When I first started researching At the Drop of a Hat (1962), and its sequel At the Drop of Another Hat (1967), I wasn't expecting to need to dedicate a whole lot of time to it. It's just two white dudes singing comedy songs right?!
As I delved deeper into the comedic duo of Flanders and Swann, I became intrigued by their stories. Both were fascinating men who were immensely brilliant writers and, by all accounts, absolutely charming individuals.
As a young man, Michael Flanders had contracted polio and as a result became a wheelchair user. From what I can gather, Michael Flanders was the first actor in a wheelchair to perform on Broadway and in the West End. Writers of the day barely gave this fact a mention, and one author infuriatingly noted that maybe Flanders "could surely step out" of his chair. Flanders faced many difficulties as a performer in a wheelchair, and he was devastated that despite the fact he could perform, other wheelchair users were not permitted in the theatre. He became a passionate advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, a cause his wife Claudia Cockburn also became involved in and was awarded an Order of the British Empire for her work.
Donald Swann was born in Wales, the child of a British national father born in Russia and a Muslim mother from southern Russia in what is now Turkmenistan. Swann was a conscientious objector in the war and as a result of his service with the Friends' Ambulance in became fascinated with the music and culture of Greece.
Through their revue At the Drop of a Hat, the duo performed not only in the West End and on Broadway, but across the United States, in Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong.
The taping of their two shows in 1962 and 1967 also revealed history about concerns of filming live theatre, how performers should be remunerated for broadcasts, and the role of theatre on television.
Information about the filming of At the Drop of Another Hat was relatively easy to find. The show had been filmed at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York and was released on VHS. The footage is currently available on YouTube, under the erroneous title "The Only Flanders & Swann Video."
Watching the video, it struck me that Flanders sometimes seemed to be in a bad mood, and some of the audience members even appeared to be bored. I later learned that the studio taping took over 7 hours. Flanders and Swann were reportedly frustrated by the stops and starts to adjust lighting and angles, and the audience were likely exhausted.
I kept finding mention of At the Drop of a Hat being filmed, but couldn't find information on where or when. This lead me to one of my all time favorite pastimes, delving into the archives at the Billy Rose Theatre Division at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
The archive holds literally hundreds of boxes containing the papers of Alexander H. Cohen, the groundbreaking American producer who bought Flanders and Swann to Broadway. Due to space and COVID restrictions, and limited time to spend at the library, I was only able to access exactly 6 boxes per appointment, and I had to choose from the hundreds of boxes which 6 boxes might hold the answers to my questions.
I hit the jackpot in a folder labelled "Alexander H Cohen Papers, Billy Rose Theatre Collection, Theatre - At the Drop of a Hat Correspondence 1957." Letters exchanged between Cohen, Michael Flanders, and Flanders and Swann's agents at MCA, detailed that At the Drop of a Hat had been filmed with an invited audience at the BBC's Studio 4 in London. It was filmed as part of the Festival of the Performing Arts, a short-lived cultural television program sponsored by the New Jersey Standard Oil Company.
The program was only supposed to be aired in the US, but the BBC immediately wanted to air it in the UK. The letters detail Flanders and Swann's concerns over a UK release, which included worries about the impact on future ticket sales, and also proper renumeration for such a broadcast. British Equity had just emerged from a 7 month strike against ITV over payments based on potential audience size, and Flanders and Swann wanted to ensure they were properly compensated.
Although it has not been released since airing on either British or American television, truncated video footage of At the Drop of a Hat may still exist, as Donald Swann discusses watching it, with some trepidation, many years later in his autobiography.
I'm so glad that my research led me to the work of Flanders and Swann. While some of their comedy is a little dated, much of the music and witty songs are as delightful and fun as when they were first performed over seventy years ago.
You can learn more about At the Drop of a Hat and At the Drop of Another Hat in the database!
Host Luisa Lyons chats with Singaporean actress, singer-songwriter and arts educator Ethel Yap.
Learn how Ethel worked to establish herself as an actor in her home country of Singapore after training in London, how Pangdemonium was formed, how working with The Theatre Practise (TTP) helped Ethel learn Mandarin, the state of unions — and the role of government — in Singaporean theatre, Chinese-language musicals Liao Zhai Rocks! and Lao Jiu, and Pangdemonium’s production of Urinetown.
