Solo Shows Have Many Allures, Many Challenges for Producers

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02 Apr 2013

Holland Taylor in <i>Ann</i>.
Holland Taylor in Ann.
Ave Bonar

This season Broadway welcomes (mostly) solo shows starring Holland Taylor, Fiona Shaw, Bette Midler and Alan Cumming.

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Producer Ken Davenport didn't have to think too long or too hard when he signed on to co-produce the 2009 Will Ferrell solo show You're Welcome America, in which the comedian reprised his "Saturday Night Live" impression of President George W. Bush.

"Why I did it was I'm a huge Will Ferrell fan," said Davenport. "I know the effect that he had on me as an audience member, and I knew the effect he would have on other people."

A Broadway show starring Will Ferrell, then at the height of his film fame, was hardly what you'd call a risky bet. And, it paid off for Davenport and his many co-producers. The show turned a very healthy profit.

Shows like Ferrell's and other box-office-bonanza, star-driven, solo outings like Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway and 700 Sundays starring Billy Crystal are the gold standards on Broadway. For a producer, hitching on to one can be the equivalent of minting money. But bankable stars are only one of the factors that draw a producer to a one-person show.

This spring, Broadway will see a rush of solo outings, each very different from the last. Already open is Ann, actor-playwright Holland Taylor's take on the charismatic Texas governor Ann Richards. On April 21, Alan Cumming opens in his nearly solitary rendition of Shakespeare's Macbeth (he gets a little help from a couple other actors, but plays most roles himself). The day after that is the premiere of The Testament of Mary, starring Fiona Shaw as the mother of Jesus. A couple days later, John Logan's I'll Eat You Last, featuring Bette Midler as legendary Hollywood agent Sue Mengers, takes it bow.



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