Broadway Revisited

By Gordon Hughes

A few months ago I wrote a column about Broadway being back.  I quoted Michael Riedel whom I respect immensely, when he wrote in his book “Singular Sensation” about Broadway’s ability to come back after disasters, be they economic downturns, wars, weather or even plagues.  Of course, the most recent disaster has been a plague, Covid.

My take on the Great White Way post-Covid was its remarkable ability to produce several musicals and plays which are much more upbeat than in past years.  More comedies and uplifting plays; a rather large departure from years past. Comedy and positive themes are in the same vein that the motion picture industry produced during the great depression.  Some of you may remember Fred and Ginger dancing their hearts out while people were selling apples on street corners.

As an investor/producer I do keep a keen eye on what is transpiring in the theater district.  With the Tony Award nominations being announced and the ink they are receiving, it appears Broadway has embraced that idea. Looking at recent billings , we see that there are only three new shows billing over $1 million weekly. The remainder of these new shows are bunched in the 300K to 800K range—that is worrisome.  Of the 41 Broadway theaters only 35 are booked.  Tickets are priced far more reasonably so it is a great time to see a show and audiences do reflect that. As Michael predicted, Broadway has surmounted another challenge.

Now the latest threat is the WGA’s strike which is focused on television and motion pictures, not Broadway.  That said, the Tony Awards are broadcast annually on CBS TV in prime time reaching millions of viewers and thus, becoming Broadway’s biggest marketing tool.  It appeared in mid-May there was a very strong likelihood that this year’s Tony Awards would not be broadcast. If that had happened Broadway would have lost its ability to promote shows nationally and in so doing possibly lose millions in revenue.  This after Covid was an alarming situation.  Many of those shows whose billings are right on the edge were likely to close.

Now, however, it appears with the good graces of the WGA and the hard work of Broadway management, an agreement for the airing of the Tonys has been reached.  That said, the broadcast will differ from years past as there will be no writers involved but the good news is there will be no picket line for performers to cross. As someone who loves the theater and, gets to sleep and eat indoors thanks to any success with the productions I’m involved in, I would say “Keep going to Broadway!” and please tell them how much you enjoyed your time at the theater and, for God’s sake tell them to go see a show!