The Most Important Lesson for a Broadway Producer

Photo Source: Nan Knighton

John Breglio went from entertainment lawyer to successful Broadway producer. Now he’s sharing advice gleaned from a decades-long career in theater in his new book, “I Wanna Be a Producer: How to Make a Killing on Broadway... or Get Killed.”

Why did you want to write this book?
I decided it might be helpful to put instructions on how to produce a play from the idea to opening night in one place. I also give real, live stories of what I went through with my clients, everything from getting the rights to marketing and advertising to getting the show up and running.

Why make the switch to producer from entertainment lawyer?
I was a shadow producer. I woke up one day and thought, I could do this myself. I’m closely associated with “A Chorus Line.” Michael Bennett was a very good friend of mine. When I was producing the revival, I noticed there was a line where Cassie says, “I’m tired of teaching others what I should be doing myself.” I heard that line and said, “You know what? That’s how I feel.”

What has surprised you since you started producing?
It’s more than a full-time job. It’s full-time times two to do it right. Really, to do it right you have to start from scratch. You have to find the material, develop it, and know how to work with artists. You need to balance supporting what the artist does best, but be so careful that you’re not letting things get out of hand. That’s the biggest lesson I learned: to strike a balance, or really manage by not interfering.

What did you learn not to do from producers you’ve worked with?
I learned more from the things not working. When things are a big success, it’s hard to figure out why. But when things don’t work, you can see where things go wrong. The book writer didn’t like the composer; the design team didn’t understand the piece; casting isn’t done well. I could see how things could go wrong because I’ve seen them from so many different angles. In producing, there are so many things you can’t control: critics, the weather, current events. What you can control is your budget, your finances, and marketing. If you’re able to stay on top of the things you can control, you can say you did the best you could.

What advice do you have for aspiring producers?
Go see as many shows as you can in as many places as you can—not just Broadway, but regional theater. When you go, think carefully about how these elements came together, because as a producer, you are responsible for everything that goes on that stage. And always listen to an audience. The smartest people who are going to tell you whether your play is good or bad are your audiences.

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