Infinity Theatre Company’s Anna Roberts Ostroff and Alan Ostroff are Broadway Producers. Their show Pippin is on a roll with wins at The Outer Critics Circle Awards, Drama League Awards, and Drama Desk Awards, and has received 10 Tony Award nominations. How did this all happen? Alan tells us about this magical experience.
Joel: Mazel Tov on the 10 Tony Award nominations for Pippin and winning the Drama Desk Award on Sunday night for Outstanding Revival of a Musical. What is the show nominated for, and are you personally nominated for a Tony?
Alan: Infinity Theatre Company is a nominee for Pippin. While we are not the Lead Producers, we did have enough involvement in the show to be credited above the title. Nominations for Pippin include Best Director, Leading Actress, Set Design, Lighting Design, the list goes on – wonderful response to this special production.
How did you get involved with Pippin? Who approached you and why did you want to invest in this production?
A colleague of ours had extra tickets to see the developmental production at American Repertory Theatre in Boston (which was wonderful on its own). He actually is our attorney, and also is the attorney for one of the Lead Producers. When we saw the amazing potential, he pointed us in the right direction. The new circus aspect is the fulfillment of this show Anna and I have loved all of our lives.
Did you see the original 1972 Broadway production, and how is the revival similar or different? What do you like most about the show and the new production?
I was born at the tail end of the run – but I did watch the video of the Canadian production, which had Ben Vereen in it, over a million times. I’ve always been in love with the music and the unique delivery. The revival’s Tony-nominated Choreographer, Chet Walker, confirmed that Bob Fosse always had circus in mind with the original conception of the show: the opening number called, “Magic to Do,” the Leading Player as Ringmaster, the death-defying finale, etc. That’s my favorite thing about the production – the new circus layer plays so well with the Fosse Choreography, and gives the audience a more enhanced and clearer experience leading up to the moralistic ending.
Why do you think it took so long to mount a revival on Broadway?
I’m amazed that anything gets to Broadway. The amount of courage, focus, and purpose needed is astounding.
What is it about this revival and Diana Paulus’ direction and staging do you think Bob Fosse would have loved?
I’m sure his spirit is in the theatre every performance. His work certainly is – Chet choreographed it beautifully and authentically – complete with a Manson Trio that sends shivers down your spine.
Is this the first time you have invested in a Broadway production?
We came to Pippin after conceiving of our own Broadway production – we are bringing Dames at Sea for its first Broadway run, after we produced it in Annapolis last season.
How often do the investors meet? And is there a ‘main’ investor? How are you kept informed of how the show is doing and how your investment is doing? How is Pippin doing at the box office and how long do you think it will take for you and your fellow investors to make money on the show?
We have monthly marketing meetings where we talk strategically and tactically. The show was led by Fran & Barry Weissler, of Chicago fame, and Janet & Howard Kagan (Howard was our contact), who produced another of Director Diane Paulus’ stunning revivals that started at ART, The Gershwins’ Porgy & Bess. Pippin has held at 99% capacity for weeks.
Talk about opening night and the reviews and your reaction to the opening night performance and the critical response. What surprised you? What delighted you?
I am remiss in that I did not introduce myself to Martin Short at the party that night and tell him that he’s the funniest human being in the world, as I’ve felt for a while. I was beating myself up for that the next morning. The rest was truly awesome. The show has the effect of creating a family of 1,000 plus people for two plus hours.
Who is your biggest competition at The Tonys?
I think that NCIS is also on TV that night, so the competition for The Tonys is pretty steep.
What are your Tony Night plans?
Anna and I will have just opened Always..Patsy Cline in Annapolis, so we will head up that morning, then arrive in NYC in time to get whisked away into an unbelievable adventure for which I’m truly grateful, one in which I’ll wish I looked as good as my wife.
What have you learned from your Pippin experience that will help you in your upcoming Infinity Theatre season and with future investments?
Being at the table with the Weisslers is illuminating. They are arguably THE power couple of Broadway. But the lessons I learned from them are more about humility, about knowing how to toot the horn of your show, and knowing what is not the best way to do so. At least in the case of Pippin, the best strategy has been to “let the people push the show up the mountain.” This is his direct quote, and then he started singing “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which was quite funny.
What’s on the schedule for Infinity Theatre this season/summer and why did you select these shows? Who is in the casts of these shows?
Always…Patsy Cline is a real down-home crowd-pleaser. Everyday, I hear from so many people who still hold a flame for Patsy. She was an icon who died too young, but left some truly remarkable vocals in a world that was unfriendly to women. Always is the strongest Patsy Cline show on the market, as it tells a touching tale about how she became great friends with one of her biggest fans over the course of a wild night in 1961 Houston – and it’s a true story. That’s our June show. We have a world-class Patsy in Jenny Lee Stern, and a terrific actress named Robin Baxter, with Broadway and DC credits, playing the narrator, Louise.
She Loves Me is a show that Anna and I have been hoping to produce for years. It’s exquisite. It’s luscious. It’s funny. I feel it’s that show that is not a household name, yet when you’re there in the theatre watching it, you feel like you are watching any of the classic pieces of American Musical Theatre. A score by Bock & Harnick, book by Joe Masteroff, originally produced and directed by the most prolific Tony winner of all, Harold Prince – true musical theatre pedigree, and truly a wonderful romantic comedy with music to die for, especially when sung by our phenomenal cast.
What are the mutual benefits for Annapolis and NYC by investing in Pippin?
Many. It’s a full circle for Infinity, from NYC to Annapolis, and now back to NYC. We’ve reached a new level of NYC performer access for Annapolis. We can host our interns, including at least one local student, at Pippin events when they are rehearsing in NYC. I’m a sponge for sales & marketing stuff, so being involved in those meetings creates ideas for me to use in Annapolis to get exposure to new audiences.
Any other shows down the road that you hear might be a good investment?
Dames at Sea, my good man. It’s been simmering for 40 years since it was written, and when it made a star of Bernadette Peters in downtown NYC – and it’s now a full meal. As a small six-person show (with transcendent dancing), it will run at a low operating cost increasing the chances of profitability. Infinity is on the hunt for the right stars for Dames as we speak. Dames at Sea is that rare discovery of a show that’s already a classic. It’s a great project in which to be involved, plus, Anna and I will be your best friends if you invest.
Besides Pippin, what other Tony-nominated shows and performances did you enjoy the most this year?
Cinderella, Vanya Sonia Masha and Spike – Kristine Nielsen is killer funny, Tom Hanks and Nathan Lane on Broadway at the same time – how lucky are we? For me, I’ll always regret the shows I’ve missed more than I’ll celebrate the shows I’ve seen. There’s so much amazing stuff, on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regionally of course.
If you win a Tony Award, where will you put it?
You’ll see it in the theatre lobby in Annapolis this summer.
Pippin is playing at the Music Box Theatre – 239 West 45th Street, in New York City. For tickets, purchase them online, or call Telecharge: (212) 239-6200 or (800) 432-7250.
Joel Markowitz’s interview with Dames at Sea Director and Choreographer Randy Skinner.
Infinity Theatre Company website.