In transitioning from press agent to producer, Jeffrey Richards was just following in the footsteps of Rialto legend Alexander H. Cohen.
In the last few years, Richards, head of his eponymous Broadway praisery for nearly 30 years, has swiftly established a formidable rep as a producer whose credits include two back-to-back industry and critical faves — last season’s “Spring Awakening” and this season’s “August: Osage County.”
PR may not seem like a logical starting point for a producer. But the late Cohen, who continued to rep Bulova watches even as his list of producing efforts kept growing, did it. Current Rialto producer and general manager Richard Frankel (“The Producers,” “Sweeney Todd”) also spent time as a press agent.
“I became a producer after I saw ‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)’ and couldn’t get any of my clients to produce it,” Richards says of the Off Broadway comedy that became his first venture in the late 1990s.
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His initial Broadway outings — including his first, “Gore Vidal’s The Best Man” in 2000 — didn’t take off at the B.O., but since putting together a hit revival of “Glengarry Glen Ross” in 2005, he and frequent partner Jerry Frankel have amassed an impressive CV with three plays this season alone: “August,” “The Homecoming” and “November.”
Richards, who has been keeping his press office busy with his own productions, has shown a commitment to keeping plays on the Rialto, but he doesn’t consider himself a crusader.
“I just hope enough of them work so we have a complete theater, with both plays and musicals on Broadway,” he says.