An innovative group of theater producers is reshaping the mold for Broadway investors.
With the current staging of “The Kite Runner,” playing the Hayes Theatre through Oct. 30, Broadway & Beyond Theatricals is blazing a new trail to bring shows to Broadway.
Co-founded by Ryan Bogner, Victoria Lang and Tracey Stroock McFarland, Broadway & Beyond is a combined production company and booking agency for all types of entertainment.
For context, shows that are looking to tour will typically capitalize the Broadway production. Then when it’s time to go on the road, a new entity is created to recapitalize the tour’s production budget. Often it’s the same or a similar group of investors who then reinvest in the road production.
With “The Kite Runner,” Bogner, Lang and McFarland bundled together the capitalization for Broadway and the eventual tour.
“What that does is, the investors that invested in the show can think of the tour as an extension of the Broadway run,” Bogner said.
Eventually, when “The Kite Runner” ends its tour and goes onto its “next life,” Bogner continued, the Broadway mounting’s investors will participate in that as well.
However, this wasn’t always the plan for “The Kite Runner.”
Pre-pandemic, the producers had intended to bring the play in from London’s West End and tour it across the United States to regional theaters.
“Cue COVID, so there went that idea,” Lang said.
They later learned that the Hayes Theatre, owned by the nonprofit Second Stage, would be available for a commercial rental during the summer months, opening the door to a limited Broadway engagement.
“Having only 17 weeks on paper is short. It could recoup on Broadway, but it’s a much riskier proposition,” McFarland said. “So having the additional prospect of the tour bundled into the same package makes something that’s a bit more experimental, but gives a chance to bring that kind of work to Broadway.”
On Broadway, the production costs about $300,000 per week to run, Bogner said. The production has generally hovered around that number, not always meeting it some weeks, but exceeding it during others.
“The good news for our investors is that we still have the tour,” noted Bogner. “So those losing weeks aren’t as material as they would be if we were just running the 17 weeks and closing the book.”
“The Kite Runner” also has an added financial layer, as a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales are benefitting various charities and organizations.
The production first began working with The Khaled Hosseini Foundation, which was founded in 2008 by Hosseini, award-winning author of the book “The Kite Runner,” on which the play is based.
“His foundation was very helpful to us in identifying other organizations that would work within the structure of what we’re doing within the show,” Lang said.
Those other organizations include the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Welcome.US and Women for Women International.
Once the Broadway production closes, each of these four organizations will benefit from some of the show’s proceeds.
As far as their working relationships are concerned, the three co-founders seem to have an easygoing dynamic, recognizing their individual strengths as well as the gaps they needed to fill within the business.
“We’re producers first, Ryan and I,” Lang said. “We had, luckily, a lot of things happening at once and knew we couldn’t executive produce and book it. And booking was secondary to our skill set.”
That’s how McFarland, deemed a “rockstar” by her two colleagues, came on board.
“Really, it was that spontaneous,” McFarland said. “It just was a really natural fit. It made so much sense.”
Bogner likes to say that Broadway & Beyond is a “distribution solutions company for theater.”
“Between the producing and booking skill set of this group and our staff, we operate in a lot of different verticals,” he said. Sometimes they’re in the driver’s seat, and sometimes they’re more of a consultant, but above all, Bogner said “there’s a great delineation of labor between the three of us kind of naturally.”
Lang emphasized the great dynamic among the trio, saying that their relationships and individual expertise have contributed greatly to their ability to create new business models, including regional touring models.
“We take the ‘and beyond’ part very seriously,” McFarland said with a laugh.
With a few other shows in development, the trio hopes to use this model in the future, though it will depend on the particular production. They said that feedback from investors has largely been positive.
“You’re not necessarily rolling all your dice on the fact that you have to be a hit on Broadway and make all your money there,” Lang said.
“We plan to use the model as best we can.”