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“Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Putting on a Big Musical on a Small Island”

or, “Why You Should Support Local Theatre”


By Rachel Jacobson


Those of us “elders” who grew up on Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney movies know that it used to be that all you needed to put on a show was a big old barn, a bunch of enthusiastic kids who could all sing and dance for hours on end till their feet bled, a rickety old piano (that somehow materialized in the aforementioned old barn) complete with a nimble fingered, tireless genius piano player/songwriter who could play till his fingers bled, and a slave-driving director and choreographer ... et voilá!


Next thing you know, you are on Broadway!!!


Now, fast forward to the 21st century.


This past summer, Elizabeth Nolan wrote a very informative description in the Driftwood of what it takes to put on a production here and now—that is to say, countless hours of hard work by dedicated and committed directors, musical directors and musicians, choreographers, set and props designers and builders, costume designers and builders, sound and lighting technicians, hair and makeup, publicity, program, concession people … and, of course, the cast!


The majority of them volunteer their time and expertise. So, why do we do it? I can only speak for myself.


It is my addiction to joy, and the stuff that feeds my soul: music, theatre, a good story, and working with a team of talented, lovely people to produce a work of art for others to enjoy.


So now… (drum roll) the price tag. For exitStageLeft’s first five musicals, the approximate average figures for each show broke down like this:


Royalties and licensing fees to publishers: $4,000 to $6,000 in US dollars (depending on the show and which NYC publishing house owns the rights)!


Venue rentals, rehearsals and show: $6,500.      


Sound and lighting technicians: $4,500.


Total fees to all previously mentioned directors, musicians, technicians, etc.: $8,000 to $10,000.


Sets, props, costumes etc., even with much of it being recycled year over year: $2,000 to $4,000.


Advertising, administration, etc.: $2,000.


On average, that’s a cost of over $30,000—again, depending on the show.


Now, as for Beauty and the Beast, you might think that with seven sold-out shows we’d be making out like bandits! But that’s hardly the case.


The rights came in at about $8,600 in Canadian funds. Venue fees, for the rehearsals and show, came in at over $8,500, while sound and lighting technician fees topped $5,300.


Our incredible set, props and costumes came in at nearly $6,000. Add in all of the regular costs and it’s about $42,000.


And even though we sold out every night, ticket sales brought in just under $40,000.


So why do we do it? Again, I can only speak for myself—but it must be that joy of theatre.

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