Do you want to become a Broadway producer but don’t have $25,000 to gamble with?
Standing Room Capital, a private online membership platform allowing individuals to invest as little as $2,500 in theatrical productions, has officially launched in partnership with SEC-registered broker-dealer WealthForge. Standing Room is run independently of any producer, allowing the platform to vet and curate investment offerings, which will include both Broadway and touring productions. The first offering on the site is now live for approved members.
Standing Room was founded by Corey Schwitz and Stephen Santore, who first worked together at SpotCo, a leading advertising agency for Broadway shows, where they’ve managed full-service advertising campaigns as well as ticketing sales and pricing strategy for over 50 shows.
“Investing in theater is risky, and one of our goals is to sufficiently educate our investors of that,” Schwitz says, “If you fully understand the risk and you love Broadway, it can be a fun and engaging process.”
Standing Room, which has already seen more than 500 potential investors sign up, is partnering with Wealthforge, LLC, an SEC-registered broker-dealer that has become a leader in the private securities industry, overseeing more than one billion dollars in private placement offerings.
“Partnering with WealthForge gives our investors the assurance that offerings on our platform are independently vetted, combined with our own evaluation of a show’s producing team and financials,” Schwitz says.
“Our focus has primarily been processing private investments in the real estate, energy, and financial services sectors,” Arthur Weissman, Head of Sales and Marketing at WealthForge said. “When the Standing Room Capital team approached us about working together to use this same model to raise money for theatrical investments, we knew it was the perfect opportunity to work with a strong partner in the entertainment space that shares our commitment to compliance and transparency.
Financial returns are just a part of the incentive for veteran Broadway investors. Many are drawn by exclusive perks including free tickets, party passes, and the opportunity to get firsthand involvement in the performing arts.
The JOBS Act, signed into law in 2012, allows certain offerings to be solicited to the general public, including through online platforms. Currently, investments through Standing Room are only open to accredited investors, defined as individuals who make an annual income of $200,000 or more, $300,000 combined with a spouse, or alternatively have a net worth of over $1 million.
“For someone making $200,000 a year, investing $25,000 – the typical minimum for a musical – is far too much to put at stake.” Santore says. “Letting someone get in on the action for just $2,500 or $5,000 makes a potential loss much easier to bear, while still getting involved in the excitement of launching a musical or play.”
Two of the first offerings on the Standing Room platform will be upcoming shows produced by Joey Parnes Productions, a leading theatrical producer and winner of four Tony Awards in the past three years including the 2014 Best Musical, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.
“Capitalizing – in both senses of the word – on the opportunities the new law provides is not as easy and obvious as it may seem,” Parnes says. “Corey and Stephen have really done their homework and have created a smart and reliable platform for new investors who love the theater. It also doesn’t hurt that I trust them implicitly.”
Heightened interest in theatrical investments is no surprise, as the Broadway League recently reported a record-breaking 2014-15 season for Broadway, with over $1.3 billion in gross sales and more than 13.1 million audience members.
“We believe there’s an enormous group of potential investors who are eager to get involved,” Santore says, “and we’re excited to welcome them into the Broadway community.”
It’s been more than 25 years since Martin Sherman’s Bent, a groundbreaking drama about the rare power of love in the most inhumane conditions, opened on Broadway. The Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum presents its first major revival through August 23.
Set in Germany in the 1930s, Bent follows the struggles of gay men trying to survive in Nazi Germany, in particular two men who, in the midst of the darkest moments of mankind, manage to give and receive love and find strength in each other. The cast features Andy Mientus (Les Misérables, Broadway; Smash, NBC) and Jake Shears, lead singer for Scissor Sisters.
Mark Taper Forum at the Music Center Downtown Los Angeles
135 North Grand Avenue
Through August 23
“How did Helen Keller burn her cheek? She answered the iron.”
“If Helen Keller fell in the woods, would she make a sound?”
“Helen Keller walks into a bar. Then a table. And then a chair.”
Most of us have heard—or told—a cruel Helen Keller joke. The rapid-fire succession of such one-liners is how Jack Cummings III’s Three Days to See, a new theater piece presented by Transport Group, begins. The diverse company of seven actors storms the stage, each grabbing a mic as if they were in the finals of Last Comic Standing.
“This is ridiculous,” blurted the patron sitting behind me, so offended by the onslaught of insensitivity. But that’s exactly where Cummings wants to begin: at the epicenter of what pop culture has made Helen Keller. The real woman, born in Alabama in 1880, was struck blind and deaf by the age of two. Most are familiar with The Miracle Worker and the arrival of her tutor, mentor, and friend, Annie Sullivan, who helped Keller reconnect to the world through finger spelling.
