How 'Gentleman's Guide,' 'Anastasia' Royalties Help Buoy Hartford Stage

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The night of June 8, 2014, is one Hartford Stage officials will long remember.

It was when "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder," which the theater developed and premiered, won four Tony Awards, including best Broadway musical. Darko Tresnjak, the theatre's artistic director since 2012, also won for best musical director.

The opening night party held at Rockefeller Center's skating rink that balmy late spring evening was a celebratory high for the theater, which was ending its 50th season and getting a taste of the national spotlight, with the promise of a new income stream, thanks to royalties from the show premiering on Broadway and elsewhere.

The musical ran for more than two years in New York City, with 905 performances, then toured nationally. It also received an Australian production.

Then came the musical "Anastasia," which premiered at Hartford Stage in 2016 and is still running on Broadway after nearly two years. It's now touring nationally and has two separate productions in Europe, with several more expected internationally this year.

So far, royalties from both shows have brought back about $500,000 to the theater, officials said, money Hartford Stage has desperately needed to cover shortfalls in other areas.

Part of Tresnjak's legacy during his artistic-director tenure — he is stepping down June 1 — is that many of his productions have had a life beyond Hartford, providing a crucial revenue stream — in the form royalties — during a time when theaters across the country are struggling financially.

And there are high expectations from the theater's leadership for the future of the recently opened play, "The Engagement Party," and the upcoming new musical, "The Flamingo Kid" — which are Tresnjak's farewell shows.

But rolling the dice on new shows — especially big-budget musicals — is risky business.


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