At Sardi’s last week I ran across a much maligned theater columnist who, though quick to skewer the latest Broadway offerings, also knows more about about theater than just about anyone I’ve ever met. While he’s quick to point out the showbiz losers, I was curious to know what he recommends to producers who are interested in picking a winner.
He had a key piece of advice for producers:
When evaluating a show, see it only once before making a decision. If it doesn’t make an impact on you the first time you see it, odds are it won’t do much for your audience either.
I’d have to agree. Most musicals get one shot with an audience and if they aren’t feeling it, you’ll be seeing a lot of empty seats.
As I seek out shows for future producing endeavors, I come across a lot of new musicals. I can tell you that going with your gut reaction is not as easy as it sounds. The more you become immersed in this industry, it’s easy to ignore your heart and get stuck in your head. Thinking to yourself…
“I love those writers.”
“Their last show was great.”
“It’s a fascinating subject.”
“The cast is amazing.”
“It seems like it should work.”
Those are all valid observations, but the vast majority of your audience simply doesn’t care about such things.
Obviously, if you see a musical early in its development, you may need to go back for more to truly evaluate the show’s future potential, but your first impression is key. If there aren’t some major songs or moments that truly reach into your chest and grab you that first time, then they won’t grab your audience, and the show won’t succeed.
While I’m usually the first to tell you to use your head in most showbiz situations, when making the first cut in selecting a show, trust your instincts and follow your heart.