An Off-Broadway trend that could be creeping on to Broadway.

The nominations for The Lucille Lortel Awards (for excellence in Off-Broadway theater) were announced a couple of weeks ago, trumpeting the beginning of our trophy season.  I was reading through them again (and you can do that here), and something caught my eye.

There seemed to be a lack of nominees from commercial productions.

So I started counting.  And then I had Katie, one of my awesome DTE interns, double check me.

But the thing is, I didn’t even need the smartie-Katie to count the number of nominees from commercial productions.  I could have gotten a four year old who counted on his hands to do it.  In fact, I could have gotten a four year old who counted on his hands and was missing two fingers to do it.

Because there were only eight.

Out of 67 nominees, only 8 were from commercial productions.

For those who like to divide, that’s 11.94%.

Not a good indication of the number or the status of commercial off-Broadway productions out there, is it?

When I first arrived to NYC, commercial Off-Broadway was cranking, with Forbidden Broadway, Forever Plaid, Nunsense, And The World Goes ‘Round, and a whole host of others doing good business and running for years.   But that’s changed over the last couple of decades.  More non-profits have come up, and more commercial productions have gone away.  My production of Altar Boyz ran a “thank-you-God” 5 years, and when it closed, I remember thinking . . . I don’t know if we’ll see one of these shows again.  And I didn’t say that because I thought the show was so good (although I did think the show was that good), I said it because I had watched the market change so dramatically over that half a decade.

And the above nomination stats make me a little nervous.

Because you see, when a flood hits a city, it’s the villagers lowest to the ground, the poorest folks, that get hit first . . . and in this depressing analogy, that would be Off-Broadway.  But after a while, the waters rise and eventually get to the houses on the hill, which would be Broadway.

My greatest fear is that the economic and other challenges that have almost crushed commercial Off-Broadway will creep up to Broadway over the next twenty years.

I’m going to run some nomination numbers tomorrow for Broadway to see if we notice a similar trend.

So stay tuned.  More stats tomorrow.  Hopefully less depressing.


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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.