My Top 10 Broadway Moments from 2011
It’s that time of year . . . for Champagne Toasts, New Year’s Resolutions and Top 10 Lists! So here’s mine!
The following is a list of my top 10 Broadway Moments from the past drama-filled year (That’s the one constant about our constantly changing biz – great drama is both on and off the stage).
1. The 6th Spider-Man Delay
When Spidey delayed its opening for the 6th time to June 14th, it pushed itself out of the running for the Tony Award or even a nomination. Poor Spider-Man, right? Maybe not. Last Spring was one of the most crowded I’ve ever seen for new musicals, and with all the negative press, I think Spider-Man would have been home crying while watching The Notebook on Tony Night, instead of celebrating at The Beacon Theater. But with the delay, they’ve actually positioned themselves for a better shot at a nom for the show, especially since it has proven to be a box office winner (although it still may take a few decades to recoup). The big question . . . was this smart spider strategy, or just plain luck?
2. The C Word in Song
Whenever someone tells you that you can’t do something, look them straight in the eye and say, “Nothing is impossible. The C word was used in a song on a Broadway stage!” I mean, did we ever think this would happen? And did you ever imagine that a show using the C word 147 times would go on to win Best Musical? Not me. But the Book of Mormon proved us all wrong and stretched Broadway’s boundaries at the same time. It was a F#*$&ing watershed moment.
3. Sondheim gets POed about Porgy.
Do you think Steve had any idea what would come of that letter he wrote to the editor of the NY Times tearing apart the new production of Porgy and Bess for playing with a masterpiece? My insider sources tell me there were a few moments when the Producers actually thought about pulling the plug on the Broadway engagement as a result of the brouhaha. But they soldiered on, as good Producers should when they believe in the product they have and the artists that are putting it together. And so far, their WOM and their grosses have rewarded them. My big question . . . will Steve go to opening night? Will he go at all?
4. Hugh Jackman for President
Who cares if he’s not a citizen? I’m convinced that if Hugh Jackman were delivering an address before congress he’d have Republicans and Democrats all singing, “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” together in about 30 seconds. He’s one of our biggest draws, our biggest talents, and our biggest ambassadors. He’s a cool kid, and he loves Broadway. Thanks for spending a few weeks with us, Hugh. Come back soon. I’m pretty positive you’ll be on Top Ten lists for every year that you step foot in NYC.
5. Look who’s in the $1MM club!
Wicked, Lion King . . . wait a second . . . is that . . . Follies? A Stephen Sondheim musical? And it’s not starring Lindsay Lohan or The Prime Minister of Bulgaria? The commercial success of Follies surprised a lot of folks this year, including me. I certainly did a double take the first time I saw those six figures on the weekly Broadway grosses. And the second, and the third times, I spit out my coke. Big time props to all involved for this very memorable moment.
6. Did you even know it was up for negotiation?
The Actors’ Equity – Broadway League contract was negotiated and ratified with such little fanfare that a lot of folks didn’t even know it was happening. My contacts who lined the walls of these proceedings told me it was mostly smooth sailing through the proceedings, and they credited both sides for understanding the challenges that both were facing in the coming years and remembering that we all needed to win in order for the industry to prosper. A peaceful negotiation with positive results for all definitely gets on my 10 Best list.
7. Broadway doesn’t just mean Broadway.
Million Dollar Quartet and Rent followed the Avenue Q model in 2011 and opened Off-Broadway at New World Stages. Ladies and Gentlemen, we officially have a trend. A trend, by the way, which is responsible for employing hundreds of people and entertaining thousands. I’m waiting for a small, artistic, play to try it next.
8. Not so funny. But maybe smart.
The much anticipated Broadway revival of Funny Girl surprised everyone this year by pulling the plug even before their LA engagement. But with a $12mm revival and one of the most crowded revival seasons in recent history, this could have been a very shrewd business move. It’s hard to cancel a show, especially since as theater people we’re all so emotionally attached to what we produce. But you have to look at the landscape, and use your gut. If you don’t think it’s going to work out, then it’s best you wait for a better time and focus on something else.
9. The Tony Awards move Uptown, and they were actually good!
Thanks to a Kick-A performance by host Neil Patrick Harris, and the more intimate venue, this year’s broadcast was first class. Ratings remained relatively flat over the prior year, but hey, that’s like breaking even in Vegas – it’s a win in my book!
10. Godspell opens on Broadway.
This one is personal. 🙂 Godspell, the first ever crowd-funded Broadway musical, opened in November, thanks to the hard work and support of hundreds and hundreds of people from all over the world.
What was your biggest Broadway memory from 2011? Comment below!
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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.