B'way musical first to try Internet money-raising plan
So you want to be a producer? Join the crowd.Producer Ken Davenport intends to raise a chunk of money for his upcoming Broadway revival of “Godspell” through crowd-funding, the populist, Internet-based model for raising coin. Although other legit projects have successfully drummed up dough via the same method — many through arts-focused crowd-funding website Kickstarter — “Godspell,” to be capitalized at $5 million, reps the first Main Stem production to try this route for funding. Unlike donation-based models such as the one employed by Kickstarter, each investor in “Godspell” will, like any producer, be entitled to a piece of the profit pie should the tuner make it into the black. Given its grassroots nature, crowd-funding seems a natural fit for small-scale legit projects and micro-financed indie films, more and more of which have given it a shot to bring in revenue from a community of supporters. But the amounts raised tend to come to a few thousand bucks, as opposed to anything even approaching the million-dollar mark. That kind of track record makes crowd-funding unlikely to catch fire along the high-stakes Rialto. Not even Davenport, who said he’d been hoping to raise coin this way for a few years now, would advocate it for every show. The revival of the 1971 “Godspell” makes the cut thanks in large part to the mainstream familiarity of its title and score. Initiative also matches the community-building theme of the musical itself, according to the producer. Bible-based tuner, with songs by Stephen Schwartz (“Wicked”), is a contempo retelling of the gospel of St. Matthew. Crowd-funding would likely prove a nonstarter for an unknown new show. But for a popular property such as “Godspell,” the move throws open the doors to what can be seen by outsiders as an insular and expensive backstage world. “There are two reasons people don’t invest in Broadway,” Davenport said. “One is the financial threshold and, two, they don’t know who to talk to.” Investments in “Godspell” are divided into units of $100 each, with a minimum of 10 units required to participate. (Units for most Broadway productions are multiple thousands of dollars.) Funders will be listed by name on a poster outside the theater, and each will get a profile on a website dedicated to the show’s investors. Thanks to the specifics of the crowd-investment model for a commercial stage production, Davenport was required to be certified for a Series 63 securities license, according to the producer. Although “Godspell,” targeting a 2011 opening, is the highest-profile stage production to make a go at crowd-funding, several smaller stage offerings and producing orgs have tried it. Recent legit productions that have successfully drummed up coin on Kickstarter include the play “Keep Your Baggage With You (At All Times),” which pulled in some $3,000 to pay for the current extension of its Off Off Broadway run, and the New York Musical Theater Festival offering “Therapy Rocks,” which hit its goal of $5,000. A developing new tuner called “Brindlebeast” raised almost $13,000, which its tyro producers intend to use to help fund a pair of Gotham readings of the show in November. “I don’t have access to big money. I’m not in the biz,” said Anita Riggio, the scribe-illustrator who wrote the musical’s book and lyrics based on her own children’s book and who has produced the stage project thus far. “Kickstarter proved a viable alternative.” The Handsome Little Devils, a circus-informed vaudeville troupe based in Denver, Colo., recently began crowd-funding to help support its upcoming stint at Gotham’s New Victory Theater. According to artistic manager Cole Schneider, the company plans to use the cash to pay for upgrades to some of the production elements of vaudeville melodrama “Squirm Burpee,” hitting Gotham in November. Fund-raising has just begun for the $4,000 goal, but Schneider said she’s already encouraged by the responses, which, s he says, have come in from all over the country. It’s made the company consider turning to crowds again in the future. “I don’t want us to overdo it, but I think we will use it again,” Schneider said.
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