September 6, 2018


BroadwayHD  Featured in New York Times What’s on TV Thursday September 6, 2018!


JERRY SPRINGER: THE OPERA on BroadwayHD. Speaking in Ohio at a political event on Monday, Jerry Springer offered his thoughts on President Trump, saying, “He took my show and brought it to the White House.” Ben Brantley, in his review in The Times of a recent Off Broadway production of this bawdy musical, wrote that Mr. Springer’s TV show was “a confessional forum for dysfunctional and dispossessed Americans,” adding that the musical “may be the richest theatrical means we have for channeling the heaving American id that put Mr. Trump in the White House.” It begins as a fictionalized, opera-infused spoof of “The Jerry Springer Show” before descending into a hellish frenzy. This production, from the mid-2000s, has the same political resonance — even if it doesn’t fully know it.


via New York Times


July 14, 2018



Stewart F. Lane Quoted in Article "A Comeback Role for Boston’s Theater District?"


Another prominent Broadway figure, Stewart F. Lane, was the producer of “La Cage aux Folles,’’ which tried out in Boston before opening on Broadway in 1983. But as early as the 1970s Lane saw the writing on the wall and began teaming up with regional theaters on productions. Like other producers, he took careful note of the blockbuster success of 1977’s “Annie,’’ which tried out at the Goodspeed Opera House, a nonprofit theater company in East Haddam, Conn.

Increasingly, Lane says, “regional theater became a mainstay as a way to spread the [financial] risk of producing Broadway shows’’ as well as a reliable source of audiences “that could give you a flavor of what worked and what needed to be tweaked.’’


May 14, 2018


Is Streaming The Future Of Broadway?

Big money is on the table. The bet? To drag Broadway, belting and kick-lining, into the 21st century.

“It’s very slow to accept new ideas,” says producer Stewart F. Lane. “Whether it be how you handle the box office or introducing mics to musicals – which was unheard of until the sixties. Can you imagine?”

Lane, who has six Tony awards to his name, understands this latency all too well. Two years ago, he and his wife Bonnie Comley started the first major streaming platform for theater, BroadwayHD. For $8.99 a month, the subscription service grants access to over 200 recorded shows - everything from the original Cats to last year’s Tony-winning Indecent.

But other producers have been cagey about recording their product. They don’t want to risk cannibalizing ticket sales, nor do they want a “cheapened” version of their show out in the wild. The magic of live theater, of course, is in the liveness.

Isn’t it?

“You can't ever capture it as authentically as being there,” admits Michael Urie, director of the hit Bright Colors and Bold Patterns, which BroadwayHD filmed last month. “It can't possibly compare to being in the room where it happened.”

But Urie doesn’t think it needs to. And neither do Lane or Comley.

“It’s a different beast,” he continues. “An opportunity for people who don't have theater at their fingertips, to inspire future theatergoers. It serves different goals than Broadway itself.”

Pitching the service as a cultivation tool is a smart choice. The UK’s National Theatre makes a similar case with its NT Live service, which has been going strong for nearly a decade.

Unlike recorded music, Broadway’s content is not easily pirated, helping justify premium prices. You can’t exactly teleport Bette Midler into your living room (though if you find a way, please tell me).

But this means it’s also yoked to a dirge-like pace of development. Musicals take years to construct, millions of dollars to produce, and only 41 can fit on Broadway at any given time. The Main Stem is, at heart, a brick-and-mortar shop.

BroadwayHD is trying to fill a niche: attract potential fans to shell out for the real deal when they come to town. But it also works as a licensing tool, giving producers and writers a high-end calling card when pitching their work to regional theaters.

“We're part of this community,” Comley says. “We don't want anybody to feel that they’re being exploited. We want it to be something that everybody's comfortable with and proud of.”

Licensing income can play a big part in a show’s financial health – not to mention a writer’s livelihood. After a derided Off-Broadway run, Almost, Maine has become one of the most-produced plays in America, and is still sending checks to investors a decade later. Playwright John Cariani says he was able to support himself for years on those royalties alone.

It’s difficult to tell if BroadwayHD will improve the shelf life of recent shows. It's simply too new, and much of the fresh content is limited to star-driven hits that have already closed or smaller shows that never found an audience.

But a quick social media search highlights the demand for accessible supply. If you live in Minnesota and are curious about last year’s Best Musical Dear Evan Hansen, plenty of recordings exist - uploaded from grainy, half-obscured camera phones.

“Crappy, hidden videos on YouTube,” grumbles Tony winner Laura Benanti, who starred in She Loved Me, the first live-streamed Broadway show – via BroadwayHD. “That is not the way theater is meant to be seen or experienced.”

