Renowned Broadway producer Ken Davenport talks Tony Awards, Hollywood, and ‘Gettin’ the Band Back Together’

Ambitious Tony award-winning Broadway and off-Broadway theatre producer and writer Ken Davenport has had a passion for theatre his entire life.  He has produced renowned musicals from Godspell to Kinky Boots to this year’s Tony-nominated Once on This Island and helms the North American activity for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group.  Dedicated to bridge the gap between the stage and its audience, he is also behind an interactive theatre app, Didhelikeit as well as the hit board game, Be a Broadway Star.

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Ken Davenport Photo courtesy of Ken Davenport

Ken talked to Sleepless Critic about when he first discovered the theatre, Hollywood and the Tony Awards, and his upcoming musical comedy, Gettin’ the Band Back Together.  Click here for more on Ken Davenport and see who the the big winners are on the 72nd annual Tony Awards on Sunday June 10.

The 72nd Annual Tony Awards hosts

Hosts Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles Photo credit: Cliff_Lipson-CBS

Sleepless Critic:  What awakened your interest in theatre and how did the opportunity to become a Broadway producer come about?

Ken Davenport:  My mom told me I first kicked when she was watching a production of Godspell, so I think I’ve always wanted to be part of the theatre.  I produced the first revival of Godspell on Broadway in 2011.

Being a producer is like starting your own business.  Opportunities don’t come about.  You have to make them happen.

SC:  What do you like most about producing and what production did you find to be the most challenging?

KD:  I love watching the audience’s expressions on their faces at the end of the show whether they are laughing, crying, or cheering.  We’ve affected them and that’s a joy to watch.

The most challenging part of producing is getting everyone on the same page.  It’s like getting ten people to paint the Mona Lisa.

SC:  Is there a show you turned down that you ended up wishing you were a part of?

KD:  Nah, I have no regrets.  I’ve passed on shows that have gone on to be hits, but they weren’t me.  They still wouldn’t be me, even if I had a few more bucks in my pocket.  I’d much rather stay true to what I want to do.

SC:  The musical, Mean Girls is one of the big Tony nominees this year and it is one of many Hollywood to Broadway musical crossovers.  From Pretty Woman to Heathers, do you think that this method has been an effective way to draw a wider audience to Broadway?  From what I’ve seen of Mean Girls and having recently seen Waitress, it seems to be working well.

KD:  Movies have become a common source for adaptations in the last ten years, but it doesn’t guarantee success.  I think the adaptations that work best are the ones that don’t have super popular source material.  It’s like when a movie is made from a book.  Most people think the book is better.  That happens a lot when popular movies are made into musicals.  It’s a very high hurdle to jump over.

SC:  What has been your favorite Hollywood to Broadway crossover musical so far?

KD:  Kinky Boots because I am one of the producers.

SC:  From classic musicals like Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel to Spongebob Squarepants, what nominations most surprised you and which did you think should have been nominated?

KD:  I think my choreographer from Once on this Island, Camille A. Brown should have been nominated as well as Alex Newell.

SC:  Which do you predict will be the standout production to win?  I’m sure you were thrilled when Once on This Island was nominated, a show you have produced.

KD:  I think the awards this year will be spread out amongst several shows rather than one big winner taking home multiple awards.

SC:  You work to make Broadway a more interactive experience.  Please tell me about the apps you promote.

KD:  We have an app for our website, Didhelikeit.com that gives you a snapshot of show reviews and focuses on the New York Times.

Gettin the Band Back Together

‘Gettin’ the Band Back Together’ premieres on July 19.

SC:  Just a few of the productions you have worked on is Groundhog DaySpring Awakening, and The Play That Goes Wrong.  The musical comedy, Getting the Band Back Together is coming up.

KD:  I’m super excited about Gettin’ the Band Back Together, which starts performances on July 19.  It’s such a fun show to be a part of and totally original.  It has an original story, music, etc.  It’s going to be a blast so come see it!

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Click here for more information on Ken Davenport and here for more on Ken’s current project, Gettin’ the Band Back Together.  Hosted by Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles, find out who wins on CBS for the 72nd annual Tony Awards on Sunday June 10 at 8 p.m.  Follow The Tony Awards on Facebook.

For Performing Arts news, interviews, reviews, and much more in Boston and beyond, follow us on Facebook @sleeplesscritic and subscribe.

Amanda Pekoe of NYC’s The Pekoe Group, shares her Tony Awards predictions and sheer love of theatre

 

The 71st annual Tony Awards, hosted by Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Tony award-winning actor and singer Kevin Spacey, are coming up on Sunday, June 11 and will be broadcast live at Radio City Music Hall in NYC and on CBS at 8 p.m.  It is always an honor to speak to Amanda Pekoe, founder of NYC’s The Pekoe Group, about her thriving business and her sheer love for all things theatre.

Each year, Amanda offers her Tony predictions for theatre’s biggest night! Click here for more on the nominees and here for further information on the Pekoe Group.

Tony Awards 2016

Another shot of Amanda Pekoe, Christopher Lueck, and the Pekoe Group at the Tony Awards/Photo courtesy of Amanda Pekoe/The Pekoe Group

Sleepless Critic:  It’s a very exciting time for The Pekoe Group and your team.  The Pekoe Group recently celebrated its eighth anniversary.  How are you feeling about year eight?