Ethel Yap is a Singaporean actress, singer-songwriter and arts educator who has appeared in numerous theatre and television productions in a variety of lead and supporting roles. Her work includes Liao Zhai Rocks, Beauty World, Lao Jiu: The Musical, Four Horse Road, Untitled Women, PROJECT Utopia and the Singapore stagings of Tribes by Nina Raine and Urinetown: The Musical. As a singer-songwriter, she released her debut EP in 2017 and continues to write music that centres on themes of identity and meaning in the folk genre. She is also a passionate arts educator and momma of one very active little boy!
Learn more at www.ethelyap.com and follow Ethel on Facebook, and Instagram.
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You may be aware that Tony winners Hamilton and Come From Away were filmed live and made available to the public, but they are not the only Tony Award nominated, and winning, musicals to be filmed live!
Here’s a list of over 30 Tony nominated, and Tony Award winning musicals, including 9 Best Musical winners, most of which are available to stream on demand. Dating back to 1962, the majority of shows were filmed on Broadway, however musicals filmed on tour, or in the West End, that are replica productions or transfers of the Tony nominated show have also been included.
If you’re looking for more content, the Filmed Live Musicals database contains info on over 160 filmed live musicals (and growing!), including new productions of Tony nominated musicals like the filmed live concerts of Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera, two versions of Jesus Christ Superstar, regional productions of Fun Home, Curtains, Your Arms Too Short to Box with God, and more!
This post contains affiliate links and the author may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.
This star vehicle revue for Carol Channing was filmed towards the end of its Broadway run at the Eugene O’Neil Theatre in 1961 and broadcast on early pay TV in Etobicoke, Canada. It hasn’t officially been released, but it’s available to view on YouTube.
Sondheim and John Weidman’s concept musical about Commodore Perry’s first visit to Japan in 1853. The original Broadway production was filmed live at the Winter Garden in 1976 for distribution on Japanese television. Like Show Girl, it hasn’t officially been released since airing on television, but it’s available on YouTube.
Pirates of Penzance
The Public Theater’s 1980 production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta transferred to Broadway in 1981. Before its transfer, the production was filmed live at the Delacorte in Centra Park featuring Kevin Kevin Kline, G. Eugene Moose, Rex Smith, Patricia Routledge, Linda Ronstadt, Alice Playten, Marcie Shaw, Wendy Wolfe, and Alexandra Korey. Kultur Video released the DVD in 2002.
Based on an idea by Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby, Jr., a revue musical set in a 1930s Harlem nightclub featuring music written, or made popular by, stride pianist Fats Waller. It was later taped with a live audience at NBC’s Burbank Studios in 1982, featuring Nell Carter, Andre De Shields, Armelia McQueen, Ken Page, and Charlaine Woodard. It was broadcast on NBC, and also in Finland. It hasn’t officially been released since, though it’s currently available on YouTube.
A musical revue featuring the music of Duke Ellington. In November 1982, it was billed as the first musical to be broadcast on pay TV. Most of the Broadway cast picketed the filming over contract negotiations, and a fear that the broadcast would negatively impact ticket sales. The touring cast, which included original cast members Hinton Battle, Terri Klausner, and Gregg Burge performed in the broadcast instead. The revue is now available on DVD and on BroadwayHD.
The short-lived revival of Lerner and Loewe’s mythic musical. Starring Richard Harris and Meg Bussert, the musical was filmed live at the Winter Garden and aired on HBO, who had invested $3 million into the taping. Now available on DVD.
Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s dark operetta that tells the story of a London barber who seeks revenge on the judge who destroyed his life. Directed by Hal Prince and starring Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury, the musical opened on Broadway in 1979. Three years later, the musical was filmed live at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, the first major American musical to be taped whilst on tour. It aired on cable TV in 1982, and is now available to stream on Amazon.
Sunday in the Park with George
Sondheim and Lapine’s musical based on Seurat’s pointillist painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” The musical was filmed after the show closed during a special performance at the Booth Theatre and aired on Showtime in February 1986. It has since been released on DVD.
The Will Rogers Follies
Inspired by the words of Will and Betsy Rogers, this 1991 revue at the Palace Theatre was is an upbeat celebration of the life of American folk hero and international superstar Will Rogers, told through lavishly staged production numbers. Like Pacific Overtures and Victor/Victoria, the show was filmed live for distribution on Japanese television. It hasn’t officially been released, but is available on YouTube.
