In defense of all the names above our titles.
I thought we were done with these jokes.
But just the other day I heard an industry pro . . . a writer, mind you . . . make a “How many names above-the-title does it take to produce a Broadway show?” type crack.
And look, I get it. There are some shows that have a small army of names up there. And that’s a lot different from the early days of Broadway where one Merrick-like name sat on top of a title like a crown.
Why did this all come about?
The answer is as simple as who is going to win the Tony Award for Best Musical this year. Ticket prices have gotten a lot more expensive since the days of Merrick. And so have Broadway shows.
More expense means more risk. More risk means Broadway Producers have had to add value for larger investors to get them to write bigger checks. That value has come in the form of a title, which means Tony Award eligibility, and so on.
The “show heard ’round the world” that had everyone talking about this topic (and crackin’ one-liners) was actually the original Spring Awakening. Because of the subject matter, the unique nature of the show itself, and that scene where sex between teenagers was actually simulated on stage (nudity included), Spring Awakening was a risky, risky endeavor. So the Producers gave some titles away to make sure that show actually saw a Broadway stage.
Now let me ask you . . . wasn’t it worth having a few more names on the Playbill to ensure that Spring Awakening was born? Would that jokester I referenced at the top of this blog rather that the show didn’t happen altogether?
We shouldn’t be making jokes about those folks who are taking such great risk to make sure great art gets done. We should be thanking them, praising them, and doing whatever we can to make sure they continue to invest in and support what we do. There are other industries and art forms that would be happy to welcome those folks to their worlds who are a lot more embracing than we are.
So let me take this opportunity to say thank you to all of the folks that have been above my titles . . . and to all the folks who have been above the titles of any Broadway show. Thank you.
And if you’re producing a show, I don’t care how many names you have above your title (and if you’re producing a Broadway show, sometimes it can actually help to have more names – if more of them are Tony Voters!) . . . but I do care about one thing in regards to those names.
Which I’ll talk about tomorrow.
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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.