Published on: June 14, 2016by Michael Sansolo
Beyond a staggering array of wonderful performances, there was a really sound reason why businesspeople should have watched this past weekend’s broadcast of the Tony Awards for Broadway excellence. It came down to this:
Reinvention is real, but it requires some out of the box thinking.
No matter what your line of work, you have numerous business challenges these days and I would never downplay them. But think for a moment about the challenges of succeeding in live theater in the age of endless choices of television networks, streaming video, traditional movies and countless other entertainment options. Against that backdrop how could live performances at incredibly high prices possibly win?
Heck, if you Google the phrase “The theater is dead,” you’ll find nearly 100 million references.
But it’s not dead and the answer again is reinvention.
In many ways the Tony’s were dominated by a single show, the smash musical “Hamilton,” that in many ways demonstrates just how far you can think outside the box and succeed.
"Hamilton" is about one of America’s most important, yet lesser-known Founding Fathers. We rarely wax nostalgic about the founding of the mint, the central bank or the entire system of a federal government. No one curls up at night with a dog-eared copy of the Federalist Papers. So who would want to see a show about the guy responsible for all of them?
What’s more, imagine that show set to rap and hip-hop music - a style I bet many of us don’t appreciate - and filled with minority actors playing the roles of all the Founding Farmers, who were famously not minorities.
Yet just try to get a ticket and if you do, prepare for sticker shock.
So what can we learn from this?
First, hard work always matters. "Hamilton" wasn’t an overnight success. The show’s creator/star/resident genius Lin-Manuel Miranda spent years working on the project and is now supported by an incredible team. Not a thing that happens in the show came lightly or easily.
Second, don’t let accepted assumptions stop innovation. It’s incredible to think that a rap/hip-hop show is so popular, yet it is. I’ve talked to people in my age group who have managed to snag a ticket and the reviews are always the same. They all went in expecting it to be overrated, expecting to hate the rap style and they all emerged calling "Hamilton" the best show they have ever seen.
Third - and to paraphrase Forrest Gump - boring is as boring does. Miranda tells the story of the country’s birth and Hamilton’s journey in a way that everyone from school kids to grandparents love and he does it while staying true to facts. History, like so many things in life, shouldn’t be boring if we tell it right. The mundane can always be made exciting.
I’m sure there are countless other lessons, but like so many others I have yet to score a ticket to "Hamilton." When that moment finally comes (and donations are welcome if Lin-Manuel Miranda happens to be an MNB reader) I promise to write more.
In truth, there were countless other great lessons from the Tony’s last night, demonstrating how this part of the entertainment industry successfully is fighting to retain business, profitability and relevance in a very different age. It comes from new approaches to old problems, involving new people and taking some stunning risks.
Success is never guaranteed and, in fact, many shows fail. Then again, Alexander Hamilton himself was never certain the American experiment would succeed.
Sometimes you need to apply some revolutionary thinking.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
- KC's View:
- By the way ... anybody who comes up with two tickets to "Hamilton" for Michael and me gets in exchange a month's advertising on MNB. Just in case Michael's pitch for tickets wasn't blunt enough.