Acclaimed book. Troubled Financier. Broadway dreams.
$4.5 million on the line.
If it sounds like the start of a great Hollywood film, or perhaps the plot ripe for the theatrical stage, it’s because this stranger-than-fiction Broadway showdown is one of the juiciest unravelings of a production that the Great White Way has seen in recent years.
Yes, many productions have trouble making it to the stage. Which is why Broadway transfers need beaucoup bucks behind them if they hope to make the leap. The German mega-musical Rebecca (based on the Daphne Du Maurier novel) was poised for the jump until the mysterious death of a “key investor” just a few months ago. But the strange thing? No one knew who this man, Paul Abrams, really was. That’s because he did not exist.
Mark C. Hotton was arrested yesterday for defrauding the show’s producers. Four times over. Hotton, a middle-man financier for the production, faked the lives of four different investors, leaving the show on the hook for nearly $5 million when the main imposter/investor “passed away” this summer.
“To carry out the alleged fraud, Hotton faked lives, faked companies and even staged a fake death, pretending that one imaginary investor had suddenly died from malaria. Ultimately, Hotton’s imagination was no match for the FBI which uncovered, with lightning speed, his alleged financial misdeeds.”
And apparently it’s not the first time Hotton’s gotten his feet wet in the fraud pool. The Broadway producers also discovered a $750,000 real estate scheme he headed which featured some of the same slight of hand.
A story so full of twists and turns that it makes your head spin.
And once the spinning subsides, it makes you want to write a musical about the musical-that-could-have-been.
It might be this little gem of a show, Lizzie Borden, a rock musical about the most infamous trial of the 1800s that’s currently receiving a treatment at the Village Theatre’s Festival of New Musicals (where both Next to Normal and Million Dollar Quartet were developed before their successful Broadway stints).
Belting ladies, Victorian Versace-inspired rock wear, and a whole lot a venom in this powerhouse of a show. And the entire show’s told only using four female characters! Lizzie, her sister Emma, the housemaid and the next door neighbor/possible secret love interest. Here’s hoping that it makes the hop over to New York soon.
“The best theatre should be like gym for the soul”
– Anne Bogart
Recently at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, the LA Stage Alliance explored the intrinsic impact of live theatre in the first of their LA STAGE Talks series. But how does one go about measuring how theatre affects its audience members when an individual walks away from a show with no quantifiable differences? The piece touched you/changed your life/challenged you/made you think? Great. But how do you show that?
For the researchers involved in this study, their answer was a U.S.-wide survey. The lead researcher Alan Brown asserted, “If you can describe something, you can measure it.” And so they went off to help 18 theatres better understand what kept their patrons coming back.
Perhaps the most interesting part of their findings were their results on the motivations for attending a production.
For most, a primary motivation was “to relax or escape,” which goes up significantly with age, and then tapers off. The second most popular motivation was the desire “to be emotionally moved or inspired,” which also increased with age, before leveling off. Ranking third was “to spend time with family members,” which rises during the child rearing years, and then, “plunges” later.
Another interesting motivation was “to re-visit a familiar work of art,” especially true in cases of classic musical theatre pieces and staples such as the Nutcracker and Christmas Carol, which served as a primary reason for older theatergoers to attend.
Interestingly, the motivation “being invited by someone else,” was highly recorded throughout the results. Brown was able to report that “an invitation from a friend explains half of all art participation.”
The last one speaks greatly to the idea of art as a community. We often forget the power of people and the strength of word of mouth. Theatre cannot exist without the audience. Thus it is as necessary to cultivate a great audience as it is to find a great cast when working on a piece. The two are interdependent. The crowd will sustain the theatre, and the theatre will sustain the crowd.
What are some of your reasons for getting down to the theatre?
Little Friday inspiration to send you on your way this weekend. Enjoy!
“I know the world is filled with troubles and many injustices. But reality is as beautiful as it is ugly. I think it is just as important to sing about beautiful mornings as it is to talk about slums. I just couldn’t write anything without hope in it.”