Into the Woods
Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s 1987 fairytale musical that combines several different children’s stories into one intricate and grown-up world. The musical was filmed live towards the end of its run in 1989 and aired on PBS in 1991. It was later released on VHS and DVD, and is now available on Amazon Prime.
Based on the 1982 movie of the same name about a singer who disguises herself as a man pretending to be a woman in order to work, the show was a star vehicle for Julie Andrews in her first Broadway show in over three decades. The musical played a troubled run at the Marquis Theatre from October 1995 until July 1997. Like Pacific Overtures and The Will Rogers Follies, the show was filmed live for distribution on Japanese TV. Unlike the previous two, Victor/Victoria also aired on television in North America and was released on DVD and Blu-Ray. The show received one Tony nomination, Best Actress for Julie Andrews, who famously turned down the nomination stating the show had been snubbed. It’s now available on Amazon Prime.
Smokey Joe’s Cafe
A revue celebrating the songbook of 1960s pop composers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller whose hit songs included “Hound Dog,” “Love Potion No. 9,” “On Broadway,” and “Yakety Yak.” The final few performances were taped by the Broadway Television Network in January 2000, and aired later in that year. It is now available on DVD.
Putting it Together
A musical revue featuring songs by Stephen Sondheim. The show takes place at a party thrown by a wealthy, older married couple, and involves a younger man, a frisky maid, and a comedic commentator. Opening in 1999, the revue featured Carol Burnett, George Hearn, John Barrowman, Ruthie Henshall, and Bronson Pinchot. Like Smokey Joe’s Cafe the final performance was filmed live at the Barrymore Theatre by the Broadway Television Network in February 2000. Now available on BroadwayHD.
A revue-style three-act musical celebrating the “great, and lesser-known, musical numbers” choreographed by the legend himself. The musical opened at the Broadhurst Theatre in January 1999. A week before its closing in August 2001, Dance in America captured the show over four performances. The film aired on PBS in January 2002, and it’s now available on DVD.
Jekyll and Hyde
Frank Wildhorn, Leslie Bricusse, and Steve Cuden’s musical based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s infamous novella. The musical starred David Hasselhoff and was filmed live by the Broadway Television Network during the last week of its run at the Plymouth Theatre (now the Gerald Schoenfeld) in December 2000. It was released on cable TV and also aired in select US cinemas, the first “non-film” to receive a digital release. It’s now available on BroadwayHD.
This “dance play” was conceived, directed, and choreographed by Susan Stroman in collaboration with John Weidman, and was set in eighteenth century France, 1950s New York, and modern day New York. Its 7 Tony Award nominations stirred much controversy, with the Musicians Union, along with several prominent Broadway orchestrators, petitioning the League of American Theatres and Producers to reconsider contact’s eligibility as a musical. The closing night performance was broadcast live from the Vivian Beaumont Theater on Live From Lincoln Center on PBS. It has not been officially released since the broadcast.
Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin’s 2007 musical adaption of the movie of the same name. The musical was filmed live at the Palace Theatre and later broadcast on MTV, drawing in 12.5 million viewers. The broadcast was directly credited with boosting ticket sales at the box office, and the show’s popularity on the road. Due to strict contract negotiations, the capture has not been officially released it aired on television.
John Doyle’s 2006 actor-muso revival of Stephen Sondheim’s concept musical about marriage and relationships. Toward the of its run in 2007, the musical was filmed live at the Ethel Barrymore and broadcast on PBS’ Great Performances. It is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD.
RENT: Filmed Live on Broadway
Jonathan Larson’s multi-award winning rock opera based on La Boheme. The original show was filmed live in its 12th and final year on Broadway at the Nederlander, and screened in cinemas across the US. It’s now available on DVD and Blu-Ray, and widely available to stream online including on Amazon.
A musical about Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, who developed a unique style of music known as AfroBeat, a blending of African rhythms and harmonies with jazz and funk, with politically and socially driven lyrics. It was the first show staged at the National Theatre to be concurrently running on Broadway. It was filmed live during its run at the National Theatre and broadcast in cinemas around the world in 2011. Not currently available to view.
