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Alumnus, Broadway producer Kevin McCollum's view of theater

As the University of Cincinnati grad shared at a master class for musical-theater students in January 2011

Kevin McCollum, CCM '84, HonDoc '05

Producer of not-so-typical Broadway shows:

  • poverty-stricken young people with AIDS ("Rent")
  • puppets who sing about sexuality and poverty ("Avenue Q")
  • depressive protagonists who seem likely to commit suicide at the end of the show ("The Drowsy Chaperone")
  • Dominican-Americans living in New York ("In the Heights")

About theater in general
"It's hard to find shows. How do you document real life when real life is getting more like fiction every day?"

"People are thirsty for art, to feel part of something."

"A show has to start on earth and end in heaven."

About Broadway

"If it's going to cost you $100 for a ticket, a Broadway ticket is going to be hard to sell. Producers have to give people what they want before they know what they want."

"Broadway is very racist. A very small portion of society can afford tickets."

About producing

"My shows are multicultural. And I must have a conviction for why a show must happen."

"I try not to react to what everyone else is saying and try to anticipate what could be popular. I'm a warrior against cynicism."

"We're in the drug business in musical theater. We have to get the chemical reaction needed to get the hair to stand up on the back of your neck."

About "Rent"
"The original theme song for "Rent" didn't work. [Writer Jonathon Larson rewrote it between the workshop version and the Off-Broadway opening.] It was about victims."

"When you go to a Broadway musical, a contract is made. You have spent too much money for the ticket and too much for the burrito before the show. So you have to have characters you want to root for."

About "Avenue Q"
"Truth is always politically incorrect because politics is based on fear. We couldn't tell the truth without puppets to filter it."

"We spent $100,000 for an ad, when we had only sold $7,000 in tickets. It was very scary. We opened in August and took out an ad for every musical on Broadway at the time. We gave them permission to open with ads like "Avenue Q welcomes Taboo on Broadway." We were using the humor of our show to advertise."

Tips for students
"Friends are precious. The most important people to you are in this room, and it's not me. Your peers are the most important people in your life."

Bio information

  • raised in Hawaii (a year behind Barak Obama at grammar school)
  • came to the University of Cincinnati from Chicago
  • musical-theater graduate from UC's College-Conservatory of Music
  • got a master's degree in film production from University of Southern California
  • started the Booking Group in New York
  • co-founded the Producing Office
  • married to actress Lynnette Perry, CCM '85
  • UC's '05 commencement speaker

Partial list of McCollum's awards

Tony winners

  • 2008 Tony Award® Best Musical, "In the Heights"
  • 2004 Tony Award® Best Musical, "Avenue Q"
  • 2002 Tony Award® Best Revival of a Play, "Private Lives"
  • 1996 Tony Award® Best Musical, "Rent"

Tony nominees

  • 2010 Tony Award® Best Revival of a Musical, "Ragtime"
  • 2009 Tony Award® Best Revival of a Musical, "West Side Story"
  • 2006 Tony Award® Best Musical, "The Drowsy Chaperone"
  • 2003 Tony Award® Best Revival of a Musical, "La Bohème"
  • 1994 Tony Award® Best Play, "Twilight: Los Angeles"
  • 1994 Tony Award® Best Revival of a Musical, "Damn Yankees"

Drama Desk winners

  • 2006 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical, "The Drowsy Chaperone"
  • 2002 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Revival of a Play, "Private Lives"

Drama Desk nominees

  • 2011 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Play, "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo"
  • 2010 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Revival of a Musical, "Ragtime"
  • 2009 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Revival of a Musical, "West Side Story"
  • 2007 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical, "In the Heights"
  • 2003 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Revival of a Musical, "La Bohème"
  • 1999 Drama Desk Award Unique Theatrical Experience, "De La Guarda"
  • 1996 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical, "Rent"
  • 1994 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Revival, "Damn Yankees"