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The Business of Broadway

Byrd and Jones maintained most of their investors for A Streetcar Named Desire. “Most of our original investors came back, except for one,” says Byrd. To produce Streetcar, $2.5 million has been raised.

Capitalization isn’t the only concern. “Finding a show that will keep my interest is my biggest challenge,” says Whoopi Goldberg.” I became a producer because I am interested in seeing certain things. I figured, ‘Well, if you want to see it, you are going to have to do it yourself because your sensibilities are a little quirky.’”

Goldberg’s first production, Thoroughly Modern Millie, was a musical she loved as a child. It won six Tony Awards in 2002 including Best Musical, and grossed $75.6 million before touring. It was Sister Act‘s lead producer Joop van den Ende who sought out Goldberg as a producer. “I was taken aback because three years prior when some other people had the property, I said I would love to come on and help. They basically told me to get lost.”
Goldberg didn’t simply attach her name to Sister Act. “Literally from London to here we changed the book, taking out some things I thought were wrong with the piece. We changed the dialogue. We changed the feeling of Deloris. We changed some of the characters, because they were a little cliché.”

There is no formula for what makes a Broadway show a hit. “It’s a crapshoot,” says Goldberg, who is working on a documentary and a solo show about African American stand-up comedian Moms Mabley. “It can be the greatest book, the greatest musical, and nobody wants to see it. I always say to people if you are passionate about the piece do everything you can for it, but keep in mind that because theater is so subjective, no one knows if it will work, no one knows if it will last.”

Taking Stock and Ownership
Broadway has 40 theaters ranging in size from about 600 seats to 1,900, with 80% of these houses owned by three entities: Shubert, Nederlander, and Jujamcyn.

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