Why Broadway Producers can’t produce every show.

Broadway babiesI get a lot of pitches to produce shows.  I’m sure you do too.  Produce one . . . or actually, just start telling people you’re a Producer . . . and people will want you to produce their shows.

It’s pretty cool, actually, and I’m so incredibly flattered anytime anyone says, “I’d love for you to produce my baby.”  (Huh.  Um, so . . . that sounded weird . . . but you get the analogy.  I hope.)

Awkward innuendo aside, a writer’s work is like a child, and giving it up for adoption can’t be easy, so it’s always an honor when someone asks.

And that’s why it’s disappointing when you have to say no.

There are of course a lot of reasons why Producers turn shows down.  But there’s one simple one that I thought I’d talk about today:  Time.

It takes time to develop, re-develop, and produce a show on Broadway.  You’ve gotta get rights, and hire a team, and usually replace someone on the team, and do readings and re-writings and do more readings and workshops and raise money and do an out-of-town or an in-town non-profit tryout, and then the big time Broadway run.

How much time does this all take?

Let me give you a rundown of the time frame of a few of my own shows . . . from idea to production:

Altar Boyz:  Five years to the Off Broadway production.
Somewhere in Time:  Seven years to the regional production.
Gettin’ The Band Back Together:  Four years to the regional production.

I bet if you polled all the Broadway Producers out there, they’d tell you that the average gestation period for a Broadway Musical was about 4-5 years.  And a play, about 2-3.  At least.

That’s a lot of time, right?  I mean, that’s a really good chunk of a person’s career!  So when a Producer makes a decision to take on a show, it’s a big commitment . . . longer than a lot of marriages!  Since it’s such an investment of time (on top of money and resources) a Producer like me, who puts food on the table based on the success of his shows, needs to make sure the show will not only satisfy his creative urges, but will also do well enough commercially to keep his staff and himself, gainfully employed.  And that’s just not all shows.  And there are only so many they can work on at once.

If Producers could whip ’em out in a year, you’d see us option a lot more shows.  But it’s ain’t like it used to be.  It just takes longer, which means the stakes are that much higher that every show a Producer does is “the one.”

Imagine having a whole bunch of babies all at once.  They wouldn’t all get the attention they needed or deserved.  So if a Producer says they don’t have the time to give your baby, they just may be doing you a favor.

Ideally, you want to be a Producer’s only child.


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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.