Pirates are never going away. They’re like the ticks of the internet: parasitic, perennial, and part of the food chain. But a service like BroadwayHD could blunt their draining effect. Fans get a high-quality experience, producers get exposure, and then – ideally – fan dollars.

The key term here is "high-quality." Most recorded theater wasn’t meant to be filmed, after all. It looks flat, artificial, and, well…theater-y. So Lane and Comley have invested millions to capture new shows specifically for digital consumption.

I got to peek at the Bright Colors and Bold Patterns filming, and the setup is indeed impressive. A coterie of technicians, directors, and camera operators work the material under the eye of David Horn, who oversees all Broadway HD shoots.

“We’ve got four cameras here,” says Horn, who is also the executive producer of PBS’s Great Performances. “For Broadway shows, we use fourteen. We work with the show’s team to change the lighting, the makeup, the cues, everything to make it work on film.”

The footage looks terrific. But the big money questions remain: how much does this all cost? And can any of it be made back?

For an Off-Broadway show, a multi-cam capture runs between $300,000 and $500,000. For Broadway productions, like She Loves Me and Indecent, multiply those numbers by 10.

But $3 million is half the entire capitalization of many Broadway plays, and most Off-Broadway productions cost less than what it takes to film them. Building this into a budget is just not currently feasible.

Fortunately for producers, that cost is fronted – for now – by BroadwayHD. Unfortunately for BroadwayHD…they’re fronting the cost.

“It is a long tail,” laughs Lane. “But we knew there was a global audience with an appetite for live theater. It’s the chicken and the egg: as subscriber numbers go up, we have more money to do more content, and as we get more content, we get more subscribers."

But money was never the ultimate goal. Lane and Comley are quite set on that front, having the resources to fund this endeavor without raising from outside sources. This is a point of pride, principle - and pure love of theater.

“Artists are now looking at it as preserving their performance, and being able to get them the next job,” Comley says, citing grateful actors and aiming to assuage prickly unions. “Sort of an audition tape.”

Lane sees another angle: working with BroadwayHD is simply in a producer’s best interest. When capturing your passion project, which would you pick: a sketchy cell phone recording from the balcony, or a top-tier, 14-camera effort?

He predicts, “This is what you’ll be remembered for.”



April 10, 2018

How This Husband-and-Wife Team Made Broadway Accessible

Did you know that the 2016-2017 Broadway season attendance topped those of the ten professional New York and New Jersey sports teams combined, bringing in a record-setting $1.45 billion in ticket sales? These numbers, courtesy of The Broadway League, illustrate the drawing power of one of the most highly acclaimed niche markets in the world, Broadway Theater.

Armed with such statistics and their great passion for Broadway, Tony Award-winning producers Stewart Lane and Bonnie Comley decided it was time to take this niche market to a global audience.

"I've always wanted to do this, to share Broadway with the world," says Lane in an interview. Lane is a veteran producer whose production credits include La Cage aux Folles, The Will Rogers Follies, Legally Blonde: the Musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie and a host of other hit shows.

Together, Lane and Comley looked at the Broadway theater demographics, which has remained the same for many years -- over 40 years old, Caucasian, largely female, higher average education and much higher disposable income than an average American family (the latest figure places the average annual household income of the Broadway theatergoer at $194,940).

"Despite being a niche market, Broadway is recognized around the world. Ask anyone, 'What is Broadway?' and they will tell you it's the pinnacle of live entertainment," says Comley, adding that "this includes people who have never been to a Broadway show."

Yet, the goal of taking a niche market to a global audience was going to be a challenge. One way to achieve this was to engage the ever growing younger audience by reaching them where they live -- on the internet -- by providing 24/7 access to shows. It also helped to tap into some familiarities to market the new digital platform. For example, audiences were already familiar with significant films like Les Miserables, which came from Broadway to the big screen, or Legally Blonde, which made the transition from film to Broadway musical. There's also star appeal, as movie and television stars regularly cross over to Broadway. Clearly, aspects of many Broadway shows have already transcended across the media and have drawing power.

Making it happen

As longstanding members of the Broadway Community, Lane and Comley knew they had to reach out to a lot of people and organizations to actually create a first-class web portal featuring meticulously filmed HD captures of full Broadway shows. They were able to leverage their relationships with the leading New York theater companies into collaborations with the Roundabout Theatre, The Public Theater, Manhattan Theatre Company, The Geffen and even Lincoln Center to name just a few. They all recognized that global exposure would increase their individual brand awareness.

