Behind the Curtain: Navigating the Business Side of Musical Theater

Behind the Curtain: Navigating the Business Side of Musical Theater

The Unsung Heroes of Broadway

As a lifelong theater enthusiast, I’ve always been enamored by the glitz and glamour of musical theater. The dazzling costumes, the soaring melodies, the captivating performances – it’s no wonder audiences are so entranced by the magic that unfolds on stage. But there’s a whole other side to the industry that often goes unnoticed, hidden behind the curtain.

I remember when I first started exploring the world of musical theater, fresh out of college and eager to make my mark. I had stars in my eyes, dreaming of the day I’d be up on that stage, basking in the spotlight. But as I delved deeper into the field, I started to realize that the true power players weren’t always the ones commanding center stage.

Office politics, as much as I despised them, were a crucial part of the equation. The producers, the managers, the agents – these were the unsung heroes who made the whole production come together. And they were navigating a complex web of interpersonal dynamics, strategic maneuvering, and high-stakes decision-making that I had never even considered.

It was a rude awakening, to be sure. But as I’ve gained more experience in the industry, I’ve come to appreciate just how vital these behind-the-scenes players are to the success of any musical theater production. Their work may not be as glamorous as that of the performers, but it’s no less essential.

The Business of Broadway

Think about it – before a single note is sung or a single step is danced, there’s an entire infrastructure that needs to be in place. The mechanics of the music industry are intricate and multifaceted, and the world of musical theater is no exception.

First, there’s the matter of securing the rights to the show. This can be a painstaking process, involving negotiations with the original creators, licensing agents, and a host of other stakeholders. Then there’s the task of assembling the creative team – the director, the choreographer, the music director, and so on. Each of these individuals brings their own unique vision and expertise to the table, and coordinating their efforts is no easy feat.

And let’s not forget the financial aspect. Mounting a Broadway production is an incredibly expensive undertaking, with costs ranging from set design and construction to marketing and promotion. Producers have to carefully weigh the risks and potential rewards, all while navigating a complex web of investors, lenders, and other backers.

It’s a delicate balancing act, to be sure. One wrong move, and the whole thing can come crashing down. But the true masters of this game – the ones who can navigate these treacherous waters and emerge victorious – are the ones who truly deserve our admiration.

The Unsung Heroes of the Stage

Take, for example, the story of Brendon Henderson, the creator of the “Wait in the Wings” YouTube channel. As a theater enthusiast himself, Brendon recognized that there was a wealth of untold stories behind some of Broadway’s biggest hits and biggest flops.

“It shouldn’t go away just because it wasn’t as big as Hamilton,” Brendon said in an interview. And he’s right – the stories of the producers, the managers, the agents who poured their hearts and souls into these productions deserve to be heard.

Brendon’s channel delves into the nitty-gritty details of these behind-the-scenes players, shining a light on the trials and tribulations they faced in bringing their visions to life. From the disastrous technical challenges of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” to the unexpected success of “Beetlejuice,” Brendon’s videos offer a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the musical theater industry.

And it’s not just the big-name productions that Brendon highlights. He also shines a spotlight on the “forgotten shows” – the ones that may have flown under the radar, but still had a profound impact on the industry. Because as he rightly points out, “You can come to my channel and you can learn about the disasters.”

The Unsung Heroes of the Classroom

But it’s not just the professionals who are navigating the business side of musical theater. As a faculty member at the Musical Theater Center, I’ve had the privilege of working with countless aspiring performers and creators who are eager to learn the ropes.

One of the things I emphasize to my students is the importance of understanding the behind-the-scenes workings of the industry. Sure, they may dream of one day taking the stage by storm, but they also need to be prepared for the realities of the business.

That’s why we devote a significant portion of our curriculum to topics like budgeting, marketing, and project management. We want our students to be well-rounded, with a deep understanding of the full spectrum of what it takes to make a musical theater production a success.

And let me tell you, these students are anything but passive learners. They come to the table with a boundless curiosity and a genuine hunger to know more. They ask probing questions, they engage in lively debates, and they’re not afraid to challenge the status quo.

In many ways, these aspiring performers and creators are the unsung heroes of the musical theater world. They’re the ones who are laying the groundwork for the future, paving the way for a new generation of trailblazers who will push the boundaries of what’s possible.

The Power of Collaboration

Of course, navigating the business side of musical theater isn’t just a solo endeavor. It’s a collaborative effort, one that requires a delicate balance of individual ambition and collective vision.

I’ve seen it time and time again, where a group of individuals with diverse backgrounds and skill sets come together to create something truly remarkable. The producer who has a knack for spotting untapped potential, the marketing whiz who knows how to capture the public’s imagination, the financial wizard who can make the numbers work – when these various players come together, the result can be nothing short of magic.

And it’s not just the professionals who are learning to collaborate. My students at the Musical Theater Center are also honing these crucial skills, as they work together on group projects and productions.

I remember one particularly memorable collaboration, where a group of students decided to tackle the challenge of reviving a forgotten musical. They divided up the tasks, playing to each person’s strengths – one student took the lead on securing the rights, another spearheaded the marketing campaign, and a third handled the financial planning.

The result was a production that not only captivated the audience, but also showcased the power of teamwork. The students had learned that the business side of musical theater isn’t just about individual achievement, but about leveraging the collective expertise of a diverse group of individuals.

The Rewards of Persistence

Of course, navigating the business side of musical theater isn’t always a walk in the park. There are setbacks, roadblocks, and challenges at every turn. But the true heroes of this industry are the ones who refuse to be deterred, who keep pushing forward no matter what obstacles they face.

I’ve seen producers pour their life savings into a production, only to watch it flop spectacularly. I’ve witnessed managers pour their heart and soul into a project, only to have it unceremoniously shuttered. And I’ve known countless agents who have had to weather the ups and downs of the industry, always keeping their eyes on the horizon.

But the truly remarkable thing is that these individuals don’t give up. They dust themselves off, learn from their mistakes, and come back stronger than ever. They know that the rewards of success in this industry are worth the risk, and they’re willing to put in the hard work to make their dreams a reality.

And when they do succeed, it’s a sight to behold. The thrill of opening night, the roar of the crowd, the sense of pride and accomplishment – these are the moments that make it all worth it. These are the moments that remind us why we’re in this business in the first place.


So the next time you’re seated in a theater, watching a dazzling musical theater production unfold before your eyes, take a moment to think about the unsung heroes who made it all possible. The producers, the managers, the agents – they may not be the ones in the spotlight, but they’re the ones who are truly driving the industry forward.

Their stories may not be as glamorous as those of the performers, but they’re no less compelling. And as I’ve come to learn, navigating the business side of musical theater takes a special kind of grit, determination, and vision.

So let’s raise a curtain of applause for these unsung heroes, and let them know that their hard work and dedication are not going unnoticed. After all, without them, the magic of musical theater would simply cease to exist.

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