Not many people other than the theater world know what a producer really does. On the community level, with local shows, it can include anything from rounding up props to ordering opening night sandwiches. But on the Broadway level, it usually means “money” — everything from budgeting it, to raising it, and to spending it.
And that means that the producer is responsible for all of the contracts, from the director, down to the understudies — for the theater rental, for advertising and publicity. And sadly, whether to keep a show open — or close it.
The most important figure when it comes to money is the weekly “nut.” That is a theater term that refers to how much it takes to run a show for a single week. Regional theaters (such as McCarter or George Street Playhouse or Papermill) are not particularly interested in a weekly sum. Fundraising normally covers concerns like that. But on Broadway, a show must make at least what it spends. Or it closes.
As for “Godspell,” our major costs were the 10-man cast and our four musicians, plus, of course, the extras (at least one male actor, one female and a musician — all on standby). And speaking of musicians, we were insistent on using only the four that Steve Schwartz’s score called for. Broadway theaters each come with its very own regulation. Many theaters demand 12 musicians if you are producing a musical. It goes up to 20.
That kept us off Broadway for six years. On the seventh, the unions decided to deal with us and suggested six. We agreed and paid six (but we still used only four). We therefore played in all the major cities — London, Paris, Toronto, and throughout Australia with four men. Only in New York did we pay for six.
With the raising, the budgeting, and the spending of money — as well as the contracting, the advertising, and the selling of tickets — one thing is for certain: a producer’s job is not complete just because the show has open-ed.