Keller’s journey from unruly child to world-renowned social activist is the subject of Cummings’ work, portrayed en masse by the company, each taking his or her turn to embody Keller’s words. The play’s dialogue—and that word is used loosely for the majority of it is narrative—is entirely drawn from her writings. Cummings can only occasionally craft dialogue based on referenced conversations, and that lack of engagement pigeonholes the company into an often-presentational performance style.
Those who transcend the fourth wall tend to capture the most heartfelt moments, including Barbara Walsh (Falsettos, Company, Hairspray), who embodies both Sullivan and Keller at different points and magically creates a sense of time and place with each nuanced movement. In contrast, Marc delaCruz (If/Then) has the joyful thread of following Keller’s journey through the reading of Gone With the Wind in braille. Punctuated throughout the evening, he steps center stage as if he’s cracked open the door for a secret slumber party. Others are less successful, either in their ability to connect with the audience or lack of physical dexterity.
Cummings asks a lot of the company. Choreographed in a pedestrian spirit similar to the work of Steven Hoggett (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Once, Peter and the Starcatcher), I almost wish that Hoggett had choreographed the piece to up the ante in terms of movement vocabulary. Even so, there is plenty to take in visually as well as with the other senses. Lighting designer R. Lee Kennedy makes the most of the stage at New York Theatre Workshop, transforming a blank slate into an endless number of locales.
The script is also driven into high gear by its accompanying soundtrack, which I assume was the collaboration of Cummings with sound designer Walter Trarbach. Benny Goodman’s Sing, Sing Sing, is the auditory backdrop to an epic battle to teach Keller to eat with silverware. The musical choices sometimes overwhelm the action, with familiar overtures from the Rodgers & Hammerstein songbook as well as a notable portion from Elmer Bernstein’s Academy Award-nominated score from To Kill a Mockingbird.
In its final moments, Three Days to See addresses its namesake, playing out what Keller wrote as her three-part “miracle.” It is a beautiful sequence of dreams unlived, and a reminder that our senses are a gift not to be taken lightly.
Three Days to See
79 East Fourth Street, NYC
Through August 16
Matthew Wexler is the Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on Twitter and Instgram at @roodeloo.
Before there was JonBenét Ramsey and Honey Boo Boo, there was Tina Denmark, the fictional tyke created from the twisted mind of Joel Paley, who wrote Ruthless! (along with music by Marvin Laird) in 1992. The campy off-Broadway show won the 1993 New York Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical and quickly gained a cult following. Now, more than 20 years later, Tina returns in a revival directed and staged by its creator.
Ruthless! follows young Tina Denmark (Tori Murray) as she claws and kills her way to the lead role in a school production of Pippi Longstocking. Her Donna Reed-like mother, Judy (Kim Maresca), seems oblivious to Tina’s mischievous ways, which are only exacerbated by the appearance of a mysterious mentor and career coach, Sylvia St. Croix (Peter Land). Add the play’s director Miss Thorn (Andrea McCullough) and the famous theater critic Lita Encore (Rita McKenzie) into the mix, and the stage is set for campy double takes and scenery-chewing camp.
I imagine Ruthless! doesn’t have quite the sting as it did when the musical opened in 1992. Reality television and social media have desensitized the masses, and the show’s over-the-top plot line and style feel dated. With the exception of Land’s devilishly gangly interpretation of Sylvia St. Croix—a combination of Gypsy’s Mama Rose and Bea Arthur in her heyday—the rest of the cast are one-note wonders. The show’s star-to-be, Murray has a piercing belt but is vacant in the eyes. Maresca, as her mother, does her best Judy Cleaver but comes into her own in the show’s latter half when stage mom becomes star.
Ruthless! could use less style and more substance but theatergoers looking for a lighthearted, old-school Off Broadway comedy might overlook its clichés. Here’s what the critics think…
Surprisingly, the drag queen ends up giving one of the more committed and believable performances. Decked out in fabulous old-lady gear (splendid costumes by Nina Vartanian), Land is spectacularly over-the-top as Sylvia yet completely grounded in the improbable tragedy of the story. He plays particularly well off the equally heightened Maresca, who executes an awesome character transformation from June Cleaver to Joan Collins. Theatermania
…It’s no wonder The Bad Seed has never been revived, but it was inevitable that four decades later the idea that homicidal tendencies are inherited would return—as a musical! The result was Ruthless!, a campy hit that ran for a solid year in 1992 with a cast that included Sylvia Miles, as well as Britney Spears and Natalie Portman as understudies. When I reviewed it, I called Ruthless! “malicious and delicious.” I’m happy to report the new Off-Broadway revival at the envelope-sized St. Luke’s Theatre has lost none of its piss and vinegar. Observer
St. Luke’s Theatre
308 West 46th Street, NYC
RUTHLESS! The Musical’s leading man, Peter Land, collapsed onstage at the top of the second act on Friday evening, July 17th. EMT’s arrived on the scene and Mr. Land was transported to the hospital where he received emergency surgery for a tear in the aorta. His recovery is going extremely well and he was even discharged from the hospital earlier this week. Paul Pecorino has assumed the role of Sylvia St. Croix and Mr. Land hopes to return to the show in the near future. Author Joel Paley bravely filled in for several performances in the week following the accident (triumphantly, according to all eyewitnesses).
