Producers Group to Attempt Off-Broadway Musical Project

News   Producers Group to Attempt Off-Broadway Musical Project
 
The Producers Network, a new coalition of independent theatre producers formed last fall, is piecing together a plan to produce a season of low- budget musicals in development for the 1999-2000 season. The 32-week season would feature four as-yet-unnamed tuners. The project is only in its nascent stages, but a possible home for the experiment may be 42nd Street's John Houseman Theatre.

The Producers Network, a new coalition of independent theatre producers formed last fall, is piecing together a plan to produce a season of low- budget musicals in development for the 1999-2000 season. The 32-week season would feature four as-yet-unnamed tuners. The project is only in its nascent stages, but a possible home for the experiment may be 42nd Street's John Houseman Theatre.

"Essentially what we are doing is blazing a new development channel for new musicals," said producer Stewart Lane, who founded the Producers Network and has backed such shows as La Cage aux Folles , 1776 and Wait Until Dark.

A planned seasonal budget of $1.2 million would be raised through the sale of subscriptions, priced at $150 a head. Each musical in the season would be budgeted at $200,000 and would be produced independently under Off Broadway contracts. Producers would qualify for a slot by proposing a show to an artistic advisory board and giving $25,000 in "enhancement money."

Each musical would be rehearsed for a short two-week period and play for six. Spokesman Beck Lee said no specific shows had been selected, but two dozen possibilities had cropped up at a recent meeting of the Network.

* The Producers Network is the brainchild of Stewart Lane, co-manager of the Palace Theatre and veteran producer. He formed the organization in reaction to the vast changes the New York theatre has seen since the advent of Disney, Livent, and the reinvention of Times Square. It is Lane's hope that independents can put their heads together and hatch pioneering notions on how to best benefit from the theatre's rapidly changing landscape.

Perhaps the group's most expansive suggestion so far concerns the application of a new set of ticket pricing principals patterned after the airline industry. Under this plan, theatre tickets prices would fluctuate with supply and demand, much as plane fares do. Thus, during "off-peak" periods -- say, January, a typically slow time for Broadway sales -- the cost of admission to a show would lessen. Similarly, producers could hike up tickets prices for an extremely popular show. Such a system might see Cabaret tickets, for example, go for considerably more than the current $80 top mark, while the struggling Footloose might sell for less than standard levels.

A second Network proposal would reward theatregoers who buy tickets in bulk with considerable discounts. Specifically, customers who buy up to four shows at a time as a package would win reductions of up to 35 percent. The Network believes this set-up would encourage people to attend the theatre more often.

A direct appeal to the theatre's wealthy patrons is found in a third proposal. The plan involves house seats, those choice orchestra locations traditionally reserved for theatre professionals and their friends. The Network's plan would make a certain number of house seats available to the general public at prices of up to $150. Such tickets would be available until 6 PM of the day of the show. The plan would not be without its benefits to cash-poor theatre fans; to offset the high-prices house seats, certain mezzanine and balcony seats would be offered at reduced prices.

-- By Robert Simonson

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