy Educators at Second City Chicago. This gesture highlights solidarity within the entertainment industry, emphasizing the importance of collaborative efforts to address concerns and promote positive working environments for artists and educators alike.

Broadway/New York

Industry Trends Weekly: GUTENBERG! Packs Them In, But Tonys Still Veto Producers' Eligibility Request by Cara Joy David

Gutenberg! The Musical! has been one of the few 2023-2024 season bright spots at the box office. I admit, it has outpaced my expectations. A rare musical not based on pre-existing source material—while Johannes Gutenberg was the real-life inventor of the printing press, I think we can all agree the musical is not as pegged to his life as, let’s say, Harmony is to the The Comedian Harmonists—one would think Broadway would want to support it as a new musical, to show those are still produced on the Great White Way. And it will be considered “new” in Broadway League statistics, as it’s never been on Broadway before. I spoke to approximately 100 patrons outside the theater and not one heard about it before this year. But, it’s almost 20 years old, and so the Tony Awards Administration Committee has deemed it should compete in the Best Revival category. I’m hearing that move was against producers’ wishes.

The Administration Committee determines "in its sole discretion" whether a piece is "new" or a "revival” after reviewing a production’s request. Some assumed that Gutenberg! wanted revival, where it has less competition. However, sources tell me the producers wanted new, they just didn’t get it. I’ve written extensively about how random the application of the “classics” rule is. (Click here or here for but two examples.) This season, for example, Here Lies Love, a musical that shares the same director as Gutenberg!, and is over ten years old, will compete as a new musical. You could say: “Well, Gutenberg! is from the aughts!” But, Kite Runner was from the aughts and that was ruled “new” last season despite multiple prior productions. You could say: “Well, Gutenberg! is available for license, whereas Here Lies Love was not.” But, The Thanksgiving Play was one of the most produced plays in America before it hit Broadway, and still it was deemed new. In other words, one factor doesn’t seem to carry the day.

Based on the people I spoke to outside the theater, you wouldn’t think Gutenberg! was in the popular repertoire. While I know people familiar with the show’s history have attended, the 100 I spoke to—some post-weeknight performances, some after a Saturday night show—were unfamiliar with the title pre-2023. So what brought them there? Gutenberg! has been packing them in. In its nine eight-performance weeks, the show has been at over $750,000 every single one, over $900,000 five of those weeks, with two of those topping the $1 million mark. Part of my job is to know in advance what will sell; producers/investors rely on me for that. I would not have predicted these grosses. The number one thing I failed to predict is the appeal of the Josh Gad/Andrew Rannells combo for people who were Book of Mormon fans. Over a quarter of the people I spoke to said they were drawn to the show because of them. I was expecting some fans of each actor’s television and film work, and I got a handful, but nowhere near the amount of people who were drawn to the pair together. (Additionally, a woman I spoke to bought tickets after following Gad’s social media posts about antisemitism, and I ended up hugging her in solidarity.) Others were there primarily for a good time, they wanted an escapist musical; some of these folks had already seen Shucked. There were very few first-time theatergoers among the folks I spoke to. Many that didn’t attend specifically for the guys, were drawn in by the ads, which more than one described as “fun,” but even more heard from friends that the piece was enjoyable. (Of course, as always, there were also those that did not recall what drove the purchase.) Interestingly, less than half of word-of-mouth attendees were familiar with the guest producer concept, so either the folks who recommended the show didn’t care about that part or they purposely left it as a surprise.  

It is always hard to replicate success, but I suspect people will be looking at Gutenberg!, which has a low running cost for a musical, and thinking about what they can learn from its appeal.

"Merrily We Roll Along" and "The Wiz" Selected for J.P. Morgan's 2024 Nextlist

J.P. Morgan's 2024 Nextlist includes "Merrily We Roll Along" and "The Wiz." The prestigious selection is a recognition of their cultural impact, with J.P. Morgan supporting these productions.

Andrew Lloyd Webber: Broadway is Now Almost a Vanity Project

Andrew Lloyd Webber comments on Broadway, expressing concern that it has become almost a "vanity project." He discusses challenges faced by the industry and reflects on its changing landscape.

