Stumbles on the Great White Way

A funny thing happened on the way to the theatre. From being La Jolla Playhouse subscribers to Broadway (and off) regulars in New York, somewhere along the way, we crossed a line, and became more and more invested. Literally.

I call this “legalized gambling”.  Maybe, à la “Lost in American”, there is a latent familial tendency that is finally manifesting in me. After all, I have an accountant brother who is respectably employed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, but aspires to be a professional poker player (2016 update:  My brother, in his 3rd outing, finished in the money at the World Series of Poker, 36th out of 6737 entries!). My sister recently joined a woman’s poker group.

The odds in this form of gambling are long. The statistics are grim. Three in four shows fail, closing before investment costs are recouped. Accredited investors have to attest that they can afford to lose their entire stake.

We learned this lesson early, as well as many others. Our first venture was an unlikely choice for us, in retrospect: “Rocky.” Yes, a musical based on the Sylvester Stallone Oscar-winning blockbuster of 1976, about the unlikely match pitting a small-time, working class boxer, Rocky Balboa, against the world heavyweight champion. No, we have no particular love of boxing or Sylvester Stallion vehicles.    I made the mistake of trying to think in a contrarian fashion, as in “What would other people, not like me, like to see?” I imagined women of a certain age, who tend to be the ticket buyers, thinking this would be a show to which their husbands would willingly accompany them. I imagined hoards of Philadelphia boosters seeing the show en masse.

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And, actually, many of them did. Lots of people saw the show, on the order of 200,000. The problem was, it wasn’t enough to fill the big, 1500 seat Winter Garden theater. Each week, 8-10 thousand people saw the show in 8 performances. The math is simple enough: only 2/3rds of the seats were filled.

After opening in March 2013, it closed 6 months later in August, after 188 performances and 28 previews.

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Lessons learned: The more expensive a show is, the longer it takes to recoup the initial investment. No surprise, Rocky was an expensive show to produce. The final fight scene was a true blockbuster, with a full-size ring coming out into the audience and orchestra seat patrons being re-seated in bleachers at ringside.

Another lesson learned: Cost estimates are just that, approximations. A show’s initial capitalization is based on best estimates of labor and other costs, some of which may be unanticipated. In the case of Rocky, mounting the final fight scene required unexpected expenses in construction (supports sunk into the bedrock of New York) and labor costs (an additional, unanticipated crew was required to maneuver the ring into place each night).

We didn’t go for opening night, one of the few perks of being an investor, but did manage to see it during the run. It was a very creditable translation of the film to the stage. The final fight scene was spectacular, as close as I ever plan to be to a boxing match.

Rocky on Broadway final fight scene

Sweat and blood flung, punches landed with sickening realism and convincing thuds. The audience was enthralled. But, there just weren’t enough of them to keep from hemorrhaging money, to the tune of 2.9 million dollars in the first 9 weeks, covered by a priority loan from the producers.

Marketing initially focused on women, as the primary ticket buyers, and emphasized the central love story of two loners finding each other. To this end, Rocky and Adrian were prominently featured in marketing materials, with the theme “Love Wins.”

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Later campaigns targeted men, emphasizing iconic scenes of Rocky pummeling sides of beef, running through the darkened streets of Philadelphia and in the ring facing Apollo Creed.

Rocky on Broadway

Another lesson learned: Success in one market doesn’t guarantee it in another. Rocky-Das Musical (translated into German) opened in Hamburg, Germany to critical acclaim in November 2012 and just closed in August 2015,  playing far longer than on Broadway.

Another lesson: If it sounds like a crazy idea, maybe it is. My first reaction to Rocky as a musical was skepticism. (I did find the New York Times headline amusing: “Yo, Adrian, I’m singing!”) On the other hand, “Fun Home”, based on the graphic autobiographical memoir by lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel,  won 4 Tony awards earlier this year and is playing to full houses and universal critical acclaim. It is hard to predict which brand of crazy will appeal to the public.

Another lesson: Tony nominations, and better yet, wins, are not a guarantee that a show will survive or make money.

Rocky did receive 4 Tony nominations, including for Andy Karl as best actor in a leading role in a musical, best lighting design, and best choreography, and won for Best Scenic Design of a musical, which was well deserved.

Another lesson: An award-winning team (lyricist(s), book writer(s), director, and actors) attracts interest and money to make a show a reality, but do not ensure its success either. Rocky had all of these ingredients, but the result wasn’t convincing enough for the necessary numbers to turn out to make it work financially.

How did we get involved with this project in the first place? Our friends, Gail and Ralph, do this professionally and often enough, successfully, through their Broadway production company, Latitude Link. We’d been hearing about their projects for years, and were intrigued, but cautious. We thought we’d dip a toe in first, test the waters with one show, and see how it did.