Shrek the Musical
Featuring Brian d’Arcy James, Sutton Foster, Daniel Breaker, Christopher Sieber, and John Tartaglia, DreamWork’s first foray into stage entertainment was filmed live on Broadway with 10 HD cameras during its run at the Broadway Theatre. The DVD and Blu-Ray were released in 2013, and the musical is also available to stream on demand on Netflix.
Developed in collaboration with Heidi Rodewald and Annie Doren, the musical was a loosely based on its composer and writer, Stew, who left his conventional religious Los Angeles home to travel and find “the real.” Spike Lee filmed the musical live on Broadway in 2008, and the film premiered at the 25th annual Sundance Film Festival in 2009. It’s now available on DVD.
Lincoln Center’s sumptuous 2008 revival directed by Bartlett Sher and starring Kelli O’Hara and Paulo Szot. In the last week of the run at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, the musical was broadcast live on PBS’ Live from Lincoln Center. It has not been officially released since.
An original musical about the power of music to overcome racial divides in 1950s America starring Montego Glover, Chadd Kimball, and James Monroe Iglehart. The musical was filmed live on Broadway in January 2011 by NCM Fathom and Broadway Worldwide. It’s now available on DVD and Blu-Ray and to stream on BroadwayHD.
She Loves Me
Roundabout’s 2016 revival starring Laura Benanti, Gavin Creel, Byron Jennings, Jane Krakowski, and Zachary Levi. In June 2016, the show became the first Broadway musical to be livestreamed online. The broadcast attracted viewers from 60 countries around the world and #SheLovesMeLive trended internationally on Twitter. It’s now available to view on BroadwayHD.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash hit musical about founding father Alexander Hamilton told with hip hop music and a cast made up predominantly of people of color. The musical was filmed live in 2016 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, and after a fierce bidding war, made available worldwide on Disney Plus in July 2020. It’s now available to stream on Disney Plus.
A swing musical about Donny Novitzk, a musician who returns from the war, traumatized but with the desire to re-build his life following the death of his best friend. Directed and choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler, and starring Laura Osnes and Corey Cott, the musical played on Broadway in 2017. It was filmed live at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre during its run and broadcast in cinemas across the US. It is not currently available to view, though in the past year has received limited-time screenings on Broadway on Demand and stream.theatre.
The 25th anniversary gala production of Schönberg and Boublil’s re-telling of Madame Butterfly set in Vietnam was filmed live in the West End in 2014. It was broadcast in cinemas in 2016, becoming the first musical to air in cinemas before its Broadway run.
Lincoln Center’s 2016 revival of William Finn’s musical about family, relationships, bar mivahs, baseball and AIDS. Directed by James Lapine and featuring Stephanie J. Block, Christian Borle, Andrew Rannells, Anthony Rosenthal, Tracie Thoms, Brandon Uranowitz, and Betsy Wolfe, the final performances were filmed live at the Walter Kerr Theatre and later broadcast in cinemas. It’s now available to stream on BroadwayHD and Amazon.
An American in Paris
Based on the MGM film, and featuring a score with the music of George and Ira Gerswhin, Theatre du Chatelet’s stage adaptation tells story of a young American soldier, a beautiful French girl and an indomitable European city, each yearning for a new beginning in the aftermath of war. The musical opened on Broadway in 2015, before transferring to the West End in 2017 where it was filmed live. The film received a worldwide cinema release. It’s now available on DVD and Blu-Ray, and to stream on BroadwayHD.
A new musical inspired by the 1942 movie of the same name, with a score made up of twenty Irving Berlin songs. Featuring Bryce Pinkham, Corbin Bleu, Lora Lee Gayer, Megan Lawrence, Danny Rutigliano, Megan Sikora, and Morgan Gao, the musical was filmed live at Studio 54 and was the second Broadway musical to be streamed live online. Now available to stream on BroadwayHD.
Cindy Lauper and Harvey Fierstein’s musical based on the film about a men’s shoe factory that must pivot its business plan in order to stay afloat. The West End transfer was filmed live in 2018 and released in cinemas. It’s now available to stream on BroadwayHD and Amazon.
SpongeBob The Musical
Based on the cartoon, the cult classic favorite directed by Tina Landau opened on Broadway at the Palace Theatre in 2017. Forced to close due to theatre renovations, Nickelodeon flew the entire cast and crew to the UK to film the production during a special performance. The film aired on Nickelodeon and was the number one program across all of children’s television. Now available to stream on Amazon and Paramount Plus.