"Merrily We Roll Along," "Purlie," "Victorious," "Spamalot," "Harmony" to Host Performances Benefiting The Entertainment Community Fund

Productions including "Merrily We Roll Along," "Purlie," "Victorious," "Spamalot," and "Harmony" will host performances to benefit The Entertainment Community Fund, providing support to those in the entertainment industry.

Regional

University of Houston Theatre MFA Program Expands Partnership with Alley Theatre

The University of Houston Theatre MFA Program is expanding its collaboration with Alley Theatre, creating enhanced opportunities for students to engage with a professional regional theatre setting.

San Francisco Chronicle: TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Emergency Fundraiser Succeeds

After announcing an emergency fundraising campaign to raise $3 million to finish their 2023-2024 season in August, TheatreWorks announced last week that not only did they meet their goal, they exceeded it - raising a total of $4 million.

Crain’s Chicago Business: Small Chicago Theater Companies Are on the Upswing

Small theatre companies in Chicago are experiencing a resurgence, finding innovative ways to thrive despite challenges. The article explores the factors contributing to their upswing in the city's cultural landscape.

American Theatre: Hudson Valley Shakes Unveils Ambitious Green Design for Permanent Home

Hudson Valley Shakes reveals plans for an environmentally conscious permanent home. The ambitious green design aligns with the theatre company's commitment to sustainability in the Hudson Valley region.

International

The Stage: Top Theatre Tickets Outside London a Third of the Price of the West End

Theatre tickets outside London are significantly more affordable, with prices averaging one-third of West End ticket costs. The Stage's exclusive report highlights the accessibility and affordability of regional theatre experiences across the UK.

The Stage: Police Called to Fight at Performance of Hamilton at Manchester's Palace Theatre

A disruption at a performance of "Hamilton" in Manchester's Palace Theatre led to police intervention. The incident emphasizes the challenges faced by theatres in maintaining a safe and orderly environment during high-profile productions.

Missed our last few newsletters?

November 27, 2023 - Hal Luftig Company Reorg Plan Approved by Courts, Harry Potter Heads to High School

Happy Opening to everyone who opened a holiday show over the weekend! For those that open this week: break a leg! This week in the newsletter, we’ve got a look at how high schools can win a chance to be the first to produce Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Cara Joy David takes us through the recent ruling in the Hal Luftig Company bankruptcy, and the Wall Street Journal takes a look at how some regional theatres are thriving in a challenging environment.

November 20, 2023 - Con Edison Ends Arts Philanthropy, Voting Now Open for Next on Stage

Happy Thanksgiving Week to our readers in the United States, and Happy Monday to our international readership. As we prepare for the parade (and we’ve got your guide on the Broadway performances below), we also get some good news out of the UK where Panto producers report that ticket sales are trending strongly in the right direction for the holiday tradition.

November 13, 2023 - Fewer Royalties for Broadway Albums, One Year On from NPO Funding Changes

The funding models are changing - we’ve known this for more or less the whole time the industry has been re-emerging from the pandemic, and we’ve seen the struggles of regional theatres large and small as temporary government funding tied to the pandemic came to an end - but how are theatres in England doing one year removed from the largest reshuffle of national arts funding in history? We’ve got that story in the newsletter this week. We also look at the announced closure of Here Lies Love and the shows unusual path to Broadway, while we have a Forbes article looking at yet another change in the business model of Broadway as Spotify changes the formula for distributing royalties to artists.

November 6, 2023 - Banff Centre Board Dismissed, Goodspeed Musicals Crews Join IATSE

More data out last week about the impact of the arts on the economies of the cities and small towns that many regional theatres call home - and the results show that theatre not only contributes to the cultural life of a community, but is contributing significantly to the economic life of many small towns. Additionally, we’ve got stories about the backstage crews at Goodspeed Musicals joining IATSE, and a deeper look at why the full board of the Banff Centre was dismissed earlier this year.

BroadwayWorld Resources

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