In retrospect, we would have been better off just jumping into the pool and taking a more diversified approach. Shortly after signing on for Rocky, we considered and decided against, investing in 2 other shows with which they were involved. These were “Of Mice and Men” with James Franco and Chris O’Dowd and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” with Neil Patrick Harris. “Of Mice and Men” was a limited engagement (19 weeks) and recouped after 12 weeks of playing to a packed house. We both loved it, as did most of the critics.

“Hedwig” played to full houses during Neil Patrick Harris’ tenure and just closed last week, after 76 weeks. Hedwig recouped in record time, after 15 weeks. A critical and commercial success, it won 4 Tony awards, including best revival of a musical and best actor in a leading role in a musical for NPH.

Ouch. With these lessons under our belt, we were both braver and more defensive/better diversified the next time around. Having seen the difficulty of predicting what will soar on Broadway, we also saw abundantly that a mutual fund approach, investing in a basket of offerings appealing to different tastes, might fare better.

2015: A Tale of Two Musicals

With that in mind, the next year, we considered 2 proposals simultaneously, opening within days of each other in April 2015. They were as different from each other as could be. One we were familiar with, as it was developed at La Jolla Playhouse. Beginning as a Page to Stage project in 2005, “Doctor Zhivago” was presented during the 2006 season. We had seen both versions, and I had cried non-stop through both. I’ll admit, I’m a soft touch, but the Marie “cry-o-meter” seems as valid a barometer of the “emotionally stirring” criterion as any.

But there were (Russian) red flags. “Zhivago” was expensive, on a par with “Rocky,” at 15.5 million. The more expensive a show is, the longer to recoup, the higher the risk. At least, we had actually seen this production. In the meantime, there had been a well-received Australian premiere in 2010. I watched You tube videos to refresh my memory of the songs. It struck me as having the potential to be a Russian “Les Miserables,” full of military pageantry, class struggles, and an enduring love, all set against a backdrop of war.

Doctor Zhivago on Broadway

At the opposite end of the spectrum was a most unlikely-sounding musical, but the more I heard about it and the more I read, the more intrigued I became. “Fun Home” (short for Funeral Home), based on the graphic autobiographical memoir of lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel, tells her story of growing up in rural Pennsylvania in a house dominated by an exacting and obsessive closeted gay father. The adult Alison reflects back on her father’s apparent suicide shortly after she came out to her parents in college. Lesbians, suicide, funeral home? Definitely not the usual suspect elements of a Broadway musical. But “Fun Home” had played in 2013 at the Pubic Theater to unanimous praise, and was extended multiple times. But, could it make it in a bigger house, twice the size of the Public?

I bought the book, read it and loved it. Steve read it, and loved it. I listened to You Tube videos of the songs, read all the reviews, consulted a friend of my sister (an Obie voter), and decided maybe the time was right for something different and daring on Broadway. We held our breath, authorized the fund transfers and waited for April and opening night to roll around.

From certain points of view, namely financial, “Fun Home” was a less risky choice to back than “Doctor Zhivago.” For starters, it had already been well received and reviewed in New York. For another, it was much less expensive than “Zhivago,” at $5 million. Although a musical, it was priced more like a play, with a small cast of 8.

The source material, the graphic novel Fun Home, was timely, relevant, and compelling. Neither of us had even read the novel Doctor Zhivago.

I realize in retrospect I placed too much importance on Zhivago’s pedigree, being based on a Nobel-prize winning book, and the epic movie which won 5 Academy Awards, and was the 8th highest grossing film of all time (adjusted for inflation.). One problem with this line of thinking was the reality that neither of us was that crazy about the movie. I enjoyed it, but thought it was too long. Steve fell asleep.

Another lesson I learned: be sure that you LOVE the source material yourself, and don’t assume success in another venue or version ensures the same on Broadway.  We had liked the film, “Rocky,” which won the Academy Award for best picture in 1976. We thought it might be time for a revival of all things 70s, but did we LOVE it? No.

The critical reaction to these 2 shows was as different as could be. The reviews for Zhivago were near unanimous in their disdain. The word “bombastic” was used repetitively. Conversely, Fun Home cleaned up, with universal acclaim, as “ground-breaking,” “brilliant,” “sharp” and “important.”

Suddenly, Zhivago was over before it really got going. Although the theater was generally 75% filled, with 8-9 thousand people seeing the show each week, the show was losing money each week. Too many empty seats and discounting of ticket prices to build word of mouth and fill those seats, coupled with being shut out of Tony nominations, with no foreseeable bump in sales in the event of a win, spelled the end all too soon, after 26 preview and 23 regular performances.

Doctor Zhivago on Broadway

Strangely, although Zhivago closing so soon seems as complete a financial wash-up as Rocky, there is one critical difference which may ultimately soften the blow. Rocky had its premiere in Germany, and so had to be licensed to appear on Broadway. So, a loss in Rocky on Broadway ends there, with no prospect for recompense in future licensed versions or tours. Although Zhivago did tour Australia in 2013, a critical difference in licensing means that Zhivago may go on to be presented in other countries and tour the US, hope for eventually making back some of this deficit.

