Get Cultured — May 9, 2016 at 11:20 am

Interview with BroadwayHD’s Bonnie Comley and Stewart Lane

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A few weeks ago I wrote a review about the new streaming service for theater fanatics called BroadwayHD. I commented on how I loved the way it streamed almost seamlessly, especially in a live stream, and how this would open the world for so many productions to get the love they deserve. Past productions, new productions, productions you may not even know will now be available whenever you want to watch them. The live streaming of “Buried Child” was the only way I could see Buried Child, a play I love but a broken foot was impeding me from going. I got to see the wonderful performances without going to the Signature. This was huge for me and I live in the city — can you imagine the millions of fans outside the city that only dream of coming to a Broadway/Off-Broadway show one day? All of those that imagine one day to come to New York now can prepare before they come. Screw Youtube videos with bad quality! BroadwayHD is here.

I had the privilege of being able to interview Bonnie Comley and Stewart Lane, co-founders of BroadwayHD and producers of 9 Tony Award winning shows, for Manhattan with a Twist. Find out about the service today, and what’s being prepared for the future, then sign up! Don’t believe me? Read what they have to say below!

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What made this happen? How did you guys come up with the idea? How did you two get together and get this going?

Bonnie: Stewart and I have a diverse background in the industry that has afforded us the opportunity to be involved in nearly every facet of NYC theater and Broadway. We are members of the Broadway League, Broadway producers (currently producing On Your Feet), involved with several philanthropic theater, arts and educational organizations, and Stewart is a co-owner of the Palace Theatre. We are huge live theater lovers and wanted to expand the reach of this art form to a broader audience. So many people don’t have the opportunity to enjoy live theater in person, and many others want the chance to see shows again and again. We are preserving live theater while bringing the Broadway stage into people’s homes.   

How much support have you received for it? Any backlash or obstacles?

Bonnie: We never thought it would be easy to launch BroadwayHD, since there are a lot of logistical obstacles to overcome. But we’ve found that people are excited about this idea, and they want more. We just presented two live streamed productions, The New Group’s Buried Child and Signature Theatre’s Old Hats. This has been our plan all along, to capture and stream performances live, in real-time. We’re very excited that it’s come to fruition and we can’t wait for you to see what comes next.

How many people/organizations are involved? How many do you expect by the end of the year?

Stewart: We’ve partnered with WNET/New York’s THIRTEEN Productions and PRF Productions to capture our live stream content. The BroadwayHD library also boasts content from Broadway Worldwide’s Direct From Broadway® catalog, BBC Worldwide North America and more.

The live streaming of Buried Child was fantastic, and I loved seeing it from my home as I was in recover.y I was planning to see it when my foot got better, and the live streaming made me want to see it live even more. Sadly it was too late, but at least I didn’t miss it. How often are you thinking of having live streams?

Stewart: We’re very glad you enjoyed the live stream of Buried Child! We like to see our service encouraging viewers to go out and experience live theater. Unfortunately, that particular production at the Signature Theatre has now closed, which is why we were excited for the opportunity to capture the performance for future audiences to enjoy when it becomes available in our on-demand library.

Our goal is to make live streams available to all audiences through BroadwayHD as often as possible. So as soon as another opportunity to live stream a production emerges, we’ll take it!

What would be your ideal situation for the instant streaming service? Any shows coming up that you can share?

Bonnie: Our goal is to promote and preserve live theater and extend the reach of Broadway and Broadway-caliber shows to anyone, anywhere. We are gathering as much great theatrical content as we can to make that happen.

You have shows coming from Broadway, Off-Broadway, England, etc. In the upcoming future: Are you going to keep it exclusive to English markets, or would you consider some foreign markets beyond England?

Stewart: We recently uploaded the West End’s production of Gypsy starring Imelda Staunton. We were very lucky to snag that piece before it won four Olivier Awards (including Best Musical Revival!) and before it has even made plans to come to the United States. That production is doing very well on BroadwayHD. If we are presented with further opportunities to include content from markets outside the United States, and even England, we certainly won’t turn them down.  

How often would you like to update the selection for customers? How often does it get updated now?

Stewart: We update our content as often as possible. Currently, we average around 5-10 new titles added to the website each month. This includes musicals, dramas, comedies, Shakespeare classics, and even behind-the-scenes content.

Out of my own curiosity: Is there a plan to do shows solely for streaming? Like an off-off Broadway show with great potential that may not find a huge audience – would this service have any plans for co-productions like that or is that so far in the future it’s hard to tell?

Bonnie:  Right now BroadwayHD’s purpose is to bring live theater to anyone, anywhere, but there’s no telling what the future holds.

Fun question: If you could stream a production from any time, which one would you do?

Stewart: I would have loved to stream the opening night of the original Broadway production of 42nd Street.

Thank you so much. Go to BroadwayHD and check it out for yourself.

Twisted Talk: Have you heard of BroadwayHD before? Would you live stream a Broadway production? Discuss below!

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