Amanda Pekoe:  I’m really excited about our team and the high level of work we are doing.  Our digital department has expanded and we’re seeing huge ticket sales results from our digital campaigns.  We also won an award this year for the poster design for the Off-Broadway musical, The View UpStairs.

SC:  Congratulations!  It’s an especially busy time leading up to the Tonys every year.  Please tell me how the Tonys impact your business.

AP:  Awards season is such a busy and magical time of year.  I love when shows and artists are recognized for their tremendous work and talent. This year is particularly exciting because there are so many new musicals and different points of view being expressed in the writing on stage. I’m very grateful to continue to be a part of the social conversation.

 

SC:  The 71st annual Tony Awards, hosted by award-winning actor and singer Kevin Spacey, will be held on Sunday, June 11.  This is a special year as the Tony Awards is returning to its traditional venue, Radio City Music Hall.  It was at the Beacon Theatre last year.  It must be nice that it has returned to its roots.

AP:  I am looking forward to it being back at Radio City Music Hall. It’s such a large and beautiful venue, and so many people get to actually be in the theatre for the awards.

SC:  Kevin Spacey is a wonderful and unexpected choice to host.  He is not only an award-winning actor, but has proven to be a song and dance man many times over.  It is surprising that this is his first time hosting.

AP:  I think Kevin Spacey will have a great time hosting the Tony Awards. I’ve never met him in person but I think he’s so talented.  I love him in House of Cards!

SC:  It is wonderful to have an insider at the Tony Awards each year and you’ve been predicting the winners for about five years now.  Groundhog Day the Musical, Come from Away, Dear Evan Hansen, and Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 are the nominees for Best Musical.  What nominated show do you think stands out to win this year?

AP:  All four of these shows are so terrific and so terrifically different from one another. It’s been such a well-rounded season of new musicals and they all offer something very special. I think Come from Away and Dear Evan Hansen are neck-in-neck, but I’m rooting for Dear Evan Hansen. I think the music is incredible and the story is extremely relatable for anyone who has ever felt like they’ve been on the outside looking in and not being seen.  I know I sometimes do.

SC:  Best Play nominees include Indecent, A Doll’s House Part 2, Oslo, and Sweat. Which ones do you think will prevail?

AP:  The plays are tough because they are all so good.  Sweat is a Pulitzer-Prize winner!  Of all the shows, I think my favorite would have to be Oslo.  I thought it was one of the most well-written plays I have watched this season and the topic was fascinating. The play’s rhythm moved so well and featured tremendous performances.

SC:  Denis Arndt for Heisenberg, Chris Cooper for A Doll’s House Part 2, Corey Hawkins for John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation, Kevin Kline for Present Laughter, and Jefferson Mays for Oslo are all up for Best Actor in a Play.  Cate Blanchett for The Present, Sally Field for The Glass Menagerie, and Jennifer Ehle for Oslo, Laura Linney for Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes, and Laurie Metcalf for A Doll’s House Part 2 are up for Best Actress in a Play.  Who do you think are the big standouts?

AP:  These actors and actresses are all so great in these roles.  My personal favorites have been from the great and hilarious show, Present Laughter‘s Kevin Kline and Jefferson Mays in Oslo.  As for the actresses, Laurie Metcalf in A Doll’s House Part 2 and Jennifer Ehle in Oslo.

SC:  The nominees for Best Actor in a Musical are Christian Borle for Falsettos, Josh Groban for Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, Andy Karl for Groundhog Day the Musical, Ben Platt for Dear Evan Hansen, and David Hyde Pierce for Hello, Dolly!  Best actress nominees in a musical include Denee Benton for Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, Christine Ebersole for War Paint, Patti Lupone for War Paint, Eva Noblezada for Miss Saigon, and Bette Midler for Hello, Dolly!  Patti Lupone and Bette Midler in the same category!  Who do you think will win?

AP: I’m in love with Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen.  At every performance, he barely leaves the stage and sings his heart out. As for the actresses, it’s really hard for me to say. Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole are forces of nature in War Paint and Bette Midler, well, there are no words.  These are three greatest of the greatest performers all gracing the Broadway stage in the same season and how awesome is that!  I think Denee Benton and Eva Noblezada are both so talented and very strong singers. This really is a tossup.  The category features some of the most gifted actresses and all of their performances are stunning.  I wish they could all win together.

SC:  What is The Pekoe Group’s specialty and what goals do you have for The Pekoe Group’s future?  I’ve noticed you often offer marketing advice to those who follow you on social media.

AP:  Our specialty is working with experienced producers, finding new audiences, and new ways to talk to traditional audiences.  Click here to check out our blog for marketing tips and pointers.

Besides our work, Christopher Lueck and I have been co-teaching a marketing class for CUNY Baruch College’s Masters Program in Arts Administration and that’s been really fulfilling.

Looking ahead, we hope to connect even more new audiences to theatre productions they’ll love.

SC:  What is the best or easiest way a business can contact the Pekoe Group?

AP:  Reach out to us on facebook or twitter: @ThePekoeGroup