The Enron of Broadway

Early in my career, I worked for one of the most powerful commercial theater companies in the world.

I also worked for one of the weakest commercial theater companies in the world.

Ironically, they were one and the same:  Livent – the producers of Show Boat, Ragtime, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Fosse, Barrymore, etc.

In just over a year, we went from opening our own theater on 42nd St., to having our paychecks stamped Debtor In Possession.

I was reminded of Livent when I read this article that announced that the trial of Garth Drabinksy, my former Tony Soprano, had begun.

The allegations and the indictments on both side of the border are pretty serious (if Garth stepped into Buffalo he’d be arrested).  I won’t get into too many details about what I know, because frankly, I don’t want any of those Mounties thinking they should call me to testify.

But let’s just put it this way.  During the big horse race of Lion King versus Ragtime, there was a lot of concern about whether we were out-grossing the animals on Pride Rock.  Frankly, from what I recall, a lot of the Ragtime grosses that were published around that time were just like the best friend I had when I was five.  Made up.

That’s not the point of this post.

The point is, after everything that has happened, Garth is still at it.  He’s produced television.  A theater piece won awards last year.  For the love of God, he’s a consultant!

You should print out that article and hang it by your desk.  If Garth can bring down a company, face jail time, not be allowed in the US and still soldier on?  Then surely a bad review or a lost investment is not going to stop you, is it?

Garth called me about a year after Livent went tummy-up.  He said, “Kenny, there will never be anything like the shows that I did on Broadway ever again.”

I told him he was right.  Because he was.  His passion and super-ego produced some of the most beautiful shows we’ve ever seen by some of Broadway’s greatest artists.  The problem was that the industry couldn’t support shows like Show Boat or Ragtime the way he built them.  He built mansions on cliffs.  And the cliffs couldn’t hold them up.

Criminal charges aside . . . is it crazy that I miss the guy?  I’d probably still get him his double whipped latte if he asked me . . .

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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.