Come From Away
The remarkable musical that tells the true stories of 7,000 stranded passengers on 9/11 and the small town in Newfoundland that welcomed them. Directed by Christopher Ashley, and featuring a top notch ensemble cast, the musical was filmed live at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre during the Broadway shut down in May 2021. On September 10, the film was released worldwide on Apple Plus where it's now available on demand.
Look out for these yet to be released musicals:
Disney's Broadway musical based on the classic animation was filmed live in the West End in 2019. IMDb states 2021 as a release date, but an official date has yet to be announced.
Sara Bareilles’ delicious musical based on the movie of the same name, and the first Broadway musical to have an all-female core creative team, including director Diane Paulus, choreographer Lorin Latarro, book writer Jessie Nelson, and composer and lyricist Sara Bareilles. The musical first opened at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in April 2016, playing 1,537 performances before closing in January 2020. The musical re-opened at the Ethel Barrymore for a limited run at the beginning of September 2021, and on September 22 was filmed live (at the same performance, the opening number was livestreamed on TikTok). A release date has yet to be announced.
Host Luisa Lyons chats with a leader in the world of digital theatre, Jared Mezzocchi.
Topics include the intersection of theatre and film, how Jared’s mom (who was also his 8th grade math teacher), helped him see the world through numbers and story-telling, we deep dive into the world of digital theatre - what it is, what should we do with it, and delve into Luisa’s favorite question “what should we call it?!”
Jared Mezzocchi is an Obie award winning director and multimedia designer, playwright, and actor. Mezzocchi’s work spans the United States at notable theaters such as: The Kennedy Center, Arena Stage, Geffen Playhouse, Woolly Mammoth, Cornerstone, Portland Centerstage, South Coast Rep, HERE Arts, and 3LD. In 2016, he received The Lucille Lortel and Henry Hewes Award for his work in Qui Nguyen’s Vietgone at the Manhattan Theatre Club. In December of 2020, The New York Times highlighted Jared on a list of the top 5 national artists making an impact during the pandemic. His work on Sarah Gancher’s Russian Troll Farm, Caryl Churchill’s What If If Then and his own work Someone Else’s House was all praised for being some of the first digitally native successes for virtual theater. He is a two-time Macdowell Artist Fellow, a Princess Grace Award winner, Artistic Director of Andy’s Summer Playhouse, and an Associate Professor at The University of Maryland. Learn more at www.jaredmezzocchi.com and follow on Twitter.
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Host Luisa Lyons chats with Richard J. Hinds, associate choreographer on Come From Away and the current Broadway revival of Company.
Topics include why Richard was drawn to the creative side of musical theatre and his journey to Broadway, Andy Blankenbuehler’s role in his career, working with Kelly Devine, setting High School Musical on tour in the UK, US, Australia, and on ice(!), the role of an associate director and choreographer, working in television v. theatre, the filming of Newsies and Come From Away, and more!
Richard’s Broadway credits include Company (Associate Chor.), Come From Away (Associate Chor.), Disney’s Newsies (Associate Dir.), Jekyll & Hyde (Associate Dir./Chor.) and Il Divo: A Musical Affair (Assistant Dir.). He worked on the Off-Broadway production of Here Lies Love (Associate Dir./Chor.) and the National Tours of 9 to 5 (Associate Dir.) and Disney’s High School Musical (Associate Chor.). Richard’s television credits include Encore! (Disney+), Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, America’s Got Talent, The Bethenny Show, Bring It and Good Afternoon America. Richard is represented by bloc Talent Agency. Learn more at www.richardjhinds.com and follow on Instagram.
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Host Luisa Lyons chats with Maribel Legarda and Liza Magtoto, the director and writer of the hit Filipino jukebox musical Rak of Aegis.
Topics include the formation of the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), and how PETA operates and fulfills its founders’ mission to create a Filipino theater. We discuss the development of Rak of Aegis, why Maribel double cast the show, the significance of the incredible set, and why an audience member saw the show 21 times! We also take a look at how the show came to be streamed, and how the pandemic has changed thinking about streaming going forward.
Maribel Legarda is a multi-disciplinary director and the Artistic Director of PETA. As a Senior Artist-Teacher of the company, she has directed and choreographed major productions including “Care Divas,” “William,” and “Pamana”. Maribel has also conducted workshops for Dance, Women and Children’s Theater, both locally and internationally.