Ready to bring their A-list talent to an unprecedented primetime event, Queen Latifah and Mary J. Blige — multi-award winners, giants of the recording industry and stars of both the small and big screen — have been added to the cast of NBC’s upcoming holiday musical production of “The Wiz Live!,” set for Thursday, Dec. 3.
Queen Latifah stars as the Wiz, the mysterious and powerful wizard who holds the keys to the Emerald City, but whose metamorphosis from ordinary to extraordinary is itself a hoax. She rose to her lofty position after being transported by accident to Oz in a hot air balloon during a snowstorm.
Mary J. Blige will play Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West, who holds sway over the Winkies and the Winged Monkeys that do her bidding. She captures Dorothy and her friends to avenge the unintentional murder of her evil sister, Evvamean, and to get back the powerful silver slippers given to Dorothy by the Good Witch of the North.
The multi-talented Queen Latifah is a Golden Globe, Grammy and Screen Actors Guild Award winner, as well as having earned Emmy and Oscar nominations.
She scored her second career Emmy nomination as the title character in the critically acclaimed HBO biopic “Bessie” as legendary blues singer Bessie Smith. On the film side, Queen Latifah received an Academy Award nomination and earned SAG win as part of the cast for her role as Matron Mama Morton in the Oscar-winning film “Chicago.”
In addition to “Chicago,” Queen Latifah also co-starred in “Hairspray” and the TV film “Steel Magnolias,” all of which were executive produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. “The Wiz Live!” marks a reunion between the actress and producers.
“We are so happy reuniting with Latifah,” said Zadan and Meron, who saw their executive-produced programs “The Oscars” and “Peter Pan Live!” earn a combined 11 Emmy nominations for the 2015 Emmys. “We’ve been friends for a long time and we’ve had quite a lot of success together. To see her play the iconic role of the Wiz and make it her own is going to be one of the joys of producing this event.”
Other films on Queen Latifah’s resume include “Bringing Down the House,” the “Ice Age” franchise, “Last Holiday” and “The Secret Life of Bees.”
Queen Latifah has released seven albums and has an incredible array of musical styles and genres. On record and stage, she has performed hip-hop, rap, soul, jazz, gospel and standards. Over her career she has sung with an eclectic range of performers, including Tony Bennett, Dolly Parton, Missy Elliott and Stevie Wonder, among many others.
Ranked by Billboard as the top R&B performer of the past 25 years, Blige has sold more than 50 million albums and 25 million singles. She has released 12 albums, with her 1994 disc “My Life” considered by many prominent critics and music publications to be one of the greatest albums of all time.
Blige also has nine #1 albums setting a mark for a female artist. She has earned 30 Grammy nominations and won nine times.
As an actress, Blige began her career on “The Jamie Foxx Show” and has been featured on past hits such as “Entourage” and most recently “Empire” and “Blackish.” She also co-starred in the Lifetime film “Betty and Coretta,” and the 2012 feature film “Rock of Ages.”
“I can’t wait to watch Mary bring the badness that is Evillene,” said director Kenny Leon. “Her talent range is off the charts and I know audiences won’t be able to take their eyes off her.”
Stephanie Mills was previously announced to portray Auntie Em in “The Wiz Live!” Mills is best known to many for playing Dorothy in the original Broadway production of “The Wiz.”
Additional casting news will be announced in the coming weeks.
“The Wiz Live!” is adapted from “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum, with a book by William F. Brown, and music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls. The production opened on Broadway in 1975 at the Majestic Theatre and won seven Tonys, including Best Musical.
Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (“The Sound of Music Live!,” “Peter Pan Live!,” Oscar-winning “Chicago”) will serve as executive producers. Kenny Leon (Tony winner, “A Raisin in the Sun”) will direct, with Harvey Fierstein (three-time Tony winner, “Torch Song Trilogy,” “Hairspray” and “La Cage aux Folles”) providing new written material.
