Thursday, May 27, 2010

Expanding Broadway's boundaries

As recent innovative shows such as "Fela!", "Spring Awakening" and "American Idiot" join a relatively small set of risk-taking, more-niche-than-rich shows that actually made it to Broadway, a group consisting of a producer, a presenter and an artist paused during a recent conference to discuss what new types of content mean to both Broadway and the road market for Broadway.

The cast for the session was:

Bill T. Jones, Tony Award-winning choreographer for "Spring Awakening" and Tony-nominated for Fela!"

Kevin McCollum, Tony Award-winning producer of "In the Heights," "Avenue Q" and "Rent"

Michael Reed, senior director of Cultural Participation and Programming, ASU Gammage

Culled from a lengthy and fast-moving session, here are their comments:

"We do ourselves a disservice when we talk about these new productions like they're different from 'traditional Broadway.' When I think about 'traditional Broadway,' I think about 'The Music Man.' No, it's just a beautiful evening in the theater." -- Kevin

"Great art isn't necessarily for everyone." -- Bill

"People come to your shows because they trust you. And people know when they come to our building, they know that whatever on that stage will be respectful, will be worthwhile. The relationship is there." -- Michael

"For people who have never bought a ticket to Broadway to realize that a show reflects their own cultural experience … that to me is a hit. It's not about dollars." -- Kevin

" 'Rent' has permeated the consciousness of America. And I'm very proud of that. And we had to give the Hispanic community their own musical vocabulary through 'In the Heights')." -- Kevin

"We live in an era of diminished curiosity." -- Bill

"It's alchemy. You never know what will work." -- Kevin

"I was struck by the musical vocabulary [in 'Fela!']. We can't afford to react to the ordinary. We're a lifestyle choice. Profit is about making sure you're about exceeding the expectation." -- Jones

"I'm in the musical storytelling business. Storytelling is about surprises. Listen to what you hear when you're walking down the street and think how can I tell a story with that ..." -- Kevin

"All of my shows that have been hits started off-Broadway. You need to be able to able to watch your shows without hemorrhaging $250,000 You need to be able to watch it while hemorrhaging $30,000 to $40,000." -- Kevin

"We sang before we spoke. There's something in our DNA that makes us respond to music." --Kevin

* This was a free-flowing conversation and I confess to having done a bit of a mash-up rather than a chronological account.

-- MKilgore

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