On the Job: Broadway Producer

Broadway producer Jeffrey Seller tells us what it takes to stage a hit musical

(Cheryl Carlin)

(Continued from page 1)

There will never be a moment more exciting than bringing Rent to Broadway. There will never be a moment sadder than the death of Jonathan Larson, the creator of Rent, on the day of the first preview off Broadway. And there will probably never be a moment more fun than winning the Tony for Avenue Q, when it was considered the upset of the century.

Any downsides?

I'm a very lucky man. My avocation is my vocation. What I did for fun as a child, I do for a living as an adult.

As a producer, what do you look for in a show?

It's visceral, purely visceral. I feel it or I don't. But what do I look for? I want to be surprised. I want to have an experience I've never had before, which was certainly the case with Rent, Avenue Q and my newest production In the Heights. When I attended the first reading of In the Heights and the show started with the opening number, I had never heard a Broadway musical sound like that. I was instantly hooked. We hope that the young artists toiling away at writing new musicals have the ingenuity to find a way to get guys like me into the room. And usually the right ones do.

What did you see in Rent when you first saw it?

I felt like I loved those characters. I knew those characters. Rent seemed to be speaking to everything I was feeling about the world. I don't want to be a booker, I was thinking. I want to be a producer. Rent's got that issue all tied up in it. How do I pursue my dreams without selling out? How do I create an alternative family? Rent spoke to me so directly, to feelings and values that I had as a young person in my late 20s, early 30s.

Do you have any idea how many times you've seen the show?

God no. Probably more than 50. More than most, but not as many as some. I'm sure there are Rentheads who have seen the show more than me.

How do you feel about the closing of the show on June 1?


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