Oct 18, 2019

Powerhouse producer Eva Price on the business of Broadway

The producer behind and edgy revival of "Oklahoma!" and a new musical inspired by Alanis Morissette says it's a good time to be telling urgent, emotional stories.

At 26, Eva Price quit her job at ABC News to chase her dream of becoming a theater producer. Fifteen years later, with three Tony awards, more than 18 Broadway credits and a place on the Broadway League’s board of governors, she’s a theater powerhouse.

She took home a Tony this year for an edgy new version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” and she’s leading production of a new musical, “Jagged Little Pill,” inspired by the Alanis Morissette album.

“Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal sat down with Price inside Sardi’s restaurant in New York City, a place as synonymous with Broadway as the Tonys themselves. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Kai Ryssdal: Day in day out, what do you do?

Eva Price: I’m laughing because it’s a great question. My mother asks the same question. I equate it a little bit to the CEO of a company. So it’s big picture. It’s everything from raising the money and acquiring the rights to the show you want to do to having a vision for how it should exist. And that doesn’t mean down to how it should exist on the stage in detail, that’s the director’s vision, but it’s your vision that says this property matched with this artist for this audience is something that I want to make happen.

Eva Price's latest show, "Jagged Little Pill" opens on at the Broadhurst theater next month.
Eva Price’s latest show, “Jagged Little Pill,” opens on at the Broadhurst Theatre next month.

Ryssdal: How do you know when there’s a property, or an idea, or a play, or a show that you want to do? How do you know?

Price: I feel it. I know that sounds really woo woo. Even fake, but it’s not. It is a blood-coursing-through-my-bones kind of feeling, it is a punch-in-the-gut kind of feeling, slightly coupled with “If someone else produces this, I will be very jealous of them.” It is all of those emotions wrapped up that tell me this is the one to do.

A production photo from the Eva Price-led revival of Rodger's and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!"
A scene from Eva Price’s Tony Award-winning revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!”

Ryssdal: Is this a good time to be a Broadway producer?

Price: It’s a good time to be my kind of Broadway producer. I think it’s harder to be a Broadway producer now. You are competing with more networks and studios and major organizations, major money for theaters and for properties because look at the game. You know, Disney is a major figure here. Warner Brothers, Fox.

I want to be telling urgent, emotional stories. And I think we’re in a time right now where audiences need that catharsis.

-Theater producer Eva Price

Ryssdal: Well so look, you go outside, and there’s a thing for “Frozen” and “Lion King,” right? And you’ve got Disney money behind all of that. And then on top of that, I just saw a thing for “Wicked,” which I think I saw on Broadway 15 years ago.

Price: You did. In 2003.

Ryssdal: So there’s only, you know, X number of theaters, and “Wicked’s” not leaving. “Hamilton’s” freaking never leaving, right? So you don’t physically have enough space to put your shows —

Price: Yeah, you forgot the wizard over on 42nd Street. He’s not going anywhere, either.

Ryssdal: Yeah!

Price: So it’s harder. It’s harder because you’re right, the real estate is finite, and I actually believe, to a degree, the audience is finite. The good news is that the people who may buy a ticket to Broadway is increasing. Thank you to “Hamilton” and thank you to “Harry Potter” and thank you to “Frozen,” right? And the reason why I think it’s a good time for me to be a Broadway producer, my kind of Broadway producer, a) I can stand out. I’m different than every competitor we just named. I’m not a studio. I’m not Rupert Murdoch. But I also think it’s a good time because the work I want to be doing is specific. I want to be telling urgent, emotional stories. And I think we’re in a time right now where audiences need that catharsis.

Many of the big musicals on Broadway these days have Hollywood studios behind them.
Many of the big musicals on Broadway these days have Hollywood studios behind them.

Ryssdal: I’m not going to ask you to speak for all of American theater, but I’m going to ask you to speak for all of American theater. Because you’re somebody now, right? You’re on the board of governors of the Broadway League, right? So you know, you matter. I need you to tell me why Broadway matters.

Price: Broadway matters so much, Kai. It matters because it is, I think, one of the last places where human beings don’t have screens in their hand or in front of their face, can actually consume an art form while connecting, not only to the art in front of them, but to the thousand people sitting in the same room with them at the same time. And so Broadway matters for the furthering of creative excellence, but I honestly believe for the furthering of humanity.

The team

Nancy Farghalli Executive Producer
Bridget Bodnar Producer
Daisy Palacios Producer
Sean McHenry Associate Producer
Maria Hollenhorst Associate Producer