Broadway tax breaks in Illinois. Is NY next?

Here’s a trivia question for you . . .

How many of the musicals debuting in the 2011-12 season kick-started in Chicago?

Answer?  Zippo.

Chicago was once one of our go-to tryout cities, thanks to its smart audiences, local resources, proximity to NYC, etc.  But rising costs (not to mention “lake effect” snow), have kept Producers from the Windy City as of late.  Instead, the trend has been to debut shows in regional theaters in states like Texas, Florida, which have allowed producers to be a little less under the radar, and saved shows millions of dollars.

But you know Chicagoans.  They don’t like anyone treading on their turf.

So, to counteract the migration away from Chi-town, a bill was passed by the Illinois senate on Tuesday that is on its way to the Governor for signature that would give pre-Broadway tryouts a tax credit for sitting down in Chicago first. (You can read about it here.)

And I’ll bet you money that this bill is signed into law faster than Ron Blagojevich tried to sell Obama’s senate seat.

The bill provides both pre-Broadway tryouts and long running shows up to a 20% credit capped at $2mm per year, which could be just the cash that a lot of Producers need in order to justify the high labor and housing costs of the city that has launched shows like Movin’ Out, The Producers and The Addams Family.  (I wonder if Boston will try to get back in the tryout game of old with something similar, since they’ve lost a lot of ground as well in the last decade or so.)

So Illinois gets tax breaks.  Will we ever get them here in the city?

Not likely.  It’s pretty simple.  Broadway is our end goal.  Those politicians know that we’re not going anywhere else, so they don’t have to do too much to get us to keep producing, and keep pumping millions and billions into the local economies.  What choice do we have, right?  There’s no Broadway in Texas, Florida, etc.

Unless . . .

I’ve noticed another alarming trend lately of New York Producers talking more and more about producing in London rather than on US soil. I know of at least five shows that could have debuted here . . . but chose the UK instead, due to the decreased risk.  Five shows.  Huh.  How many jobs would those shows have added?

I’ve got to admit that even I’ve thought about dipping my toes in the London market more frequently, and I’m as Broadway as apple pie.

So take heed, oh politicians . . . there is somewhere else we can go . . . and I’d watch this trend very closely.  Because if it continues, not only will Broadway and the city and state lose bucks, but more importantly, we’ll also lose credibility.

UPDATE:  I wrote this blog 12 hours ago.  This morning I woke up to an announcement that US Director/Choreographer superstar, Jerry Mitchell, just inked a production deal with London based ATG to develop, create and produce for its theaters.

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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.