How a Tony Award-winning Broadway Producer Went Digital Amid COVID-19

Jul 21, 2020 | Business Insights

Jagged Little Pill on Broadway

As theatres closed around the world, actors, directors, and producers were put out of work and audiences were without entertainment. With no return date in sight, Broadway producer and Opportunity Network member, Sue Gilad, did what she does best. She got creative, pivoting her companies, Broadway Custom and Infine Company, digital.

This article will take about 3 minutes to read

New York City, the home and heart of Broadway, has been one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. With theatre reopenings tentatively scheduled for 2021, this will be the longest scheduled closure of Broadway theaters in the industry’s history. As the United States struggles to get the virus under control, theatergoers are not hopeful that they’ll be able to enjoy regular programming for a long time. Within reopening plans, theaters present a tricky set-up. Enclosed spaces and tightly packed seats make for easy spreading. Even when the pandemic subsides, 59% of theatergoers reported that fear of potential infection would stop them from racing back to theaters.

For big-name shows such as Hamilton or Chicago, this presents a temporary setback and substantial financial loss, but nothing show-ending. For smaller broadway companies and start-up shows, as well as the artists themselves, the closure lands a devastating blow. 

To face this challenge, artists and producers are turning towards digital platforms. Finding ways to work and keep their audiences engaged online. Shows like Hamilton have been filmed and released on Disney+. Productions such as Frozen as well as Beetlejuice have created themed backgrounds that fans can use in video calls. The artists themselves are offering up paid guest appearances via  Zoom

As with many industries, these changes raise the question of what Broadway will look like in a post-pandemic world. When theaters can safely open again, will everything go “back to normal”? Or will Broadway find itself part of the digital revolution?

Bringing Broadway Online

Sue Gilad is a Tony-winning theater producer, Opportunity Network member, and powerhouse Broadway producer. Having worked on productions such as Angels in America (Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play); Moulin Rouge!Jagged Little Pill, and Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 (nominated for 12 Tony Awards), Gilad was not about to sit around on her hands. 

When the pandemic reached the United States, Gilad was running three separate shows on Broadway, all of which were immediately closed. Facing down a prolonged “intermission,” Gilad was determined to keep with the “show goes on” mentality. So, she turned her attention to a new stage.

In addition to being a theatre producer, Gilad is the founder of Broadway Custom. Broadway Custom focuses on training and educating the future of theatre and Broadway. Based in New York City, the program is highly selective, taking only the students who show a true passion for the art and industry. 

Traditionally, the program covers everything from singing and dancing to improv sessions, to monologue and scene study classes. Students learn discipline and grit from the “wunderstudies,” performers who learn eight tracks or more to cover many roles in one Broadway show. 

“We bring in the glamour! A parade of Broadway stars to tell their stories and share the inspiration of their successes. And we bring in the grit, the rigor of a top-notch Broadway training program,” shares Gilad.

This year, it will also bring something extra. Zoom-audition training.

The New Normal

Broadway shows are now holding auditions and callbacks via Zoom and video submission. So, Broadway Custom will focus on teaching students how to best present themselves as a theater actor on video. From lighting to spacing to audio, this new medium is something that Gilad sees as an important part of a performer’s repertoire in a post-COVID world. 

“I saw young performers sabotaging their own chances because they simply didn’t know how to go about a virtual audition,” shares Gilad. “We wanted our candidates to come in knowing how to carry themselves, project an air of self-confidence, and present themselves in the best light. I wanted to share that information and develop those skills with them, on and off stage.” 

At the start of the program, each student can expect to receive a host of “swag”. Together over Zoom, the group will open various items that support the activity or focus of the day. Nightly, there are optional activities including Virtual Broadway Show Night, Virtual Dance Party, Broadway karaoke, and of course the students’ own performances.

An Unexpected Bonus

Aside from simple know-how, Gilad is determined to maintain the community feel through the digital platform. An unexpected side-effect of this virtual shift? That community is now truly global.

“I love to see how theatre-loving kids from Ghana, Australia, India, all connect so beautifully in one week,” says Gilad. “It’s a real global community that is created, and that’s a big part of what Broadway Custom strives to create.”

Another unexpected bonus? Thanks to the pandemic, stars who are usually busy working eight shows a week have signed on to help teach the program. Students will meet and learn from their favorite theater stars from Frozen to Beetlejuice to Hamilton and more.

To say that the 2020 Broadway season has not turned out as expected would be an understatement. But in the face of COVID-19 closing theatres across the globe, Sue Gilad and the Broadway community have proven that digital integration can work for just about any business. All you need is a little creativity.

Brian Pallas - Opportunity Network CEO

Sue Gilad

Founder of Broadway Custom

Accelerate your business growth with the right partners

Let us know what your business needs are. We’ll show you how to discover the best counterpart.

RELATED ARTICLES

Investing in the UK: This is what you should know

Investing in the UK: This is what you should know

Investing abroad can lead to great ROI, however, foreign rules and regulations can be complex and time-consuming to get familiar with. In this guide, we will address the many aspects of investing in the UK, the United Kingdom. Investing in UK property The UK presents...

Portugal and its Golden Visa: Citizenship by Investment

Portugal and its Golden Visa: Citizenship by Investment

Written by Naomi Peng Beautiful and low-density countries in Europe, such as Portugal, are increasingly devising smarter ways to capture foreign capital and increase the economic welfare of their states. These opportunities present a win-win solution because it allows...

The future of work and what (not) to fear

The future of work and what (not) to fear

Written by Elisa KoekThe world of work is changing rapidly. Historically, this does not happen frequently and, although work has gotten better, safer, and more rewarding by all measures, rapid changes create fear. But, how substantiated are our fears of the future of...

Will 2022 See The End of the Global Supply Chain Crisis?

Will 2022 See The End of the Global Supply Chain Crisis?

At the beginning of this year, a local COVID-19 outbreak in China led to a shortage of drivers, air freight warehouse logjams, and over 120 container vessels being stuck on hold. Major ports around the world started experiencing major delays which saw container ships...

Get the latest insights delivered to your inbox