Investing in Broadway: Jane Dubin on backing the Tony nominated musical The Prom

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UPDATED: Former financial services executive Jane Dubin, a co-producer of The Prom, which was nominated for seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, discusses investing in Broadway plays in this Q&A with Mergers & Acquisitions.

In The Prom, four fading Broadway stars need a new stage. When they hear that trouble is brewing around a small-town Indiana prom—and the press is involved—they decide to put a spotlight on the issue—and themselves. “The town’s parents want to keep the dance on the straight and narrow—but when one student just wants to bring her girlfriend to prom, the entire town has a date with destiny,” as the playbill puts it. The cast features Caitlin Kinnunen as Emma, with Isabelle McCalla as her girlfriend Alyssa, and Tony winner Beth Leavel, Brooks Ashmanskas, Christopher Sieber, Josh Lamon, and Angie Schworer.

Dubin is the president of Double Play Connections. She won a Tony award for producing The Norman Conquests and also served as a producer on American in Paris and Peter and the Starcatcher. Trained as an actuary, Dubin was a managing director at Equitable Capital Management Corp. (a subsidiary of Equitable Life) and a principal of a private investment firm.

What inspired you to become a co-producer of The Prom?
I saw a workshop production in early 2018 and fell in love. I laughed and laughed and then tears. And then cheering and joy. I was moved in a way I hadn’t been before. I had to be a part of the show. It is funny, the cast is amazing and the message of acceptance and empathy is so critical in today’s world. It grabs people right in the heart.

How does investing in a Broadway play compare with investing in a portfolio company?
Investment in a Broadway show is generally via a private offering for accredited investors. There are different stages of entry - very early, when a show is developing; or later with the Broadway theater secured, cast hired and the show a go; but always before the show officially opens, so there is a high level of risk involved. One needs to evaluate the investment in much the same way you would a startup. Who is on the team? What’s the experience level? The cost? The risk/reward?

On the other hand, there is generally no capital call provision, so you know exactly how much is at risk. And it is possible to participate at relatively small amounts, as low as $10,000. And there's the non-financial benefits - attending the Broadway opening, access to house seats, the Tony Awards and other special events, and meeting the Broadway stars. Not to mention the fun involved!

What return on investment are you hoping for?
There is a saying - “you can’t make a living but you can make a killing.” Obviously, one hopes to have a long-running show with a high ROI. But alas, no guarantees. There are other metrics, including critical response and industry recognition. The Prom received stellar reviews across the board, including a critic’s pick from The New York Times. The show received the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical and is nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical. Accolades for team members include Tony nominations for the director, composer, book writers and 3 leading actors (7 Tony nominations in total). And our composer received the Dramatist Guild’s Frederick Loewe Award for Dramatic Composition.

Tell us about the impact of The Prom.
There are so many moments every night at the stage door, with teens and parents sharing their stories. Amazing people have come to see The Prom – Peter Dinklage, Alan Cumming, Patti Lapone, James Corden, Glenn Close, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ethan Hawke, Bobby Cannavale, Chasten Buttigieg, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Whoopi Goldberg, to name just a few. And national TV - Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, GMA, Late Night with Seth Meyers, The View and Nightline. And there will be a Prom number on the Tony Awards this Sunday.

We have lots of school groups come to see the show. The Prom Access for All Program provides tickets to kids that wouldn't otherwise be able to attend the show. Kenneth Cole created a customized Prom T-shirt with proceeds donated to the Kenneth Cole Foundation in support of UN Free & Equal. Giving back and supporting the community is a critical aspect of the show.

What's next?
There's the national release of a young adult Prom novel and a feature film produced by Ryan Murphy that will involve the creative team of The Prom. As for me, I will continue to work with the Prom team even as new projects come my way. But that’s for another day!

The Tony Awards ceremony, held at Radio City Musical Hall in New York and hosted by The Late Late Show’s James Corden, aired live on CBS on June 9. Hadestown won the award for Best Musical. Ali Stroker made history as the first wheelchair user to win a performing Tony in a milestone for representation on stage. The Glee Project alum won Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for her performance as Ado Annie in the Oklahoma revival.

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