How Has Broadway Producing Changed, Pt. 2
Could legendary producers of the past hack it on Broadway today?
If anyone could guess, it's John Breglio. In his new book I Wanna Be a Producer: How to Make a Killing on Broadway...or Get Killed, the noted entertainment lawyer and commercial producer gives a show biz tutorial – with plenty of back-stage anecdotes – on the skills a contemporary Broadway producer must have to shepherd a hit.
He chronicles in detail the steps in producing a show, and he also charts the dramatic changes in producing for the commercial theatre over his 40-plus year career. (For more on those changes, read the first part of our conversation.)
So what would noted producers of the past make of the Broadway world in 2016, what with "royalty pools," partnerships with not-for-profit theatres, and the long journey of a new production through readings, workshops, and labs?
Some would fare better than others. "I remember Morty Gottlieb coming to me about a new play in the late 80s," Breglio says, referring to the Tony Award-winning producer of hits like Sleuth and The Killing of Sister George. "He was used to doing plays for $350,000, and he couldn't get his arms around [the concept] of royalty pools. 'Aw, I don't understand any of it,' he'd say, and he was one of the great play producers."
And what about David Merrick, whose publicity stunts were as legendary as his knack for creating hits? "With Merrick, it was all about control," Breglio says. "He probably would have embraced it because he was very smart, and the new royalty pool structure favored the producers and investors."
On a separate subject, Breglio says the brouhaha over the Hamilton actors' participation in profits of the show is not a game-changer, despite the news headlines.