Interview: Producer Carlee Briglia Brings Comedy to Broadway

Briglia is one of the decision-makers behind hits like Oh, Mary! and Just for Us.

Carlee Briglia, along with her producing partner, Mike Lavoie, are responsible for bringing some of the funniest commercial off-Broadway productions to life.  She’s not the kind of producer who just brings in the funding and hopes for the best, she is involved with every aspect of the productions from choosing the venue, the promotional plans, deciding what projects to take on, and assembling the funding too.

After presenting shows by Mike Birbiglia, Alex Edelman, Rachel Bloom, Kate Berlant, Colin Quinn, and John Mulaney and Nick Kroll, Briglia’s latest show, Cole Escola’s Oh, Mary!, was a runaway off-Broadway hit just transferred to Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre. Here’s how she got started in show biz, and where she wants to go from here.

thumbnail CarleeBriglia 2 EdwardTMorris
Carlee Briglia
(© Edward T. Morris)

This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Tell me about how you came up in the theater industry.
Mike and I would probably both describe ourselves as theater producers who have a background in film and other types of things. Instead of the way that a lot of theater people come up, we didn’t come up through the theater world. We came up working for Mike Birbiglia. I came on around the time of his second off-Broadway show, which was My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend. We toured his show Sleepwalk with Me around the country as tour managers. Lavoie and I produced our first theater show by ourselves for Colin Quinn in 2013. At the same time, while we were producing theater shows with comedians, I also worked on a few indie films on the production side. I’ve worked as everything from a production assistant to a producer of commercials, live events, film, TV here and there. A lot of odd jobs in production.

What does the producing side of your job look like?
We generally produce and general manage our shows. We have a very small staff, and it really is usually just the two of us with some exceptions. With Oh Mary!, we partnered with Alchemation’s Lucas McMahon and Kevin McCollum, which has been wonderful. Lavoie and I are usually the ones finding the shows, finding the theater, doing the budget, and raising the money. We do a lot of the marketing in-house and we do the accounting on our own. So we’re really, really hands on both in the day to day and the big picture of the shows we produce.

Why do you tend to work with a lot of comedians?
It seemed like a natural fit and it’s something that we really enjoy. I think it’s well suited for off-Broadway. I also think spiritually, we both just really enjoy comedy and I think there’s a market for it. For me, at least, I know how to sell a comedy to the audience. I love super dramatic plays, but I’m not exactly sure as a producer that it’s my calling to figure out how to sell those shows. But a good comedy? I know what I’m doing.

Tony Macht, Bianca Leigh, and Cole Escola in Oh, Mary! — credit Emilio Madrid
Tony Macht, Bianca Leigh, and Cole Escola in Oh, Mary!
(© Emilio Madrid)

When was your first inkling that Oh, Mary! would become the word-of-mouth hit that it currently is?
My first impressions of the script were that it was really funny on the page, which is incredibly difficult to do, and it was also also a well-crafted play. Cole is an incredible writer both in that they’re just hilarious, like, the jokes are really tight, but also, it has an incredible structure to it and a discipline of the structure. We had high hopes for it, but you never know.

And then at every stage of the process, our excitement grew. Everyone had this sense that we had a good thing here. The response has been absolutely amazing and we feel really blessed to be a part of it.

How does the Broadway of it all feel for you?
I don’t think any of us went into this thinking we’re gonna do an off-Broadway run and then we’re gonna transfer to Broadway. Maybe a couple weeks after opening, it started to feel like, what’s next? And the truth of off-Broadway commercial theater is that there are not enough theaters so you just don’t get open-ended runs. Luckily the Lortel had some extra time, which is why we were able to extend, but we can’t go any further than we are.

We felt two things. There’s still such an appetite to see the show in New York City, and therefore it feels wrong to do the show in another place while this is where all the excitement and chatter is.  The other thing is that we are all really excited to bring this show to both a bigger audience and a different audience and play it in a bigger house. I think the show creatively will work well there.

 One of the reasons why the show has been so successful is that everyone’s been on the same page. I trust that we will all be able to figure out how to make the spirit and magic of the off-Broadway run transfer to a bigger house.

Are you finding that audiences are coming out in a bigger way than they have in the past for commercial Off Broadway?
Mike and I have been doing commercial off-Broadway theater fairly successfully for a while. The thing that feels different to me now is that people within the industry seem to notice. And not just us, obviously. There’s been a ton of off-Broadway commercial theater that has been successful recently. We’ve been doing this with these comedy shows that start building a younger audience. If they get some word of mouth within the theater audience, theater audiences come out as well. We’ve seen a lot of the cross section with Kate Berlant, Alex Edelman’s Just For Us when it was off-Broadway, even Jacqueline Novak’s show in 2019 and the Colin Quinn shows. The audience has always been there.

0039 Alex Edelman in JUST FOR US on Broadway (credit Matthew Murphy)
Alex Edelman in Just For Us on Broadway
(© Matthew Murphy)

Featured In This Story

Oh, Mary!

Final performance: September 15, 2024