Liza Magtoto is a playwright and freelance scriptwriter, a member of The Writer’s Bloc and an artist-teacher of the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA). Recent works include “Rak of Aegis,” “Rated PG,” “A Game of Trolls” and “Care Divas.” A recipient of Gawad Buhay! and the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Francisco Balagtas, Liza also won the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, and three of her award-winning plays are published in Bienvenida de Soltera, an anthology of her earlier works.
Learn more about PETA at www.petatheater.com and follow on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
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On episode 25 of the Filmed Live Musicals podcast, host Luisa Lyons chats with Sarah Ellis & Greg Kamp, co-founders of MT Shorts, a new company working to merge short films and musical theatre.
Topics include the creation of MT Shorts, working with Emmy nominated producer & director Kenneth Ferrone, the personal stories behind the short film Jump, the creation of High School Zoomsical during the early days of the pandemic, and more! Includes an exclusive preview to “All of These Goodbyes” from new short Still Here!
MT Shorts Presents “A Jingle”
Music & lyrics: Nat Zegree & Eric Holmes; Arrangements & vocals: Jim Hogan; Vocals: Joey Harrell, Samantha Littleford, Sean Switzer
“All of These Goodbyes” from MT Shorts STILL HERE
Music: Ben Roseberry; Music & lyrics: Ben Roseberry and Chip Klose; Performer: Nathaniel Stampley
MT Shorts is a creative platform where musical theatre and short film meet, forging a new medium of storytelling with a mission to bring the voices of an emerging generation of creatives to screen. www.mtshorts.com. Instagram, Facebook, YouTube.
Sarah Ellis is an NYC-based actor, concert artist, creator and producer with a passion for community building across the visual and performing arts. Her professional credits span across theatre, film, dance, commercial, and symphony work, NYC new works readings and labs, regionally, including the First National Tour of the Tony-Award Winning “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder," and as a frequent guest artist with the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra. She holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from Penn State University where she received the Margaret “Peg” French Undergraduate Award in Theatre.
www.meetsarahellis.com Follow @sarahruthliss
Greg Kamp is a performer and producer whose career has spanned stage, screen, and concert venues across the country and internationally. Stage appearances have included the Tony Award Winning Center Theatre Group and Alliance Theatre, Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, York Theatre, Feinstein’s 54 Below, and The Cincinnati Pops as well as Lifetime, FOX, NBC, and Cartoon Network on the small screen. As a producer, Greg has worked with names and companies such as Rosie O’Donnell, Sara Bareilles, Paul Taylor Dance Company, as well as MT Shorts, the production company for which he Co-Founded. www.gregkamp.com
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Pre-pandemic the rules for streaming local school or community musical productions were very clear: no filming allowed! Although it was sometimes possible for these groups to buy additional licenses to film the show for archival purposes or purchase a license to sell show DVDs to friends and family at cost.
The pandemic saw a seismic shift in permissions for streaming. It took much negotiating with playwrights, composers, and music publishing houses, but it is now easier than ever for schools and amateur theatre groups to stream their productions so that non-local relatives, friends, people restricted by geography, physical ability, or global pandemics, can tune into their productions.
Due to the complex negotiations required for streaming, it’s not surprising that licensing companies themselves are behind new specialized platforms for streaming theatre. After purchasing a license for a show, schools and community groups can use platforms such ShowTix4U and ShowShare to stream their productions. One fee takes care of royalties and streaming rights, and the ticket sales or donations are all through the one platform. The platforms also provide tech and streaming support, resulting in higher quality streams than using Zoom, YouTube, or Facebook Live.
The first platform to go live was ShowTix4U, which launched in mid-June 2020. A partnership between musical licensing company Music Theatre International (MTI), streaming platform Digital Theatre, and tech experts Broadway Media, ShowTix4U provides a platform for both ticket sales and streams. Tickets can be sold to both in-person and streamed events, and shows can be streamed live or on demand. Another benefit of using the platform, is that licensing fees and royalties for MTI shows are automatically part of the fee.