Of course, the goal is not just to make back the money that has been invested, but to make a profit.  There is also the satisfaction of helping bring to life a creative endeavor. In many ways, I feel a connection with the teenager I once was, wearing out records of show tunes (I still know most of the lyrics to “The King and I,” “Oklahoma,” and “West Side Story”) and reliving the hours after school of dance and dress rehearsals for shows I actually appeared in, “Bye Bye Birdie” and “Anything Goes.”

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Yes, that’s me, with the long ponytail left of center, playing Ursula Merkle, gazing adoringly up at Conrad Birdie, the Elvis-like figure at the center of the action in “Bye, Bye Birdie.”

At this point, our scorecard can be summed up: 2 losers, 2 winners. We’re waiting to recoup our investments and hope to actually make money over time. Prospects for “Fun Home” look good. Tickets sales were brisk and bumped up to consistent sell-outs with the Tony Awards. Plans are in the works for a US tour and a London production. At this point,  it has been running for 24 weeks. Will the momentum be sustained? The Supreme Court’s historic ruling in June 2015 on marriage equality certainly didn’t hurt “Fun Home’s” prospects for a long run. They both seem to be part of a national dialogue that once seemed unimaginable.

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But wait, that’s only 3 shows. What is the second winner? We were offered a piece of the “Matilda the Musical” tour, commencing about the time “Zhivago” shuttered. Considering this initially felt a little weird,  like a gambler going double or nothing to win enough to pay off debts. Although there are no sure things on Broadway and its offshoots, “Matilda” was already a bonafide hit, running since 2011 in London and since 2013 in New York and still going strong. Ordinarily, not being involved with the Broadway production, we wouldn’t have been invited to participate in the tour. Tours generally cost about half what a Broadway production costs, and investors usually participate proportionate to their original stake.

Matilda the Musical

We had never seen Matilda, so we had some catching up to familiarize ourselves with its prospects. What I learned: the original British version by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) was a Christmas musical which became a huge hit, transferring to the West End in 2011 and receiving a record 7 Olivier awards, including for Best New Musical. The reviews were uniformly favorable, with the show sited for its “subversive wit” and appeal to both adults and children alike. I didn’t think we knew the material at all, but was mistaken. Watching the Danny Devito directed movie from 1996, we realized we had seen the movie version back then, and liked the fantasy story of a precocious and gifted 5-year-old with the misfortune to be born to most boorish and unappreciative parents ever (amusingly portrayed in the movie by Danny Devito and Rhea Perlman). How else to make up for not having seen the actual production? Many YouTube views of numbers from the New York and London productions later, and after listening to the slyly clever children’s book by Roald Dahl driving from Phoenix to Sedona and back, we decided to go for it.

So, at this writing (September 2015), we watch the grosses each week from Fun Home with interest and wait and hope the day of recoupment is not far. In the meantime, I find myself viewing new productions with an eye toward costs (size of cast, stars or no, production complexity), appeal, timeliness and a host of factors beyond the Marie “cry-o-meter” and other intangibles which meld together to make the magic that is sometimes Broadway.

-Marie

Update:  Days after finishing an early version of this post in July 2015, a check came in the mail, returning 5% of our “Fun Home” investment, the first installment of what we hope will be many more.  We’re on our way, baby!

July 31, 2015:  We return home from dinner at Whisk N Ladle with Ralph and Gail, to find Fun Home check #2  waiting for us, returning 10% of capital!

September 7, 2015:  Returning home from dinner at Herringbone with Ralph and Gail, and Miles and Tatiana, organized in honor of our visiting Japanese guide, Naomi, we find in the mail a Fun Home check for return of 15% of capital.

September 26, 2015:  Buried in a big stack of a week’s worth of mail accumulated during a pre-Steve’s birthday stay in Sedona is a Fun Home check returning 10% of capital!

November 14, 2015:  Buried in another big stack of 3 weeks worth of mail accumulated while diving in Indonesia is another Fun Home check returning 15% of capital, bringing us up to a total of 55% returned of our original investment.

November 21, 2015: Today’s mail brought another 10% return of Fun Home capital check, bringing us to 65% back on our original stake.  Plans have been announced for a Fun Home tour, to commence in Chicago next fall.

December 13, 2015: Good news by email: Fun Home has recouped its initial capitalization of $5.25 million, as of this week, and another 10% return of capital check is on its way!  The first international stop is announced, in the Philippines, with Lea Salonga as Alison’s long-suffering mother.

January 16. 2016:  Another Fun Home check in the mail, returning 15% of capital, bringing us to 90% of our original investment returned.

February 14, 2016:  Woohoo!  The final 10% return of capital in Fun Home arrived, bringing us to 100% returned!  Let the profits begin!

