Onstage stars may get most of the attention on Broadway, but the 36 new productions that have opened since last May also showcased the work of countless pros behind the scenes, with writers, directors, designers and theater owners playing equally important roles in an industry that has topped $1.7 billion this season. Variety’s Broadway Impact List honors the 50 creatives, producers and executives, exclusive of actors, who made a mark during the 2018-19 season. — Profiles by Gordon Cox
JOHN KASCHT for Variety
Lisbeth R. Barron
Barron is CEO and chair of Barron Intl. Group, an investment banking firm specializing in media and entertainment. She’s had a hand in recent deals including Concord Music’s purchase of venerable theater publisher and licenser Samuel French as well as publishing and licensing players Imagem Music Group and Tams-Witmark Music Library.
Courtesy of Lisbeth R. Barron
No stranger to Broadway plaudits after “Jerusalem,” the playwright has another success on his hands with “The Ferryman.” The sprawling depiction of an Irish family during the Troubles earned nine Tony noms, proving so successful that it has extended its run to eight months (and counting), rotating in a new cast led by Brian D’Arcy James.
The partner and WME theater head reps some of Broadway’s most in-demand talent, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, director Marianne Elliott, composer Tom Kitt and director-choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler. Client Alex Timbers directed Broadway’s “Beetlejuice” (with “Moulin Rouge!” on the way), while director Thomas Kail and writer Steven Levenson launched TV’s “Fosse/Verdon.”
Making a habit of keeping one foot in the artsy and one in the firmly commercial, the producer corralled two starry casts with real box office muscle onto Broadway this season: Bryan Cranston in “Network” and Adam Driver and Keri Russell in “Burn This.” Now he’s launching his first season as artistic director at the venerable experimental haven Brooklyn Academy of Music.
As CCO of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, he’s gatekeeper of some of musical theater’s best-loved titles. But Chapin has never been overly protective — and this season he showed how willing he is to let artists take risks, working with creators and producers of Tony contender “Oklahoma!” to bring their acclaimed, edgy vision to Broadway.
The only female director of a musical this season, Chavkin is one of the leading creative forces (with writer-composer-lyricist Anaïs Mitchell) behind “Hadestown.” In bringing the awards contender to Broadway, Chavkin was in charge of morphing it from a scrappy, in-the-round Off Broadway buzz magnet to a production that looks right at home on a proscenium stage.
Over the past decade, Dalton has built up City National Bank’s business to the point that it now provides financial services for roughly half of all shows on the Great White Way. Her list of
productions includes everything from “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” to “The Book of Mormon.”
The former animation executive at Skydance Media and DreamWorks Animation (where, as chief creative officer, he brought “Shrek The Musical” to Broadway) has back-to-back shows. With Dori Berinstein and Jack Lane, he’s behind the season’s fan-favorite underdog musical “The Prom,” and he’s exec producer on “Moulin Rouge!,” opening this summer after last year’s hype-building run in Boston.
Alex J. Berliner/ABImages
DiMenna, a member of the producing teams of a number of shows (“Network,” “Three Tall Women”) in recent years, now scores her first credit as a lead producer uptown, teaming with Matt Ross and Aaron Glick to shepherd “What the Constitution Means to Me,” the unexpected and moving mashup of memoir and constitutional debate, for a Tony- nominated Broadway run.
As co-head of ICM’s theater department alongside Patrick Herold, Glazer has a client list that includes playwright Theresa Rebeck (on Broadway last fall with “Bernhardt/Hamlet”) and Rachel Chavkin, the season’s only female director of a musical via “Hadestown.” Meanwhile, the estates of Arthur Miller and Sam Shepard are among the ICM clients whose work has been seen on the Main Stem in recent months.
This Broadway regular directed two large-scale musicals in quick succession. First there was “Kiss Me, Kate,” smoothly updated for modern times and starring Broadway favorite Kelli O’Hara. Then came one of the spring’s most crowd-pleasing attention-grabbers, “Tootsie,” in which Ellis shows off his flair for comic pacing and his knack for assembling talented casts that click.
Fenty is the CEO and co-founder of TodayTix, the Broadway ticketing upstart that’s managed to stick around despite resistance from the powers that be. And it’s still going strong: In the last 12 months the company turned five, launched original programming, grew both nationally and internationally (reaching as far as Melbourne and Sydney), and scored a $73 million growth equity investment.