MTI titles are available with 4 different types of streaming rights: Live-Streaming (streamed in real-time), Scheduled Content (stream pre-recorded productions), Video on Demand (pre-recorded video or previous productions), or Remote Content (produced virtually). There are currently 97 titles available including Annie, Billy Elliot the Musical, Daddy Long Legs, Spring Awakening, Urinetown, and Working. There are also 35 Disney titles available, including Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Descendants, and The Little Mermaid, and Newsies, with most only available using Scheduled Content Streaming. According to Playbill, the top three streamed MTI titles throughout the pandemic were Songs for a New World, Disney’s High School Musical, and Annie.
An initiative of Broadway on Demand, ShowShare launched in September 2020. Its current licensing partners include Broadway Licensing, Playscripts, Stage Rights, Concord Theatricals, and Youth Plays. Musicals with streaming rights include After Midnight, BRKLYN the Musical, Emma: A Pop Musical, and Polkadots. According to Broadway on Demand Vice President Tralen Doler, 1466 schools streamed their musical productions via ShowShare throughout the pandemic. The most produced musicals were Emma, Disenchanted, and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
A third platform is BookTix, which as its name suggests, started as a digital ticket booking platform. Founders Tim DiVito and Jason Goldstein increasingly saw a need to also provide streaming services, and expanded. As of May 2020, BookTix is partnered with Theatrical Rights Worldwide, whose entire catalog, including Monty Python’s Spamalot, Bright Star, The Prom, and The Color Purple, includes free streaming rights. According Director of Operations Cassie Balint, the most produced musical “by far” throughout the pandemic was The Addams Family. Other popular shows included You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, We Will Rock You, and Spamalot.
It will be great to see these streaming rights extended to professional productions, though this will need a significant shift from Equity and SAG/AFTRA, who have long battled over how to negotiate who gets paid what for live theatre broadcasts.
I have been sharing upcoming high school and community theatre streams in the weekly Filmed Live Musicals newsletter. Sign up to find out what’s streaming near you!
On episode 24 of the Filmed Live Musicals podcast, host Luisa Lyons chats with songwriter and performer Benjamin Scheuer.
We chat about the influence of Frank Loesser, how Benjamin came to write his first show (which Prince William ushered), the interplay of different performance and artistic mediums, being diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkins lymphoma at age 28 and our shared journey of cancer treatment and bone marrow biopsies, how The Lion served as a personal ad, the devastating story of one of Benjamin's most memorable performances whilst on tour, and exclusive news about what's next for The Lion!
Benjamin Scheuer wrote and performed THE LION (Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Solo Performance; Off-West End Award, Best New Musical). Scheuer and Carlos Acosta made Empty Stage, the “magical…best dance film of the year” (The Guardian). Scheuer’s music-videos have won Annecy Film Festival’s Best Commissioned Film, and the British Animation Awards’ Best Music Video (twice.) Author of two songs-turned-into-children’s books: Hundred Feet Tall and Hibernate With Me. Scheuer is writing a musical about Peter Roget, creator of Roget’s Thesaurus. A Kleban Award winner, “Scheuer plays guitar as if he invented the instrument (LA Times) and his songwriting “gets to the heart of the matter” (NY Times).
The Lion is available to stream on demand on BroadwayHD.
Learn more at www.benjaminscheuer.com and follow Benjamin on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and SoundCloud.
Check out Benjamin's latest short films:
"Empty Stage" with the Birmingham Royal Ballet and Carlos Acosta
"Empty Stage" with Robbie Fairchild.
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Filmed musicals bring joy to people around the world, create connections between theatre lovers, and shows what can be possible in bringing theatre to the screen. Filmed Live Musicals creates a centralized place to search for information on nearly 200 stage musicals (and growing!) that have been legally filmed and made publicly available. The Filmed Live Musicals podcast features interviews with actors, producers, and creatives about the joys and challenges of filming live theatre.
As you love musicals as much as I do, I invite you to make an ongoing donation to extend the reach of Filmed Live Musicals. As an alternative, I’d love you to consider a one-off donation. You’ll be helping to spread the love of musical theatre around the world and contribute to a new frontier of theatre on screen.
With thanks to Josh Brandon, Elliott Charlz, Rachel Esteban, Mercedes Esteban-Lyons, James T. Lane, Al Monaco, David Negrin, Jesse Rabinowitz & Brenda Goodman, David & Katherine Rabinowitz, and Bec Twist for being a part of spreading the love of musical theatre.