February 16, 2016:  Matilda has been touring since June 2015.  On the same day of the first press release formalizing pre-Broadway “Come From Away” engagements for fall, 2016 in Washington, D.C. and Toronto, we received our first distribution check for Matilda, returning 25% of our original investment.  Ralph tells me disbursements from tours typically are delayed compared with a Broadway production, due to the increased complexity of engagements in multiple theaters in different states.

June 21, 2016:  All good runs come to an end.  We receive news that Fun Home will close on Broadway on September 10, 2016, after 26 preview and 582 regular performances over 18 months.  Not a bad showing for the little show with an unlikely premise.  It made history along the way, becoming the first musical with a lesbian protagonist and the first Broadway musical written by women to win the Tony for Best New Musical.  In the meantime, plans have been finalized for the launch of the Fun Home tour, to start in Cleveland in October 2016, with 52 weeks booked as of this writing.

August 25, 2016: Matilda tour distribution check #2 for 10% of our original investment arrives.  Matilda started an extended engagement in Toronto in July, running to mid-October.  The role of Matilda is now being shared by 3 young Canadian actresses.

November 13, 2016:  We return home from 2 blissful and art-filled weeks in Japan to a pile of mail, including our very first 5% PROFIT check, for Fun Home, which closed on Broadway in September 2016 after an 18-month run.  The investor’s share is 50%, or 2.5%.  In the meantime, the Fun Home tour has launched.

January 3, 2017: Happy new year!  A check in the mail, for 10% return of original capitalization from the Fun Home Tour.

February 12, 2017:  More checks in the mail (the only kind of fun mail we receive any more)!  One was for return of 25% of our Fun Home Tour capital (35% recouped to date), and a second 4.5% profit check for Fun Home on Broadway (our share 2.25%).  In the meantime, after our amended tax return filing, our loss with Zhivago has been softened with an unexpected tax rebate, amounting to 40% of our original stake.  Still a complete loss, just less severe.

March 18, 2017: We return from a theatre-filled week in NYC, including opening night of Come From Away, in which we are doubling down, hoping both to make up losses in other shows, as well as reflecting our belief that this show might just do the world some good.  In the waiting stack of mail, is a check (#3) for return of 20% of Matilda tour capital, bringing us up to 55% recouped.

April 4, 2017: Fun mail, a Fun Home Tour check for 15% return of capital, bringing us to 50% returned of our original stake.  The word from Gail is Fun Home on tour is on track to recoup by early summer!  At this writing, bookings extend through December, 2017 (and hopefully, beyond), giving us hope for eventual profit checks!

May 1, 2017:  Returning from an amazing and long diving trip to Raja Ampat and Triton Bay, Indonesia, waiting in the midst of a 3 week tall mail stack is a check dated mid-April, returning 10% of our position in Come From Away.  This is notable for being 5 weeks after opening night and coincident with the week in which grosses broke the mythical million dollar mark.  At this writing, sales continue strongly at that magical number, with packed houses.

May 15, 2017:  Not one , not two, but three checks in the mail!  Of course, two of them are only returning our initial investments, while one is actually a profit check.  The profit check is for Fun Home, another 5% (our share 2.5%).  Another check is from the Fun Home Tour, returning 30% of our original capitalization (now up to 80% total), on track to recoup soon.  The third check is for return of 10% of our investment in Come From Away (20% total returned).  The box office is reportedly “buzzing”, with $10 million in advances!  Come From Away has been nominated for 7 Tony awards, including Best New Musical and I have booked a ticket to NY for the Tony awards on June 11.

May 19, 2017: Our stake in the Matilda tour is dribbling back in, with a check for return of 20% in the today’s mail (75% returned).  The good news is the producers expect we will recoup our investment by tour’s end.  The bad news is the tour’s end is on the horizon, wrapping up in another month, so little prospect for profit.  This is a disappointing result, 2 years of touring and just breaking even.

June 12, 2017:  While I was in New York recovering from the Tony Awards and the after party at Redeye Grill, Steve was at home to receive a check returning another 10% of our stake in Come From Away (30% returned to date).  A highlight of the night before was Chris Ashley winning his first Tony for Best Director of a Musical.  It was disappointing, of course, that Come From Away did not win for Best Musical.  This night belonged to Dear Evan Hansen, a very good competitor indeed.

July 15, 2017: Sales continue strongly for Come From Away in NY, with sell out crowds (pushing 102% of capacity, meaning standing room “seats” are being sold), a rising ticket price and maxed out gross potential.  Since the Tony Awards one month ago, sales have topped $1.2 million each week.  Today’s mail returns another 20% of our investment, for a total of 50% returned.