Esteemed choreographer Fatima Robinson (“Dreamgirls,” “Ali”) is also on board, along with music producer Harvey Mason Jr. (“Dreamgirls, “Pitch Perfect 2”) and Stephen Oremus (“The Book of Mormon,” “Kinky Boots”) as music director, orchestrator and co-producer of the music.
“The Wiz Live!” is produced by Universal Television in association with Cirque Du Soleil Theatrical.
Directed by Tony Speciale with original music by Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening), the story follows a variety of characters in a small Jersey shore town as they unravel the story of Leonard Pelkey, a tenaciously optimistic and flamboyant 14 year old boy. Here’s what the critics thought:
Chances are writer-performer James Lecesne will not leap down from the stage and slap you around for being unmoved by “The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey,” his earnest one-man show lamenting the death of a sensitive gay teenager who was murdered for being sensitive and gay. But the threat of emotional blackmail still hangs over this sentimental play, in which the scribe and solo performer plays the multiple roles of the residents of the little New Jersey town where Leonard lived. —Variety
Beware short plays bearing long titles; they are usually not short enough. Such is the case with The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, a 75-minute one-man show in which James Lecesne, who also wrote the piece, portrays nine denizens of a Jersey shore town… As a performer, Lecesne hits all his marks, nimbly transforming (in Tony Speciale’s paint-by-numbers staging) from one character to another by rotating 360 degrees and altering his voice and stance. Everyone gets an immediately identifying mannerism: a mimed cigarette, a hand tremor, a hair-flip tic… Won’t someone please write a one-character, nine-actor play instead of its ubiquitous inverse?—Vulture
Guided by director Tony Speciale and aided by moody music from Duncan Sheik, Lecesne crafts an airtight 75-minute story about tolerance, evil and legacy. It’s police procedural laced with pointed, but not preachy, public service. As in his previous shows like “Word of Mouth,” Lecesne uses few props, but relies on his dexterous voice and body language to populate this poignant work. “Leonard Pelkey” is streaked with darkness, but Lecesne shines bright.—Daily News
Things will be getting devilishly creepy on Broadway in 2016. The producers of the new musical American Psycho are pleased to announce the show will make its Broadway premiere this season with previews set to start Friday, February 19, 2016 and an official opening night on Monday, March 2, 2016 at a Shubert Theatre to be announced. Rehearsals will begin on Monday, January 11, 2016. The production will star Benjamin Walker (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) as Patrick Bateman.
Living the high life in 1980s Manhattan, Patrick Bateman has it all – looks, money, style and status. He and his entourage buy the most expensive designer clothes, eat at the most exclusive restaurants and party at the hottest clubs. But privately, Patrick indulges in another kind of transgression. And people—including those closest to him—keep disappearing.
American Psycho has music and lyrics by Tony Award-winner Duncan Sheik, making this his first new show to come to Broadway since his Tony Award-winning Spring Awakening. The show has a book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Spiderman: Turn off the Dark, ”Glee”) and is based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis. Rupert Goold (King Charles III, Macbeth) directs and choreography is by Lynne Page (La Cage Aux Folles, A Little Night Music).
“I’ve been a huge fan of Ben’s work on stage and screen and am really looking forward to working with him on American Psycho,” said Rupert Goold. “He is an enormous talent and I think audiences will be utterly seduced by his dangerous charisma and extraordinary stage presence. He’ll make a killer Patrick Bateman.”
“Ever since Ben ignited the musical theatre with his startling and superb performance in Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, I had hoped to work with him again,” said Jeffrey Richards. “When Jerry Frankel and I were offered the opportunity to join David Johnson and Jesse Singer of Act 4 Entertainment in presenting American Psycho, my first thought was that the most charismatic and sexy actor for the role of Patrick Bateman would be…Benjamin Walker. The gift of collaborative partners is that we were all in agreement…and so for that matter, as I found out, was the entire creative team.”
American Psycho had its world premiere at the Almeida Theatre in London from December 3, 2013 through February 1, 2014. That sold-out production was presented by The Almeida Theatre and Headlong in association with Act 4 Entertainment (David Johnson & Jesse Singer).
It’s been a decade since “Full House” aired its final television episode, but have no fear—the Tanner Family is coming to Toronto on August 18 and New York City on September 10!
Full House! The Musical! is the unauthorized musical parody that puts an adult spin on the wildly popular 90s sitcom. The beloved TV show followed the heartwarming story of a widowed Father whose best friend and brother‐in‐law move in to help him raise his three daughters. Every episode of “Full House” serves to remind you that no matter how unconventional the Tanner family is – they will always be better than your family.
