Does “revue” also mean “recoup”?

I was having a toe-tappin’ good time at the super-well-reviewed After Midnight earlier this week, when I realized I was watching one of those unique Broadway experiences that featured incredible music, incredible dancing, and incredible absolutely amazing performers . . . but no story.

They call it a “revue.”  I’m not sure that’s the exact right moniker, because I think there’s more to them than that.

I call ’em “revue-sicals.”

For some reason, it feels to me that we’re getting a few more of these revue-sicals on Broadway these days.  Perhaps the lack of story and the familiar material makes them seem easier to create, and easier to produce.

But are they easier to recoup?

I went to the IBDB archives to dig up stats on the numbers of revues on Broadway in the last 20 years, and came up with a total of 15 for-profit revue-sicals (not as many as I thought).

Now, here’s where it gets interesting.

Of those 15, only 3 . . . 3 . . . ran longer than 125 performances.

And of those 3, I think only 1, maybe, recouped.  (That one would be Smokey Joe’s Cafe – which is the longest running revue in Broadway history at over 2,000 performances . . . but interestingly enough, I can’t find a recoupment announcement . . . although I’m sure it eventually did as a result of subsidiary productions.  Can anyone out there confirm/deny?)

So that would be a recoupment rate of 1 out of 15 in the last 20 years, as opposed to the industry average of 1 out of 5 shows recouping.  And, a whopping 80% (the 12 out of 15) no only failed . . . but failed fast, and closed after less than 125 performances.

Ok, well, I just learned something, you?

I should never produce a revue-sical on Broadway.  And you shouldn’t either, right?


Just because the odds are longer, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.  As I talk about in my Broadway Investing seminar, there are no black and whites in the art of Broadway producing, investing in Broadway or investing in anything.  If so, Rent, Spring Awakening, August Osage County, Les Miz, and the likes probably would never have been produced.

However, understanding the level of risk on a project before you get involved is essential, and before you ask other people to invest in that project.  You have to set your own and your investors expectations, so as not to disappoint later.  (And, if you do decide to produce a revue-sical, you can use the numbers above for your negotiations with creatives, vendors, etc. on why your rates might need to be lower than usual – because the risk is greater.)

Revues are challenging, and I gave a standing ovation at the end of After Midnight not only for the performance I witnessed, but also for the Producers for taking that risk of producing it in the first place.  Because it deserved to be done.

Here’s hoping they are the second revue-sical to recoup in the past twenty years.


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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.