My off-Broadway show Daddy Long Legs was streamed for one night in 2015. When I watched the show, along with 150,000 other people from 62 countries, I had an epiphany: This was the future. Streaming live shows could not only preserve a theater piece forever, but also allow theater artists creating the musical to earn royalties, like film and TV artists.
Once a show is streaming, there are no running costs, the show never closes, and the audience includes more than just the city the show is running in – it includes the entire world.
With my Streaming Musicals partners, Tom Polum and Stacia Fernandez, we brought this idea to theatrical unions, producers, and whoever else would listen to us. We found out we were going to have to prove our idea first.
We started with one of my musicals, because of course, we would have the author's permission right away. My musical Emma had been a hit with audiences and critics over the last decade but was getting only one production every couple of years, if that. I offered Emma up as the guinea pig for the model. Raising the money proved an uphill climb as nobody understood quite what we were doing.
However, with the enthusiasm of the patrons of TheatreWorks, Palo Alto and Tim Kashani, and his company (Apples and Oranges), we were able to raise the money and shoot Emma at the Westside Theatre in New York in 2018.
It was an absolutely thrilling experience for me. With many of our original TheatreWorks cast members, plus with Broadway's Kelli Barrett as our Emma, we were able to rehearse, tech, and shoot the entire thing in 10 days. We didn't want lip-syncing in this model; we wanted this to feel more theatrical, and more importantly, to create a true hybrid between musical theater and film. With our music supervisor Brad Haak's magic, we made it work and added the live musicians in post and created our first "sound stage musical."
This past November, we were doing Pride and Prejudice at Theatreworks, and we had no intention of capturing it. But around week three, I started getting really excited about the production. With Robert Kelley's direction, Bill Liberatore as the musical director, a great cast and Conor Keelan's beautiful orchestrations, the show was turning out just the way I wanted.
Many of the TheatreWorks supporters had been on board for Emma and had seen the exciting forward motion of that show and got on board with this one. (More exciting things are happening with Emma right now that I can't share just yet but will soon.)
I'm excited to share Pride and Prejudice with our community next Friday for our virtual opening night and hope that it might provide a little respite for a few hours. As we deal with our current crisis, I know that all of us have our eyes fixed on the day when we get back in theaters again. I've been lucky enough to work with amazing regional theaters all across the country. They create little gems all the time with exceptionally gifted artists. Why not film these gems, come up with a financial model that supports the artists in salary and in meaningful ongoing royalties, and create a win/win for producers, theater artists and theater fans? We believe Streaming Musicals has created that model, and we're excited to share it with the rest of the world.