A producing powerhouse in London, the Tony-winning Friedman is also a major mover on Broadway. Her commitment to serious plays brought the London import “The Ferryman” to New York in a much-nominated production, and this season she’s a producer on another
awards contender, “Ink.” The two shows are part of a portfolio that includes global juggernaut “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”
The Gersh agent brought her client Adam Driver back to Broadway, after eight years of TV and movie stardom, to give a lauded performance in “Burn This” (alongside fellow Gersh client and Tony nominee Brandon Uranowitz). She also reps actors in major shows like “To Kill a Mockingbird” (Celia Keenan-Bolger), “Tootsie” (John Behlmann) and “Oklahoma!” (Rebecca Naomi Jones).
Iconis has been an Off Broadway talent to watch for a decade, but it was starting to look like he might never get his Broadway break. It’s finally here in “Be More Chill,” the show that outlasted its short-lived regional debut thanks to the viral popularity of a score that has officially made the composer-lyricist a Tony nominee.
The well-liked Broadway veteran (“Aladdin,” “Frozen”) is one of the industry’s most in-demand lighting designers, with six Tonys on her mantel and “All My Sons,” “Burn This” and “The Prom” on her résumé this season alone. She’s also the vice-chair of the American Theatre Wing, which co-produces the Tony Awards with The Broadway League.
The new head of the New York chapter of the musicians union, Local 802, won its first contested election in almost a decade, a shake-up precipitated by member concerns about pension funding and the shifting economics of the music industry. Krauthamer is also a working Broadway musician, playing in shows like “Frozen” and “The King and I.”
Young Jean Lee
Under the auspices of nonprofit Second Stage, the often-experimental downtown playwright (“The Shipment,” “The Appeal”) became the first female Asian American writer to have a play on Broadway. Her “Straight White Men” starred trans actors alongside an A-list cast that included Josh Charles and Armie Hammer, and she recently won the Windham-Campbell Prize.
Stephen Lewin & Kristin Caskey
Lewin, the CEO of Ambassador Theatre Group’s North American operations, and Caskey, ATG’s exec VP of content and creative, have only one available Broadway venue to book, but it’s landed starry plays like “Burn This” with Adam Driver and Keri Russell and, this summer, Jake Gyllenhaal headliner “Sea Wall/A Life.” Regionally, ATG’s renovated Emerson Colonial Theater in Boston hosted the premiere of “Moulin Rouge!”
Lewin: Courtesy of Martin Bentsen
One of the most prominent experimentalists in American theater, Mac won raves (and a MacArthur genius grant) for his marathon “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music.” In April, the downtown talent moved uptown with his bloody, outrageous and divisive “Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus,” scoring seven Tony noms.
Courtesy of Taylor Mac
As the head of the theater department at CAA, Machota has brought an enviable list of super-clients to the stage this season, including Kerry Washington (“American Son”), Annette Bening (“All My Sons”), Ryan Murphy, Joe Mantello, Jim Parsons and Matt Bomer (all part of “The Boys in the Band”), along with Casey Nicholaw, “The Prom” director, who has four shows running concurrently on Broadway.
Max S. Gerber
As exec director of Actors’ Equity Assn., McColl leads the theater union that made a successful push for changes to actor compensation for developmental presentations of new work. The union’s strike earlier this year kept members out of Broadway development labs for 33 days; the impasse was resolved with a deal that includes profit sharing.
McCraney has moved quickly from rising talent to prominent success. Now he’s one of the busiest writers around, with an Oscar under his belt (“Moonlight”), an upcoming TV show (OWN’s “David Makes Man”) and a post at Yale. In January, he made his Broadway debut with the nominated revival of his 2013 play, “Choir Boy.”
The set designer, who created the backdrops for six years of Oscar ceremonies, had an active Broadway season that’s included “Burn This” and “American Son.” In the summer, the Tony winner is set to go splashy with “Moulin Rouge!,” conjuring fin de siècle Paris with a giant windmill, a great big elephant and lots and lots of red velvet.
