“Well, we’re moving on . . . down!”

Off-Broadway shows have always graduated to Broadway.

But in the last 5 years, we’ve watched a bunch of Off-Broadway shows graduate early.  Like smarty-pants Juniors with a lot of AP credits and perfect SAT scores, shows like Avenue Q, Spelling Bee, and Title of Show, have moved on to the big time and the bigger budgets, instead of staying Off-Broadway, like they would have 15 years ago when Off-Broadway was more fertile ground.

The logic behind the skip-a-grade mentality?  If you have a commercially viable product, and if you’re raising one million bucks, why not raise two or three, and get the built-in marketing machine that comes with a Broadway address (Tony Award eligibility, press attention, tourist attention, more advertising dollars, etc.)

Here’s my question:

Could it work the other way?  Could what goes up, also come down?

If Producers shoot for Broadway for the branding that comes with it, then after they get it, could they ever retreat to where they came from, or where they belonged in the first place?

I’m not talking a ‘hit’ and run here.  I’m talking the shows that are at the end of their Broadway runs, whether that’s a few weeks after the Tonys or a few years.

Could Spelling Bee, with its brand firmly in place after its Broadway run, have moved to a smaller theater Off-Broadway?  What about when the hard-workin’ Xanadu decides to call it quits.  Could it move and take a majority of its audiences with it, with a minority of its expenses?  Or what about those great plays that get expelled prematurely, like the acclaimed Journey’s End.  Broadway-ending grosses of a couple hundred grand a week would be like Xmas weeks Off-Broadway (certainly those grosses would drop, but then again, so would expenses).

Deals would need to be struck with the unions to ever attempt such a transfer, but if it’s a close-or-move situation, why wouldn’t they be reasonable?

There’d be a zillion other challenges: new design, tech costs, limited marketing dollars, and so on.  It would take the perfect storm of a show to ever give it a shot and a producer with some serious poobahs.

But someone will, and someone should.  As a Producer, it’s your job to do the due diligence on this and any other idea that could extend the life of your show.

Downsizing is part of every other business, why shouldn’t it be a part of ours?

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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.