Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Challenge

"I think the challenge in getting people to come to a Broadway theater is so immense ... you're talking about getting people to come to a piece of real estate that's within an eight block region of New York City. So your whole audience base has to come from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut or through tourism. And when you can only get that group of people, you're trying to create something that's as broad as possible so that every single one of those people comes. You want to create something that nobody can say, "Oh, I don't want to be a part of that," because you are talking about such a small possible percentage of people. And that's no way to create an artistic statement; it's a way to create a product. I think we need to accomplish the feat of making theater either a countrywide or an international phenomenon that can happen synergistically.

I think that everybody focuses too much on Broadway as a piece of real estate where you have to make it work in order for a show to be a success. Parade didn't work in New York, and so getting this tour to happen was ... not like merely pulling teeth, but reaching in and pulling out livers. It would take an incredible feat to get Parade to become some national phenomenon. Whereas Rent came in with all these great reviews and a Pulitzer Prize and it made splash in New York. So you can do your tour and make your money ... because the tour is where you make your money, not New York. So the way it works is that you have to hit Broadway and you have to hit it hard, and if you don't make it there you are dead, and that's a problem. Until producers find a way to keep New York from being the be-all and end-all, then what happens in New York is going to be prefabricated, predigested material which will appeal to the family audience, who buy four tickets instead of two, or will make the Times' critic happy. Or do limited runs. There are all these strategies to make a show run in New York and it's depressing, because it means that work which doesn't become a hit within that narrow stretch of the world, doesn't get a chance to exist.

If we take, for instance, Prince of Central Park, which was written by a friend of mine, and was a disaster of a show ... I could say that it had as much value on a theatrical level as, say, Footloose. But Footloose was produced very cannily, with an eye on a specific audience, and it had the value of a name; people had seen or heard of that movie. Neither is a good show, but Footloose got a national tour and will or will not make money for the people involved; it won't have lived and died solely based on the first two weeks that it was running in a city in the north-eastern portion of the United States. Are producers going to look at that and say, "Let's produce a new show that's risky and no one's heard of!" or are they going to say, "How can we insulate ourselves best against failure?"

Any new show is better, in my opinion, then Jekyll and Hyde. I run into a lot of people who don't agree with me, which is fine, but my basic point is that I don't see why Jekyll and Hyde is any more worthy than my show or Michael John's or Ricky Ian's. But there's something very important about Jekyll and Hyde; it exists as this 'thing' outside of its relative success in New York. And that's the challenge of any producer who wants to produce new and interesting work; to figure out how to replicate that phenomenon. And I don't think most people are up to it; I don't think most producers are smart or talented enough to do it."
Jason Robert Brown

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