Photograph by Joan Marcus
Hailing from the world of indie singer-songwriters, Mitchell wowed theatergoers with her meticulous, artful and straight-up catchy score to “Hadestown,” one of the season’s biggest awards contenders. She’s the only female composer on Broadway’s 2018-19 slate and the first woman in more than a decade to have solo credit on the book, music and lyrics of a show.
Mendes carved out time in a robust film career to direct a hugely successful play. And we do mean huge: In “The Ferryman,” he corrals an enormous cast that includes children, livestock and an infant. He also staged the Off Broadway run of “The Lehman Trilogy,” which garnered such enthusiasm that it just might show up on the Main Stem sometime soon.
Working closely with the head of Paradigm’s theater department, Jack Tantleff, Mills represents clients including playwright Dominique Morisseau, nominated book writer of the bio-musical “Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations,” as well as Shaina Taub, recently tapped for the Broadway-bound “The Devil Wears Prada.” He also reps the estate of Jonathan Larson, whose work got a national TV showcase with Fox’s “Rent: Live.”
Courtesy of Jonathan Mills
The playwright (Detroit trilogy) is a certified genius — just ask the MacArthur Foundation, which gave her a grant last year. This season she made her Broadway debut with “Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations,” the bio-musical that rode a wave of regional popularity to become a Tony-nominated draw in New York. Projects in both film and TV are underway.
The TV über-producer is becoming a force on Broadway too. This season he was a producer on the hit revival of “The Boys in the Band” — and then laid the groundwork to extend Broadway’s
reach to the wider audience of Netflix, announcing that he’ll bring “Boys” and musical “The Prom” to the service. In both cases, he’ll keep the shows’ key theater creatives involved in translating stage to stream.
James L. Nederlander
The president of the Nederlander Organization booked one of the season’s most formidable titles, “Tootsie,” into the Marquis, one of his company’s nine Broadway venues. Meanwhile, he’s never been afraid to try something different: Heprogrammed a summer series of short-term residencies for talent from beyond Broadway, bringing in names ranging from Morrissey and Yanni to Criss Angel to play the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.
New York Theatre Workshop
Led by artistic director Jim Nicola and managing director Jeremy Blocker, NYTW is no stranger to Broadway attention after spawning shows like “Rent” and “Once.” This season saw two of the organization’s alums, “Hadestown” and “What the Constitution Means to Me,” become significant Tony contenders, while Off Broadway the company turned heads with “Slave Play.”
As CEO of Global Creatures, Pavlovic is at the helm of a handful of projects eyeing Broadway — and two are arriving within 12 months of each other. Late last year, the technically ambitious “King Kong,” starring a massive, Tony-winning, 1.2-ton puppet, bowed to largely tepid reviews but steady sales. This summer she follows that up with the buzzy “Moulin Rouge!”
It was impossible to miss this Australian songwriter’s work this year: His debut season on Broadway encompassed not one but two large-scale musicals, and they couldn’t be more different. First came the anthemic score for the big-budget spectacle “King Kong,” and then he showed his comedic side with “Beetlejuice,” the gleefully macabre stage adaptation of the cult-favorite film.
Price has been producing for more than a decade, but this year she took a significant step up. For her first Broadway credit as a lead producer, she’s guided the unexpectedly edgy, critically praised revival of “Oklahoma!” into its midtown home following an Off Broadway run. Next up: “Jagged Little Pill,” the highly anticipated Alanis Morissette musical opening in the fall.
If there’s such a thing as a marquee-name set designer, David Rockwell might be it. Not only did he design four recent shows (“Tootsie,” “Kiss Me, Kate,” “Pretty Woman: The Musical”
and “The Nap”), but his architecture group is building Olio, a Times Square hotel dedicated to celebrating New York theater with a curated art program and architectural elements inspired by Broadway theaters.
Prolific film and stage designer Roth, who won an Oscar for her work in “The English Patient,” worked on five Broadway shows this season alone, including “The Prom” and “The Waverly Gallery.” With one Tony already on her mantel, she’s currently nominated twice in the same category for her work in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus.”
Andrew H. Walker/Variety/REX/Shutterstock
Broadway’s youngest theater owner is making waves and raising eyebrows with forays into brand-building and fashion adventures at the Met Gala. But the president of Jujamcyn Theaters has a serious track record for booking his company’s five Broadway venues: This season he’s got top musical contender “Hadestown” at the Walter Kerr, and in the summer comes “Moulin Rouge!” at the Al Hirschfeld.
