Deadline’s Jeremy Gerard and Jujamcyn Theatres majority owner and president Jordan Roth talk about the state of the industry, the only stipulation being no holds barred.
GERARD: It’s been more than a week since the death of Gordon Davidson and the Broadway League has yet to honor him with its one-minute dimming of the marquee lights. What’s wrong with your colleagues? If he had done no more than direct In The Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer, The Trial Of The Catonsville Nine, The Shadow Box and Children Of A Lesser God, dayenu. But as head of the Center Theater Group/Mark Taper Forum, he nurtured and promoted works by Tony Kushner, August Wilson and Luis Valdez (though it was a Broadway flop, Zoot Suit was one of my favorite shows, way before its time), among countless others. I realize he was no Joan Rivers, but….
ROTH: Of all the honors in our industry, this one is both the most significant and the most challenging. Significant because it speaks to a legendary life on and for Broadway and because so few receive it. Challenging because it comes or doesn’t at the most painful moment for all who love and respect the person and because it is wholly subjective. At those moments, it’s impossible for those grieving not to compare one life to another. Why her and not him? Why then and not now? For everyone who had a meaningful impact on the theater, there are those who believe the lights should be dimmed. And they’re right. Everyone who dedicated their lives to the theater deserve its highest honor. But not all will receive it in the same way. Some will be honored by dimming at the one theater they worked mostly at, as we recently did at the O’Neill for our beloved Irene Vincent, usher of almost 50 years. Some will be honored in the city they most worked in, as the great Gordon Davidson was last week when the major Broadway presenting houses of L.A. dimmed for him. And still others will be honored with memorial services in theaters or other tributes or in our hearts. That doesn’t mean they gave less, doesn’t mean they mattered less, doesn’t mean they are less missed.
GERARD: Jordan, your response leaves me speechless. To my mind it underscores the very provincialism the Broadway League has sought for years to dispel, as well as a disrespect for Broadway history. Gordon Davidson’s impact on the theater went far beyond Los Angeles, as the Tony Awards acknowledged in 1977, when the Mark Taper Forum became only the third company (after D.C.’s Arena Stage and, 28 years earlier, Virginia’s Barter Theatre) to be given the Regional Theatre Tony. All of the shows I mentioned above had a direct impact on contemporary American theater and on Broadway… Next subject: My colleague Philip Boroff broke the news last week that producer Jeffrey Seller and his team have upped the top price of Hamilton tickets to $1,000 (OK, $998) during the holiday season. Will anybody in the business call this out?
ROTH: Well, you just did.
I had a sticker-shock moment too, but I’m interested that you seem to be taking issue only with the show for charging it and not the ticket buyers for paying it. Takes two to tango. Or hip-hop.
But just because people will pay it, does that mean shows should charge it? As long as legislation requires that tickets be resellable, then yes. Because if people are willing to pay it and shows don’t charge it, brokers will. If you want to meaningfully limit what a ticket “should” cost, then you have to also limit resale so the person who ends up sitting in that seat actually paid the face value of the ticket. Even so, what should a ticket to the hottest current show on the most sought after week of the year in the best seat in the house cost? That’s the question we often miss in this ongoing debate. We’re not talking about all tickets to all shows all year in all locations. And we do a disservice to our audience when we pretend we are, because they’ll mistakenly think there’s no way to come to Broadway for less. They’ll miss out on us and we’ll miss out on them.
GERARD: Sure, we know that in the free-marketplace, no matter how high the legitimate price goes, there will always be entrepreneurs to service the price-is-no-object crowd. Two things, however: First, the Hamilton folks, led by Seller and Lin-Manuel Miranda, have made it their cause to promote legislation prohibiting the use of bots by brokers to vacuum up tickets for the resale market — and yet they consign large blocks of tickets to Broadway.com, a broker. Second, Miranda says he wants Hamilton tickets to be available to everyone on an equal basis. Yet these insane prices send a very different message, and to my mind that message is the one voiced by Michael Douglas in Wall Street: “Greed is good.” When do you draw the line between fair return on investment (need I point out that Hamilton recouped in record time?) and Gordon Gekkoism?