September 19, 2017:  The best thing about facing a 3 week high stack of mail is fishing out checks hidden among the advertisements, coupons and flyers.  This extra-long birthday celebration (Steve’s 60th is eminent) to Oslo, Svalbard and Lofoten, Norway, was capped off by a 2 day stopover in NY, for the express purpose of interviewing with our prospective co-op board.  We passed!  These theatrical ventures are definitely one of the threads leading us to take the real estate plunge into NYC and this near-final hurdle signals that this dream is actually coming true! (Sounds like the makings of a Broadway musical!)  This pile of mail was graced by another check returning 10% of our stake in Come From Away (60% of original investment returned to date), which continues to sell strongly at 102% of capacity.  Just before leaving for this trip, I sent off a check and  paperwork to participate in the first Come From Away spin-off, an extended engagement in Toronto, launching in early 2018.

September 21, 2017:  Another 10% capital return check rolled in today for Come From Away, for a total return of 70% of capitalization.  Come From Away is projected to recoup by year’s end!

September 24, 2017: A momentous day-we signed loan documents for our New York apartment.  In a strange coincidence, the traveling notary who brought the documents to the house was the listing agent when we bought it 20 years ago!  And in the mail…a check for the final 20% of our stake in the Fun Home Tour, recoupment day!

October 10, 2017:  It’s official!  “Come From Away” recoups, after 8 months!

October 22, 2017:  One treasure in the stack of bland mail waiting on returning from a Sea of Cortez Baja diving trip: another check to return 10% of our stake in “Come From Away”, bringing us up to 80% returned.

October 26, 2017: After a day spent at my first Medium Photography Festival, including 4 portfolio reviews, a short stack of mail includes a check returning 10% of our investment in the Matilda tour, bringing us to 85% recouped, with close to 90% recoupment projected.  Definitely disappointing.

November 11, 2017:  We return from our first week in our NY apartment, a busy one, making the rounds of the Upper East Side hardware stores, touching up paint, procuring supplies, to find our first Fun Home Tour PROFIT check, a 15% profit distribution (investor’s share is one half, or 7.5%).

November 15, 2017: The film rights to “Come From Away” have been acquired by the Mark Gordon Company.  Book and songwriters David Hein and Irene Sankoff will write the screen play and Chris Ashley will direct!

December 2, 2018: The cast album of “Come From Away” is nominated for a Grammy award.  We receive our final 20% of our initial investment in “Come From Away” back!

December 26, 2017:  A Christmas miracle?!  Our first Come From Away profit check, equivalent to 5% of our investment, arrives in the mail.

January 16, 2018: Come From Away had a smashing holiday season, spinning off another check, equivalent to another 5% profit.

February 22, 2018:  Come From Away‘s Canadian tour is well launched, with a sold-out 4 week run in Winnipeg completed and an extended run opened in Toronto, almost on the eve of the Broadway launch 1 year ago.  Another profit check arrived in the mail, equivalent to 5% of our investment (15% to date!).

March 4, 2018: Returning home from the Sedona International Film Festival, I find an early birthday present in the mail!  A Fun Home tour profit check, equivalent to another 10% of our stake (17.5% return to date for us, or 50% of 35% return to date).  The tour concluded in December, 2017, after 14 months.  Another small profit check is projected as the partnership is closed out.

March 29, 2018:  Arriving home at 9 pm after a busy work day, topped off by a long group meeting and ongoing angst surrounding our negotiations over merging with the Scripps La Jolla group, at least one item waiting in the mail was cheering: another 5 % profit check from Come From Away on Broadway, still selling well to capacity crowds, despite a winter punctuated by blockbuster Nor’easter storms (20% return to date).

April 28, 2018: Another check in the mail for Come From Away on Broadway, waiting in the pile accumulated after 2 glorious spring weeks in NYC (25% return to date).

May 21, 2018:  Two checks in the mail, both for Come From Away.  Another profit check for CFA on Broadway (I could get used to this!), for a 30% return to date, and our first return of capital check for CFA Toronto (24%).

June 9, 2018:  More return of capital from the Canadian company of Come From Away, another 19.5% (43.5 % of capital returned to date).

July 3, 2018:  Back from French Polynesia, with a 2-week waiting stack of mail, including 2 Come From Away checks:  more return of capital from the Toronto company (now 72.25% back) and a 7th profit check for Come From Away on Broadway (35% return to date).

July 30, 2018:  My kind of mail, including 2 Come From Away checks:  more return of capital from the Toronto company (now 95.75% back) and an 8th profit check for Come From Away on Broadway (40% return to date).

August 7, 2018: A hot summer day in San Diego-at least there was one piece of mail making it worth the trudge up the hill to collect it!  A profit distribution check for Fun Home Broadway-our share 1.5%, bringing us to a return of 8.75%.

August 30, 2018: A final return of capital from the Toronto production of Come From Away makes it official: we have recouped 100%!  Better yet, the accompanying letter indicates the first profit check is due soon.

September 10, 2018:  The first profit check for the Toronto production of Come From Away has arrived, equivalent to 19% return!  I send out the check to invest in the UK production (Dublin and London’s West End).

September 19, 2018:  Come From Away continues to fill the house on Broadway. Profit check number 9 was in today’s mail, another 5%, bringing us to a return on investment of 45%.

