Solo Shows Have Many Allures, Many Challenges for Producers

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02 Apr 2013

Alan Cumming

Davenport is behind Macbeth. According to him, deciding to back a solo show isn't much different from choosing a standard play or musical.

"Simply put, I'm attracted to excellent theatre," he said. "When you look at the portfolio of shows I've done, they're very diverse. I don't think a one-man show is very different from a small play, if you will. Investors are attracted to great theatre."

Still, "great theatre" isn't always enough to attract an audience. Davenport knows that, but feels Macbeth has enough arrows in its quiver to hit the bullseye.

"I'm a big believer that the Broadway market is one of the most cluttered markets of any business market in the world," he explained. "In order to stand out in that market, you have to have something that is utterly unique and markets itself. [With] this show, there are so many elements that are unique. First, there's Alan, who is one of the most versatile actors we've seen. It's a one-person Macbeth. It's set in a psychiatric ward. It's the Scottish play performed by a Scottish actor. All those things start to come together for me, and I go, 'Wow, this is unique experience.'"

He added that if the proposition had been Cumming playing the Scottish king in a conventional staging of Macbeth, he might not have been tempted to get involved. "I think it was more attractive in that it's Alan Cumming playing all the roles."

Harriet Newman Leve has plenty of experience producing solo works on Broadway. Her many credits include Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 starring Anna Deveare Smith and The Good Body with Eve Ensler. With Ann, she came to the show already interested in the subject matter.

"I was a big fan of Richards," said Leve, "particularly her keynote speech at the Democratic convention. That really stood out in my mind."

Leve attended performances of Taylor's play in Texas and Washington, D.C., before deciding to be part of the Broadway mounting. For her, the decision was all about love.

"What happens for me—how I decide to produce a show—is I either read it or go to see it, and fall in love with it," she said. "If I fall in love with it and think it's important, then I jump in. With Ann, it's a combination of Holland Taylor's terrific talent as an actress, and her really capturing Ann Richards in such a winning and witty way."


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