I’m coming up on my 25th anniversary of working on Broadway. Yep, in just a few weeks, I’ll be celebrating the date of “the call” I got from a mentor recommending me for a Production Assistant position for the Broadway run of My Fair Lady. It was the best Xmas present I’ve ever received.
A lot has changed on Broadway over the past twenty-five years. And while, yeah, a lot still needs to change (which is one of the reasons I started this blog), I thought I’d take a blog on this gobble-gobble day to remind us all that many things have changed for the better, which means things can and will change even more as we head into the next twenty-five years of all of our careers.
So, here are ten things I’m thankful for on Broadway this ThanKSgiving that weren’t always the case . . .
1. You can pick your seat!
When I first starting buying tickets to Broadways shows, the only thing you could choose was the section you wanted to sit in (orch, mezz, balcony). Imagine how disappointed 17-year-old me was when I got to City of Angels after it won the Tony and I was much further back than I hoped. 🙁 I swear I didn’t enjoy the show as much because of that. Now? We’ve got seat maps, and some ticketing companies offer you “views from your seat” perspective.
2. The TKTS booth was remodeled!
I’m sure it was cutting edge when it opened, but the old TKTS design always looked like dorm furniture to me. Now, the beautiful design is a tourist destination. People are drawn to the booth just to sit on the steps (and the more people near our storefronts the better). And, the renovations went on inside the “trailer” as well . . . you can pay by credit card now!
3. The America Musical has returned!
When I first got here, we were still in the midst of the British invasion. Now, I loved those poperettas . . . and still do. But it has been great to see us take back one of the few purely American art forms for ourselves with shows like Rent, Hamilton, Book of Mormon and more.
4. Disney became an audience developer!
Beauty and the Beast on Broadway was an experiment twenty-five years ago. And, not only did that experiment work and breed many more successful Broadway productions, but Disney created a whole new generation of theatergoers in the process. The boom we’re having today? It’s partly because of the seed that The Mouse House planted twenty-five years ago.
5. Crowdfunding is a thing!While The Jobs Act may still not be wildly used for Broadway or Off Broadway shows, Kickstarter, Indiegogo and more have given struggling artists a platform to get their art off the ground. Because, like it or not, to make stuff, you need money. Now there’s an easier way to collect it (although you still have to convince people to give it to you!).
6. Cheaper tickets are more accessible!
I know theater tickets are expensive. But not ALL of them are expensive. 8th row center of Hamilton is expensive. But most shows have lesser priced options nowadays . . . maybe in the back of the house, or at least through a lottery. And discounts can be found just a few clicks away instead of having to find a coupon. Consumers today have more ways to find more economic ways to see theater than we had decades ago.
7. You can find out if your advertising is working!
In the old days, all that we had was “spray and pray” advertising. Big print ads, big TV buys, etc. You bought them, crossed your everythings, and hoped to G-D that sales increased. But you had no real way to know if what you did was actually working. Now, with digital advertising you can not only target audiences who you KNOW want to see your show, but you can also ignore audiences that you know do NOT want to see your show . . . and you can find out exactly how much each initiative sold! We’re smarter marketers now than we were then.
8. Unions are more flexible than they were.
Just like it’s easy to say ticket prices are too high, it’s easy to blame the unions for expenses being too high. But over the past few decades, I’ve found the unions to be understanding of changing technology (reduction of minimums in orchestras at theaters), changing marketing channels (the new media rule), and the challenges of producing on Broadway in the 21st century. Remember, their job isn’t to make our jobs easier. Their jobs is to protect their members. And I’ve found more of an understanding that the success of a Producer means success for everyone in that production than ever before. (Oh, and it’s not like the success rate has changed in either direction over the past 25 years – it’s still only one of five shows that recoup.)
9. Broadway is an international brand.
There are Broadway shows in every corner of the globe now. From Australia to across Asia to South Africa to Argentina. We weren’t anywhere near the global entertainment superpower that we are today way back when. And the more theater there is in the world, the better our business and art is tomorrow. We’re like soccer . . . all of a sudden, we’re everywhere and everyone wants to be a part of us.
10. We’re back in the movies and on TV!
Hairspray, Chicago, Rent, Phantom, Evita, are just a few of the films that have been released over the past twenty-five years that not only did well at the Box Office, but also goosed the box offices of the running shows here! And then came the live telecasts of shows like Sound of Music, Peter Pan, and Grease on major TV networks. And HBO has taped a few. And BroadwayHD was born. Just like Disney created a new audience a couple of decades ago, the telecasts and movies are creating another one right now.
So see? Things aren’t so bad. I know it can get frustrating thinking about all the things wrong with Broadway, but a lot of things have gone right and will continue to do so as long as we have passionate people like you who read this blog and go out and help make that change happen.
Oh, and that brings me to . . .
I didn’t know all of you twenty-five years ago (some of you might not have been born). But I’m so thankful that I’ve come to connect with so many of you online and offline. Thanks for reading.
And a very Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.