October 23, 2018:  We return from DFW where the weekend was devoted to elderly mother interventions (getting rid of ancient, no longer worn clothing, setting up on line access to her accounts to help oversee her finances) to a more fun task, depositing another (#10) profit check for Come From Away on Broadway, still filling the house and now officially the longest running Canadian musical on Broadway.  ROI to date=50%!  In the meantime, the North American tour of CFA launched, the same weekend as my 40th high school reunion.

November 5, 2018:  The second profit check comes from Come From Away Toronto, equivalent to another 10% (ROI 29% to date).   The show continues to sell well in Toronto, well enough that preparations are being made for the show to move to another theater, the Elgin, in 2019.

November 15, 2018: A third profit check for Come From Away Toronto, also equivalent to another 10.5% brings ROI to 40%!

December 9, 2018:  Just back from an idyllic week in Little Cayman, divided between diving in the mornings and advanced post-processing with Lightroom and Photoshop in the afternoons, the accumulated mail stack had one bit of hidden treasure-profit check #11 for Come From Away on Broadway (ROI to date 55%).  The show just passed a milestone of 700 performances in New York.

December 22, 2018:  Come from Away is on the road in North America.  The first check returning 20% of our stake arrived today.

December 26, 2018:  Checks to deposit!  Another profit check (#12) for Come From Away on Broadway, bringing ROI up to 60%.  The other check was a 4th profit check for the Toronto company of Come From Away (ROI just a hair under 50%).

January 26, 2019:  Back from a longer than usual trip to Buenos Aires, Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica, waiting in the stacks of mail are 2 checks:  One was a final profit check for the Fun Home (investor’s share 2%; final yield is 19.5% for investors); the other is a second return of capital check from the North American tour of Come From Away (20%, 40% returned to date).

January 28, 2019:  Survived the first day back at work after 4 weeks off!  In the mail, a 13th profit check, for Come From Away on Broadway (ROI 65%).

January 29, 2019: Survived the second day back at work!  A 5th profit check graced the mail, for the Toronto company of Come From Away (ROI 61%).  The sold out engagement at the Royal Alexandra Theatre has ended and the show opens soon (February 10) at the Elgin Theater.

February 7, 2019:  Just in time for Come From Away reopening in Toronto at the Elgin Theater, we return from the annual LARS meeting in Long Beach to a 6th profit check (ROI 74%).

March 4, 2019: More money is flowing back, from the North American tour of Come From Away, which recently finished a successful 4-week stand in San Francisco.  This 3rd return of capital check was for 30% of our investment (70% back to date).

March 5, 2019: More money flowing back, our final payback from Matilda received, not complete recoupment, but close (92% returned).

March 7, 2019: More good Come From Away news!  The North American tour has recouped, after 19 weeks, and is booking out 3 years! And yet more good CFA news: the London production is nominated for 9 Olivier awards!

March 25, 2019:  Another profit check to deposit (#7) for Come From Away in Toronto, newly settled in for a second year, now at the Elgin Theater. (ROI to date 80%)

April 1, 2019: No April Fool’s joke, profit check #14 for Broadway’s Come From Away arrives, bringing us to a ROI of 70%.

April 8, 2019:  The day after the London company of Come From Away scores 4 Olivier awards (the UK’s equivalent to the Tony Awards), including for Best New Musical, a sweet check arrives, for the last 30% of our stake in the North American tour.

April 25, 2019:  A week of highs and lows.  The high was opening night of Hadestown on Broadway.  After months of listening to the off-Broadway cast album, the show opened to tremendous critical accolades, surging ticket sales and many award nominations (12 from the Outer Critics Circle alone!).  Clarissa was my +1 and we had a most enjoyable evening trying to figure out who all the stunningly dressed celebs in attendance were.  Days later, I was plunged into despondency by the results of Mama’s neuropsychiatric evaluation, which suggested the likely diagnosis for her short-term memory issues was what we most feared.  While trying to regroup and plan for Mama’s future, profit check #8 arrived for the Toronto company of Come From Away, just passed 500 performances!  (ROI 87%).

April 30, 2019:  One day after attending Hadestown (my second time, Steve’s first), we flew overnight to Barcelona, landing on Clarissa’s birthday.  While she was escorting Mama for a mammogram and chest x-ray in DFW, we moved into our house stay in Sitges, on the coast a half hour from Barcelona.  The highlight of our rather draggy, no-sleep-the-night-before post-travel day was learning Hadestown was nominated for 14 Tony Awards, the most of any show this year!

May 13, 2019:  Returning from a 2 week trip the night before, divided between New York and Barcelona, I couldn’t believe there were no checks in the 2-week tall piles of mail.  I needn’t have worried-Monday’s mail, on the day it was announced Hadestown won 6 Outer Critics Circle awards, including Best New Musical, included not one, not two but THREE profit checks for Come From Away, for Broadway, Toronto and the North America tour.  This brings us to a return of 75% for Broadway, 93% return on Toronto and to just under 10% for the North American tour (this was profit check #1 for the tour).