Next, they took on the task of securing agreements with all 17 of the unions, guilds and associations responsible for creating Broadway shows. Their mission was a success as everyone got on board. "Now, when BroadwayHD pulls up in front of a theater with satellite trucks and 14 cameras, unions are confident that the creators of the shows will be compensated," says Lane, who is also a proud, card-carrying member of the stage union, Actors Equity.

Finally, thanks to the diligence of their technical teams, Lane and Comley created the BroadwayHD website, which launched in the fall of 2015 with a selection of 100 titles, with shows from both Broadway and London's West End. The selection has since grown to over 200 titles.

Price point was also very important. Using a Netflix-style of pricing, BroadwayHD offers unlimited access for only $8.99 a month or an annual fee of $99.99, which is roughly the average cost of a single ticket to one Broadway show.

Of course, theater purists, along with some producers and critics, argued that streaming is not the same as sitting in the audience and taking in the show live. But, while this certainly is a valid point, the democratization of Broadway -- bringing down the barriers of access whether it's geographic, economic or physical limitations -- has provided the gateway for a new audience.

It should also be noted that an educational component also emerged. For schools, theater groups, young producers, directors and performers, BroadwayHD provides a crisp, clear digital way to study the craft from the best in the business -- and even go backstage. An educational distribution arm makes many of the titles available at a discount for schools and colleges.

Globalizing your own niche market

By utilizing new streaming technology to the fullest, offering a reasonable price point and tapping into the familiarity of films and star power, Lane and Comley launched and marketed a new vehicle for Broadway that made a niche market infinitely accessible.

Entrepreneurs in niche markets can take a page out of Lane and Comley's playbook and reach out globally thanks to innovative technology and tapping into common denominators between the smaller niche market and their desired larger audience. Using the internet and social media, it's easier than ever to market to the masses, providing you find a reasonable price point and an accessible means of transmitting or transporting your products or services. An educational element that teaches the larger audience about your niche can also be beneficial.

In the end, Lane and Comley successfully unleashed a recognized niche brand to the world through BroadwayHD. If this story serves as inspiration, perhaps it may be time to take your niche market global, as well.


January 10, 2018

Live- Streamed Broadway Shows? The Tech Was Easy, But Oh the Drama!

For services like BroadwayHD, building the platform was the first hurdle. Now it’s time to convince stage purists that live theater belongs on your phone.

On a clear night two summers ago at Broadway’s Studio 54 theater in Manhattan, the husband-and-wife producing duo of Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley earned a curious accolade. No, it wasn’t a Tony Award. They already have nine of those between them. It was a certificate from Guinness World Records, which recognized the pair for the first live stream of a Broadway show.

Lane and Comley, along with the Roundabout Theatre Company, live-streamed the hit revival of the musical She Loves Me for their digital media company BroadwayHD, which operates a Netflix-like streaming platform aimed specifically at theater lovers. As a technical achievement, it was barely a blip–online streaming has been around for many years–but for a century-old industry whose audience footprint is limited to 40-odd venues in midtown Manhattan, it was a moment of enormous promise. Here was a global digital medium that could bring real-time Broadway shows directly to people’s computers and mobile devices all around the world.

“I’ve always wanted to do this, to share Broadway with the world,” says Lane, who is 66 and has four decades of theater-producing experience under his belt. He says Broadway is ripe for a streaming revolution thanks to a confluence of technical innovation, shifting media habits among theater fans, and rapid cultural changes within the community itself. In October 2015, he and Comely launched BroadwayHD with a library of about 100 plays and musicals, and today that number is more than double. The subscription-based service offers unlimited access to theater-related content for $8.99 a month, or less than one-tenth the average price of a Broadway ticket.

Certainly, you could make the argument that Broadway has no financial incentive to make shows available on streaming platforms. By broad measures, the industry has never been healthier: Audiences bought 13.3 million tickets last season to the tune of $1.4 billion, the highest season on record.

Scratch the surface, though, and that picture of perfect health cracks at the seams. In reality, much of Broadway’s success comes from a handful of breakout hits, while the majority of shows never turn a profit. Long-running favorites like The Lion King or Wicked may consistently attract tourists, but that doesn’t help the houses that either struggle to fill seats or aren’t reaching their full potential. Of the 32 or 33 shows listed the boards during a typical week, some may not even bring in half of their earning capacity.

Streaming could fill in those gaps, the argument goes, by either helping to promote shows while they’re still running or offering producers a new revenue stream that exists long after the show is closed. Easier access to shows could also help democratize Broadway’s stubbornly homogenous audience–last season, 77% of ticket buyers were white, and most had an income of over $75,000 a year.

