Budapest to the Black Sea

Budapest to the Black Sea

Monday, 3 March 2008

How to Put on a Musical - Part 2 ‘The Producer’

‘Producer’ is a bit of a misnomer because these days producers tend to come by the car load or in some cases the minibus load. The names above the title now run to a full paragraph:

Samuel J Bloodlust & Alvin Toxteth in association with Jolly Good Musicals Ltd, Stalag V (Berlin) GmbH, Sketchley Offshore Inc, Schwarzenegger Fine Arts Inc & by arrangement with the Piccadilly Theatre (House of Hits 1999 Ltd) present….

What does a Producer do? Once he or she has a project in mind they have to raise the money. They will be aware of Rule 1, “Never put your own money in the show”, and will set out to find the cash from anywhere other than their own bank account. The simplest way to raise the initial investment is to send a particularly dim PA to Bogota and get her to pick up the two suitcases that you have, unaccountably, left in a locker at the airport and bring them back to London. You then sell the contents to Bobby ‘The Man’ Alfonso and put the proceeds into the production account. However not all producers have the bottle and not all PAs are gullible enough to carry out this straightforward task. So they have to take on the infinitely trickier task of convincing rich people that they could become even richer if they invest money in the production.

Traditionally producers have closely guarded lists of ‘Angels’ that they go to in the first instance. These ’Angels’ may be distant relatives, CEOs of multinationals, professional footballers, little old ladies in Bournemouth or just someone met in the betting shop across the road. Quite often names are acquired corruptly from other producers. I once worked for a producer who bribed a secretary to copy her boss’s address book. “Look!” he said triumphantly in the pub the next day, “I’ve got Jacque Tati’s home number”.

In recent years it has become fashionable to ‘workshop’ new musical projects. This involves setting up a mini-staging of the projected show in a dark theatre or hotel ballroom. Potential investors, publicity moguls, agents etc are invited. In my experience these events are greeted with immense enthusiasm but little money.

In theory the Producer should have all the necessary funds in place before production starts. This is not always the case and on at least two occasions in my capacity as production manager I have got wind of the fact that all is not as it should be. I visited the relevant producers’ offices and like Laurence Olivier in ‘Marathon Man’ I asked “Is it safe”? In both cases the reply was “Er well, not as such but by….” I returned to the fit-up and sent the contractors and crew home until there was some chance of them getting paid.

Once the money is in the account the Producer has lots more to do but we will deal with that later.

Project Model - Maintenance!
The lead producers of ‘Maintenance’ Samuel J Bloodlust and Alvin Toxteth have worked in a loose partnership for nearly 10 years. Bloodlust is New York based and started out as an attorney, during the 1970s and 80s he made a fortune out of pet related libel suits. He became a Broadway producer when his wife Ingrid expressed a desire to play the lead in ‘Martina’, a tennis based musical written by her aroma therapist. The show failed but Bloodlust had got the taste for Showbiz.
Alvin Toxteth was a teenage ventriloquist on Teeside (‘The Little Chappie with the Little Chappie’) until a freak flossing accident forced him to hang up his dummy. He went to work in the office of Harry ‘That’s my dog, that is!’ Ackroyd, comedian and promoter, who ran summer seasons, pantos and tours in the North-east. He used this experience as a springboard into the national touring scene and more recently he has become a major player in the West End. His production of ‘Whoops-a-Daisy’, the musical based on the life of Neville Chamberlain, has been running for 5 years.

‘Maintenance!’ (based on the Haynes Owners Workshop Manual for the 1989 Skoda Favorit) has it’s origin in a chance meeting between Gunther Eisenkopf , the lead guitarist with the East German heavy metal band ‘Kursk Salient’ and Dermot O’Dainty, writer and host of the TV reality show ‘Call the Receptionist’, at Berlin’s Tegel airport. They were both waiting for a snow delayed flight to Chicago. In a six hour creative frenzy in the departure lounge bar they wrote the basis of Act 1. O’Dainty in an interview later said “It was incredible, it was like Romeo and Juliet, Marks and Spencer, Mutt and Jeff. We were kindred spirits and we were shit faced drunk”. When the flight was finally called the pair were refused entry to the aircraft and after a brisk discussion at the gate were placed under arrest. They completed Act 2 over the following 36 hours in the airport holding cells. O’Dainty, who wrote the book for ‘Whoops-a-Daisy’ has been trying to get Alvin Toxteth to produce the show for some years.

Toxteth has finally convinced Samuel J Bloodlust that ‘Maintenance!’ has potential both in the UK and European markets. Gunther Eisenkopf, who, being German, has never heard of Rule 1, and has offered to put up a significant part of the investment from his fortune which has been mainly earned via his royalties from “Santa’s in the Stasi” which is as much a part of a German Christmas as Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ is in the UK. His partner, Max Flossebogen, former manager of ‘Kursk Salient’ has also offered money via his company Stalag V (Berlin) GmbH. Toxteth and Bloodlust hope to make up the balance from US sources on the West Coast. A meeting has been arranged:

The scene: Alvin Toxteth’s office next door to the usherettes’ changing room above a well known Shaftesbury Avenue theatre. Present: Alvin Toxteth, Samuel J Bloodlust and Larry Weinbaum , CEO of Schwarzenegger Fine Arts and a big player ‘on the Coast’. In the reception area Kevin Whimper, Toxteth’s assistant, is in the process of ringing round the ‘angels’, and PA Charlotte Gore-Wincanton is just looking good.

Toxteth: Welcome to London Larry. Flight OK?

Bloodlust: Did you have a chance to read the script yet?

Larry Weinbaum: Not as such but my people tell me it’s a wow! And I’m here to tell you that we are very excited about this.

Kevin Whimper (in the background) :…a will can always be changed Mrs Abercrombie. Have you thought about Power of Attorney?

Weinbaum: We think the time is right for a bitter-sweet musical comedy about divorce…

Toxteth: Er…

Bloodlust: Absolutely!

Weinbaum: Kramer versus Kramer meets My Fair Lady! Fantastic but my marketing people think that ‘Alimony!’ sounds better than ‘Maintenance!’

Toxteth: Er well…

Bloodlust: Absolutely right!

Whimper (in the background) :…and how did the collection go on Sunday Reverend?

Weinbaum: Have you thought of Meryl and Jack for the leads? I hear Meryl can sing and Jack has wanted to do something in London ever since ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’. Is Trevor available to direct? What’s Baz Luhrmann doing? Can we get Norman Foster to design the set? Emma Thompson has a great voice. Can Hugh Grant dance? Britney could be out of rehab any day now. Will there be doughnuts at the first day of rehearsal?

Toxteth: Possibly….

Whimper (in the background) : Charlotte have you ever been to Bogota?

No comments:

Cycling Down the Danube

Cycling Down the Danube
The Map