June 3, 2019:  Good news from Joey at Sing Out Louise Productions, the group through which I invested in Hadestown, announcing a 15% return of capital is coming, on the heels of winning 4 Drama desk awards the night before and one week to go in the countdown to the Tony Awards.  The show has been playing for 10 weeks now, 7 weeks since opening night, so this is wonderfully fast!

June 22, 2019:  As we pack for our 30th anniversary trip, coinciding (clouds permitting!) with a total solar eclipse on July 2, a 10th profit check arrives from the Toronto company of Come From Away, relocated to and still selling well at the Elgin Theater. This brings our ROI to 99%!

July 9, 2019:  Back from a great 2-week trip celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary with eclipse diamond rings in the skies over Vicuña, Chile, 3 checks were waiting to be deposited.  The first 15% back on our Hadestown stake, a 16th profit check for Come From Away (CFA) on Broadway (ROI 80%) and a second profit check on the North American company of CFA (ROI 19.7%).

July 17, 2019:  Capital is starting to return from across the Pond now, the first 20% return of capital from the London company of Come From Away.

August 15, 2019:  A bright spot after a grind of a day on the late shift at Rancho Bernardo: depositing a check returning another 10% of our stake in Hadestown (25% returned to date).

August 17, 2019:  After a Saturday spent with Mama, with sessions for both of us at the dentist, hair salon and a trip to the bank, the highlight of my late afternoon mail sifting was a 3rd profit check returning another 10% of the North American tour of Come From Away (total ROI just under 30%).

August 26, 2019: Although no checks were hiding in the pile of junk mail accumulated after a quick getaway diving in the Channel Islands, profit check number 17 greeted me on a Monday evening after meeting with my book club.  This returned another 5 % profit from Come From Away on Broadway, bringing our ROI to 85%!

September 9, 2019:  More return of capital from London and the Cold Towel company of Come From Away (44% returned to date).

September 16, 2019:  After a nice dinner in the rustic elegance of Javier’s with the couple that started us down this road, Ralph and Gail, a lifeless stack of Monday mail had one gleaming check in its midst, returning another 10% of our stake in Hadestown (35% returned to date, 10% expected/month until recoupment).

September 19, 2019:  A momentous day, starting in the morning meeting up with Mama to sign the papers to finalize the sale of my childhood home and her home for 52 years, since 1967!  In the evening, Steve and I departed for two glorious weeks in French Polynesia, with snorkeling with humpback whales and diving with sharks planned.  The day’s mail included an 11th profit check from the Toronto company of Come From Away, bringing our ROI to 109%!  Sometime in the last month or so, we finally made enough profits to overcome our earlier losses in Rocky, Zhivago, Verso (a magic show) and the Matilda tour.  In the black, baby!

October 7, 2019: Back from a very fun and successful trip to Rurutu, Rangiroa and Fakarava in French Polynesia, to face giant piles of mail, now augmented by Mama’s unbelievable mound of junk mail solicitations for health supplements, political campaigns and sweepstakes.  A fourth profit check for the North American touring company of Come From Away was one of the few pieces of worthwhile mail, returning another 10% (ROI just under 40%).

October 27, 2019: Back from a theatre-filled week in NYC, including my first time to attend the National Association of Musical Theater 2-day showcase of musicals being developed, the otherwise unbelievably uninteresting mail included a check returning another 20% of our stake in Hadestown (55% to date).

October 28, 2019: Profit check #12 from the Toronto company of Come From Away arrived today, bringing our ROI to 116%.

November 4, 2019:  Two checks in a giant stack of mail, mostly dominated by pitches aimed at Mama.  Come From Away continues to sell out on Broadway.  Todays’ mail brought CFA Broadway profit check # 18, bringing our ROI to 90%.  More capital was returned from the London company of CFA (62% thus far).

November 10, 2019: Profit check #5 from the North American touring company of CFA arrived, another 10%, for a total ROI just under 50%.

November 11, 2019: It’s official!  Hadestown has recouped, the first musical of the season to do so.

November 25, 2019:  Another 20% of our stake in Hadestown flowed back today, after a wonderful week off, split between NYC and Sedona (75% of capital returned).

December 11, 2019: The North American touring company of Come From Away continues to kill it.  A 6th profit check, for another 10%, arrived today, bringing our ROI to just under 60%.

December 16, 2019: Come From Away continues to delight audiences on Broadway.  Profit check #19 arrived today, another 5% back, for ROI to date of 95%.

December 23, 2019: Christmas miracles?  Not only do I not run into ANY traffic heading downtown in the rain for a hair appointment after work (during the height of rush hour), but waiting in the stack of mail to sift through back at home is the first check returning capital from the Australian company of Come From Away (equivalent to 17% of capital).

January 9, 2020:  Two days until The Tonic of Wildness opens, the last of our stake in Hadestown is back!  Next stop: profit time.

