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Fans Can Back a Favorite Legit Musical and Make a Profit

Crowdfunding isn’t just for Zach Braff and “Veronica Mars.” Legit producer Jamie Hendry recently used it to raise £1 million ($1.7 million) of the $10.7 million budget for an upcoming West End musical version of “The Wind in the Willows.”

Broadway’s given the idea a try too, with producer Ken Davenport leaning on similar methods to drum up about $2.5 million of his budget for the 2011 revival of “Godspell” -— which didn’t recoup.

Hendry tried crowdfunding to prove a personal theory. “There’s an untapped pool of people out there who might not have ever considered investing in theater because they think of it as a mysterious dark art that happens behind closed doors,” he posits. He used his computer-science degree to help design the digital portal investors used to pony up.

But, he adds, the populist approach is viable only with certain properties. “Wind in the Willows,” preeming next year, makes an ideal candidate because it’s a family-friendly musical with broad appeal, adapted from a universally recognized title by an artistic team that includes scribe Julian Fellowes, a household name thanks to “Downton Abbey.”

“Willows” crowdfunding was structured differently from Kickstarter campaigns, which can’t provide a return on investment: Each small stake (ranging from $1,653 to $8,265) entitles the investor to share in potential profits.

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Davenport notes that U.S. regulations are stricter than they are across the Pond, making crowdfunding largely unfeasible for Broadway budgets — but it could work for smaller-scale offerings. “Crowdfunding could re-vitalize Off Broadway,” he says.

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