The Broadway veteran (“Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations,” “The Band’s Visit”) is one of several prominent casting directors who have pushed to unionize, going public with a rally at Radio City Music Hall two years ago. That action caused enough of a stir to prompt a lawsuit filed by The Broadway League — one settled, at last, early this season.
Courtesy of Tara Rubin
The Oscar-winning film maven is also the busiest producer on Broadway. This season alone he’s got “To Kill a Mockingbird,” alongside “Hillary and Clinton,” “King Lear,” “Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus” and “The Waverly Gallery.” Rudin also had a hand in “The Boys in the Band” and “The Ferryman,” all in addition to his long-running hit musical “The Book of Mormon.”
The playwright, TV writer (“Billions”) and actress is the force behind “What the Constitution Means to Me,” the genre-bending combination of theater, memoir and constitutional scholarship that was so widely well-received Off Broadway that commercial producers took a chance on moving it to the Main Stem, where the play speaks to the political moment with startling, moving immediacy.
Courtesy of Tess Mayer
Working with playwright Aaron Sorkin and a cast led by Jeff Daniels, Sher performed the delicate transfer of a cherished American novel from the page to the stage. He’s helped turn “To Kill a Mockingbird” into a top-selling hit with atmospheric live music, vivid performances and adult actors seamlessly portraying children in some of the story’s most important roles.
Sorkin’s one of the few marquee-name writers, thanks to TV shows like “The West Wing” and movies like “A Few Good Men.” Now he’s written one of the Broadway season’s biggest hits in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” with a script that acknowledges contemporary thinking while remaining faithful to one of the most beloved stories in American literature.
Marc J. Franklin
Charlotte St. Martin
Broadway league chief
St. Martin is the head of The Broadway League, the trade association that’s the closest thing producers have to a union. It negotiates all labor pacts between the industry’s many unions, not just in New York but nationwide, including this year’s deal that incorporated profit sharing for actors who participate in new work at developmental labs.
As the costume designer of “Hamilton,” Tazewell has seen his colonial costumes travel the world with the expanding global hit. In New York, he’s showing off work that draws on more recent eras, bringing spangly style to “Ain’t Too Proud” and gender-bending disco duds to “Summer.” He’s also had a hand in TV outings including “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert.”
Courtesy of Paul Tazewell
The UTA theater agent shepherds emerging talent into major projects across the industry. Along with a client list that includes Leslye Headland, Jocelyn Bioh, John Leguizamo and Clare Barron (Pulitzer finalist for “Dance Nation,” set for development at HBO), she also reps director Lila Neugebauer, whose Broadway debut last fall (“The Waverly Gallery”) will be followed by a film gig with Jennifer Lawrence.
Courtesy of Rachel Viola
For her first crack at lead producing a Broadway musical, the former agent and longtime film exec brought together the late Garry Marshall and rock hitmaker Bryan Adams to translate the iconic “Pretty Woman” to the stage — then defied downbeat reviews, capitalizing on healthy audience response and million-dollar weeks at the box office to keep the show running all season long.
Courtesy of Paula Wagner
Robert E. Wankel
As president and co-CEO of the Shubert Organization, he and chairman/co-CEO Philip J. Smith are gatekeepers to its 17 Broadway venues. Those venerable buildings house some of the season’s major awards contenders, from “To Kill a Mockingbird” to “Network,” “Ain’t Too Proud” to “The Prom,” alongside long runners like “The Phantom of the Opera.”
The Shubert Organization
George C. Wolfe
The director staged the world premiere of “Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus” in a production that encompasses piles of mannequin corpses, fake penises, tons of blood and a cast of top Broadway comedians: Nathan Lane, Kristine Nielsen and Julie White. Many critics didn’t know what to make of the high-low comedy mashup, but it sure got them talking.
The composer-lyricist just swept the Tonys last season with his musical “The Band’s Visit,” but he’s already back on the boards. Where “Band’s Visit” was intimate, “Tootsie” is splashy, and his catchy tunes and joke-filled lyrics — for showstoppers like “What’s Gonna Happen” — helped make the crowd-pleasing comedy an instant Tony favorite for the top award of the evening.