Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Stars Shining Too Brightly

I have so many thoughts in my head and I don't know where or what to begin with, but here it goes.  If you are a New Yorker, one of the best and most anticipated sections of the New York Times is Arts and Leisure devoted to the new Fall season.  This year was no different until I started turning the pages.  The economic reality slapped me in the face with every new page.  Every Broadway show opening is star driven and limited runs.  What does that mean to the theatre goer?  Astronomical ticket prices, if you can even snag a ticket.  When the last page was closed, I was throughly depressed and angry.  What the hell happened to the coveted long run?  It can't happen with all the stars taking over The Great White Way.  It's not all the fault of the actors.  The producers are not artists like they once were. They are all about money and not taking risks.  

Theatre used to be all about the product and then money.  Of course, I'm sure if you asked the impresario, David Merrick, he'd say money was a factor.  He spent tons of money to get the results on stage he wanted.  BUT the great Broadway producers wanted long runs.  That was the desirable outcome.  For those of you not NYers, the famous midtown restaurant, Joe Allen's, has posters of shows that closed in a night.  You will see some great theatre names that took risks and failed, but they tried.  Today's producers want guarantees.  Few producers want to be involved in something new and not star driven.  That's why supporting shows that don't have names or limited runs means so much to me.  Perfect example:  A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder.  The entire creative staff's first Broadway venture, has no big names, and won the Tony for Best Musical!!  If shows like AGGLM runs a profit, maybe, just maybe it will make other producers brave.  I long for the days of the great risk takers.  

The other problem with the announced Fall season, it is clearly a rich persons game now.  The 1%ers have taken over Broadway.  It will cost dearly to see Helen Mirren in The Queen or Hugh Jackman in The River.  That's just two examples of the Fall.  Makes me sad.  It's bad enough that taking a family of four costs $600 minimum and that's just the tickets.  Broadway has a serious problem.  I don't have any idea how to fix it, but I do know if more risky shows recoup their investments, more investors will be willing to gamble.  Broadway was always a gamble and in the current state of theatre, everyone wants a sure thing.  That is counterintuitive to creativity. When I first started in this business of show, everyone said, "don't invest in a show, unless you can absorb the loss."  People invested for the fun of it, the ego, the opening night, the big man on the town. Now, most of the shows are a sure thing.  There isn't a doubt in my mind that any of these star-driven limited engagements won't make money.  None.  Takes the fun out of theatre.

Sidebars:  The American Ninja Warrior finished its season.  I had never really watched it before or understood it until this summer.  What incredible athletes participate.  I thought it was an NBC made up show, but the Ninja events are real and worldwide.  America's Got Talent's finale is tonight.  We will see who America voted for but truly, this was the best season yet.  No frontrunner.  Debra Messing's new show, Mysteries of Laura,  begins tonight right after AGT.  Worth a try.  As far as world news?  There's too much.  Just please pay close attention to the vote in Scotland.  They are voting tomorrow to secede from England.  There are very strong arguments on both sides, but watch the outcome and notice how many people get out to vote.  There are 6 million possible voters and almost 6 million are registered to vote.  This is a democratic country and the turnout is expected to be incredible, not like our embarrassingly low turnouts for elections.  Come on, people!  May we all feel the power of the people in Scotland whatever the result.  

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