January 18, 2020: Two checks to further enhance a great day, including my walk-through of The Tonic of Wildness and Jitney at the Old Globe, with our friend Dave in from Seattle:  profit check #7 for the North American tour of Come From Away (ROI to date just under 69%) and a first return of capital from Sing Out Louise and one of our 2 stakes in the Australian tour of Come From Away (7.5%).  

February 17, 2020: President’s Day and our return after my 60th birthday celebration diving trip to Raja Ampat, Indonesia, divided between a stay at the idyllic Papua Paradise Eco-Resort and the luxurious live-aboard Damai 2.  One of the few fun reconstruction tasks was depositing checks which came while we were away: Profit check #20 for Come From Away (CFA) on Broadway (100% ROI), profit check #13 for CFA in Toronto (ROI 128%), return of capital from the London company of CFA (79% returned to date) and profit check #1 from Hadestown (ROI 3.7%).

February 19, 2020: After a hard and long late day at Rancho Bernardo, there was one bright spot in the day’s mail: profit check #2 for Hadestown (ROI 9.8%).

March 5, 2020:  My 60th birthday, spent at home, sick with the flu.  I did manage to drag myself up the hill to collect the mail.  The bright spot in the pile was an 8th profit check from the Come From Away tour (ROI 86%)

March 10, 2020: A rare weekday off, rainy, spent ferrying Mama to Costco for hearing aid attention.  This was a re-schedule from the weekend, spent recovering from the prior week’s dragging illness. My slog up the hill for the mail was at least enlivened by a 3rd Hadestown profit check, another 5% ROI (14.76% ROI).

October 13, 2020:  I was shocked to see the familiar yellow of a Come from Away check in today’s mail, it had been so many months since Broadway shut down in mid-March, bringing an abrupt halt to the profit checks we’d been receiving regularly. This profit check was #14, for another 10% for the Toronto company (ROI 138%).

January 10, 2021: Broadway theaters have been closed for 9 months, but the recent advent of vaccination makes Dr. Fauci’s speculation that theaters may be able to reopen in the fall seem hopeful but potentially realistic.  An insurance settlement apparently is the reason we received a check this weekend for the touring company of Come From Away, bringing our ROI to 98.4%.

January 14, 2021: A reason to slog up the hill to check the mail: another insurance settlement check for the Broadway company of Come From Away, bringing our ROI to 104.6%.

May 27, 2021: A sign of hope: a check came for return of 8.8% of invested capital (total returned to date 26.1%) from the Australian company of Come From Away, which was able to reopen Down Under, with engagements in Melbourne and Brisbane completed and Sydney just opening.  Australia has managed to keep the coronavirus from spiraling out of control with strict travel restrictions, as well as brief shut-downs to tamp down flare-ups, including in Melbourne and Brisbane.

June 19, 2021: An insurance settlement brings us a profit check for Hadestown on Broadway, bringing our ROI to 24.3%.  Meanwhile, Hadestown has announced it will reopen on Broadway on September 2 and funds have been sent off for the North American tour, which starts 2 weeks later.

June 28, 2021: We had lunch in New York at Ippudo Westside with Joey from Sing Out Louise, who hand delivered an 8.75% return of capital check for the Australian company of Come From Away (16.25% returned to date).  Unfortunately, an uptick in the Delta variant of coronavirus in Sydney has led to a 2 week shut down of the city, which will definitely impact the box office there.

August 21, 2021

A rare, surprisingly pleasant Saturday was spent by me working in the Breast Center, a catch up day for diagnostic exams. It was easy compared to a normal work day-no phone ringing, no emails to respond to, no biopsies, just a steady stream of techs, mammograms and ultrasounds, with only a few cases requiring discussion with the patients.  Despite a gray drizzle, I rode in, stopping on the way home for a pesto, mozzarella and tomato caprese sandwich at Darshan in Del Mar.  Steve mountain biked at Daley Ranch and had picked up the mail, which contained a pleasant surprise, a small final profit check for Fun Home, which we helped fund on Broadway back in 2015.  Our final tally – a ROI of 9.3%.

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6 thoughts on “Stumbles on the Great White Way

  1. What a thespian adventure! When i have my senior-life crisis I am thinking reliving the Aperture blogs might be the answer. Randy is happy he thinks i just invested vicariously and satisfied now the accounts are safe, but i may be limited to a $50 transfer for awhile?! s

  2. Thanks for sharing your thought process with us – I followed your logic and appreciate the added insight! I love the photo of you in Bye Bye Birdie!

  3. Definitely. The high point was the picture of you from Bye Bye Birdie – but I must say it looks like it was a gateway drug for you. Gail and Ralph have succeeded – now its time for Steve and Marie! Bon chance!

  4. How fun to support the arts, be part of the process, and experience the ups and downs of the industry. Sounds like this is bitcoin for theatre geeks! Love the blog, Lisa

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