The incredible shrinking cast size.

A few of you may be in a statistic induced coma by now ever since I started my numbers craze last week.

But I’ve got a-number one.  (Get it?  Ok, ok, I’ll take that off the set list for my Last Comic Standing audition.)

Today we’re talking about cast size.  Just how many pairs of chorus girl legs were kicking in the old days, and just how many are kicking now?

In this analysis, I looked at the percentage of new musicals in each decade with casts over 30 (seemed like a good line between average and BIG).

  • In the 1950s, 69% of all new musicals opening on Broadway had cast sizes greater than 30.
  • In the 1960s, 67% had cast sizes greater than 30.
  • In the 1970s, 31% (!)
  • In the 1980s, 24%
  • In the 1990s, 38%
  • In the 2000s, 27%

Over the last 30 years, we stabilized a bit after that precipitous decline in the 70s (what the heck happened there? – that’s a subject for another blog).

Costs have obviously played a big factor in this cast-size shrinkage, but I’d also argue that smaller musicals (Next to Normals) are more likely to be done in modern times than they were in the Golden Age of musicals, which might play a small part in the decline.

But for those of you out there that think that the only way to succeed is to prevent your authors from adding more people to the stage, remember this stat:

36 of the 64 Best Musical Tony Award winners have had casts greater than 30.

That’s 56%.

Writers, you can thank me for that stat later.


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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.