Full House! The Musical! follows Tanner family patriarch, Danny, who loses his super power of solving any problem with his sensible “Dad Speeches” (complete with soft piano accompaniment). Enjoy Danny’s wacky and hilarious descent into madness as he slowly turns from wholesome Danny Tanner to foul‐mouth and dark Bob Saget. Will he get his “Dad Speech” power back in time to save his family? Probably not!
The cast features Perez Hilton as Danny Tannner, Seth Blum as Joey Gladstone, John Duff as Jesse Katsopolis, Bridget Russell Kennedy as Rebecca Donaldson. Amanda Nicholas as DJ Tanner, Marguerite Halcovage as Stephanie Tanner, and Marshall Louise as the Olsen Twins.
Visiting Toronto for an exclusive run before heading off to Theatre 80 in New York, Full House! The Musical! will be on stage at the Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst St.) for a strictly limited engagement from Aug. 18 to Sept. 6. On sale now, tickets range in price from $29.99 to $99.99 and are available online at www.FullHousetheMusical.com
The production is on stage at Theater 80 (80 St Marks & 1st Ave, East Village) from September 10 to November 29. Tickets on sale now, range in price from $25 to $50, limited tickets available for the “Tanner Family Hug Zone”, and are available online at www.FullHousetheMusical.com
The Broadway community mourns the loss of acclaimed performer Theodore Bikel, who passed away on July 21, 2015 at age 91. The marquees of Broadway theatres in New York will be dimmed in his memory on Friday, July 24, 2015 at exactly 7:45pm for one minute.
The accomplished actor originated the role of Captain Georg von Trapp in the 1959 production of The Sound of Music which earned him the second of his two Tony Award nominations; the first was for The Rope Dancers in 1958. His other Broadway credits included Tonight in Samarkand, The Lark, Café Crown, Pousse-Café, and The Inspector General. Bikel appeared on stages around the world and is known best for the role of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, which he performed more than 2,000 times.
Charlotte St. Martin, President of the Broadway League said, “Theodore Bikel was a great talent and an accomplished performer whose contributions touched audiences from around the world. And in his role as President of Actors Equity Association, he made significant contributions to the world of Broadway. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and fans.”
Bikel made his film debut in “The African Queen” in 1951 and went on to earn more than 150 screen credits including Sheriff Max Muller in “The Defiant Ones” for which he received an Oscar nomination. Other well-known roles included the Russian captain in “The Russians are Coming,” and Zoltan Karpathy in “My Fair Lady.” He also made numerous television appearances in shows such as “Murder, She Wrote,” “Dynasty” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
In addition to his artistic credits, Bikel served as president of the Associated Actors and Artistes of America, a federation of trade unions for performing artists in the U.S. including Actors’ Equity and the Screen Actors Guild and was president of Actor’s Equity (1973 – 1982). An advocate for many social issues, he was Vice President of the American Jewish Congress, Board Member of Amnesty International and a member of the National Council on the Arts.
Bikel is survived by his wife, Aimee Ginsburg-Bikel, sons Robert and Daniel Bikel, his step-sons, Zeev and Noam Ginsburg, and three grandchildren.
Broadway Blog founder Thomas Mizer has co-authored Triangle, a new musical making its premiere at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley. The road to producing a commercially viable musical isn’t easy, but this story about a high-tech scientist who learns that his New York lab was once the site of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, then discovers his mysterious connection to several of its Jewish immigrant victims, has been a hit with the critics. Here’s what they’re saying…
“Triangle” is astonishingly successful. The Moore-Mizer score is rich in melody and emotion…what really counts here is just how moving the stories are and how the songs heighten the emotion without cheapening it. — San Francisco Chronicle
…a fulfilling and well-crafted musical theater experience with a deep and heart-stirring humanity. —San Francisco Examiner
With a killer cast, excellent stage direction by Meredith McDonough, and a lush far-reaching score by Curtis Moore [and Thomas Mizer], this multilayered work will grab your heart in unanticipated ways, and leave you pondering the great intelligence of this piece. —Stark Insider
Ingeniously crafted… “Triangle” is a triumph. It is not to be missed! —Out and About Magazine
A beautiful new musical …engaging the audience immediately with humor, romance and pathos. And with a fabulous score, delivered by a cast of deeply impressive singers and an excellent pit orchestra, with ear-worm melodies that happily stay with us when we leave the theater. …it is rare that so fine a [music theatre writing] team emerges. —Regarding Arts
Take a look inside the sitzprobe (the first sing-through of the show with the orchestra) for an insider’s perspective at how Triangle came together.