To hear Lane pitch the idea, live-streamed theater–and BroadwayHD, in particular–has the potential to usher in a new era of live entertainment. Imagine being able to access all the hottest Broadway shows of the season without ever leaving the house. “If you can’t get here, get to BroadwayHD,” he tells me, his voice flush with salesmanship.

But Lane’s enthusiasm for streaming belies an undercurrent of anxiety and even hostility in the broader Broadway community, which can be resistant to change, skeptical of technology, and downright militant about preserving the purity of the live-theater experience. The promise of live-streaming has actually been a topic of discussion for more than a decade in theater circles. It’s already an accepted practice in prominent London venues like the National Theatre, where shows are broadcast live to hundreds of cinemas. But on Broadway, producers have been more cautious about embracing the concept.

“I will say that it’s moved a lot slower than honestly I thought it would,” says Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, the industry’s trade association. “When I first got to the League 11 years ago, I thought this was full of opportunity, and I learned pretty quickly that a lot of our members believe that you just don’t capture the magic of what goes on in the theater, on stage with the audience, on film.”

That was a prevailing belief, St. Martin says, among nearly all the top Broadway producers, even up until recently. Theater is special. It’s not meant to be consumed on a screen because it’s fundamentally better than anything you’ll ever see on your computer, or your TV, or even in your local multiplex. In recent years, as filming techniques and streaming technology have improved, St. Martin says she’s seen more willingness among some producers to experiment, but characterizes it as “cautious optimism.”

Meanwhile, audiences can be equally snobby about filmed theater. Haven’t we all seen an amazing musical number stripped of its magic in a cheaply captured performance on our televisions? Even at the Tony Awards, which the Broadway League coproduces every year, the season’s best work often doesn’t hold up once it’s televised. “One of our biggest challenges is having the musical numbers on screen come off as great as they do in the theater,” St. Martin says of the awards ceremony.

For BroadwayHD, this remains a core hurdle: How do you convince hardcore theater lovers and practitioners that a filmed performance can do justice to a live show?

Lane has a pretty plausible answer. He says it starts with understanding that there is a right way and a wrong way to capture live theater on film. He’s not just a theater producer but a multimedia disciplinarian with years of live performance-capture experience. Done properly, he says a typical capture will include more than a dozen cameras, a direct sound linkup, and carefully arranged angles that recreate the live-theater experience. “We’re not just throwing up a camera in the back,” Lane says. “It’s important to keep the quality of the production intact.”

And granted, the finished product may not be as good as seeing it live, but Lane contends it’s the next best thing. He likens it to watching the Super Bowl on TV with your sports buddies, as opposed to actually going to the game yourself. “There’s a certain real-time authenticity about it,” he tells me. “You see those actors really working up there. You see the sweat pouring off them. It’s not sanitized like in the movies–you can watch She Loves Me, and see Jane Krakowski do this amazing split.”




December 11, 2017


Broadway Bookshelf: 10 Books Perfect for Any Theater Fan


“Black Broadway: African Americans on the Great White Way”
By Stewart F. Lane
Square One Publishers, $39.95

In addition to its sold-out box office, the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” is also making headlines for its diverse casting. But before Lin-Manuel Miranda’s historic hip-hopera, there were generations of performers and artists breaking through the racial barrier on the Great White Way. The beautiful “Black Broadway” chronicles the journey of black theatre in America -- from Minstrel Shows and Vaudeville through the Civil Rights Movement and the Golden Age of the American Musical. It’s hard not to be inspired by the stories behind writers like August Wilson and Lorraine Hansberry, shows like “Dreamgirls” and “The Wiz,” and performers like Audra McDonald and Ben Vereen -- all who are featured here. But with this piece of often-forgotten history at your fingertips, you’ll gain a new level of appreciation for Broadway’s rich roots.





A Moment in Time

Utilizing songs from John Denver, one of America's most cherished songwriters and performers, A MOMENT IN TIME, is about a marine in Afganistan who, moments before a battle, recalls a safer, happier place. The new musical received its world premiere at the Dix Hills Performing Arts Center in New York, June 2010.


Let's Put On A Show! DVD

The DVD based on Stewart F. Lane's book is now available.

The grand master, Mr. Broadway himself, is at your side to help you to avoid common pitfalls and orchestrate the success of our show-whether you're working in a high school, college, community, or regional theatre.

Black Broadway

provides an entertaining, poignant history of a Broadway of which few are aware. By focusing a spotlight on both performers long forgotten and on those whom we still hold dear, this unique book offers a story well worth telling.