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Broadway producer Jeffrey Richards is on the lookout for new audiences

June 6, 2009 |  8:00 am


Jeffrey Richards, a multiple Tony Award-winning Broadway producer, freely admits that he owes his career to Adolf Hitler.

Well, make that “The Adolf Hitler Revue,” a 1992 show he was checking out in London at the behest of  New York’s  Jewish Rep, then  a client of his theatrical PR agency. He fled the revue at intermission only to notice a crowd of young people outside another theater housing “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).”  He was so enchanted with the show that it launched him on a theatrical producing path that would lead to his role this season behind no less than six productions: revivals of “Speed-the-Plow,”  “Desire Under the Elms,”  “Blithe Spirit” and “Hair” as well as the Broadway debuts of  playwright Neil LaBute (“Reasons to Be Pretty”) and actor Will Ferrell  (“You’re Welcome America: A Final Evening With George W. Bush”).

What attracted him to those productions is the same thing that attracted him to the Shakespeare revue: the prospect of enticing young or new audiences to Broadway. Richards, who captured that demographic earlier with such shows as “Spring Awakening” and “August: Osage County," says that's what's behind the smash-hit status of  “You’re Welcome America,” which ended its limited engagement in March, and “Hair.”

Transferring the '60s rock revival "Hair" to Broadway after its Public Theater run in Central Park last summer was, he says, a “no-brainer,” although  the move at first was considered  highly risky by Broadway insiders.  In fact, the initial financing for the Broadway production had fallen through until Richards and his group stepped in.

“The original run of ‘Hair’ never attracted  people over 55,” Richards says. “And 40 years later, we’re not only getting that generation, who was defined to some extent by the show, but also their kids who’ve heard about it all their lives.”

Read more about Jeffrey Richards in Sunday's Arts & Books section or click here.

-- Patrick Pacheco

Photo: Jeffrey Richards. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times.