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‘Godspell’ Turns to Internet for $5 Million Revival

Ken Davenport, the producer of
Ken Davenport, the producer of "Godspell." Davenport is accepting minimum investments of $1,000 for his revival, planned for 2011. Source: Davenport Theatrical via Bloomberg

Sept. 15 (Bloomberg) -- A Broadway producer is giving investors the opportunity to lose as little as $1,000 capitalizing his planned revival of the musical “Godspell.”

With musicals costing $15 million and more, most producers today accept investments starting at $10,000. Ken Davenport, who plans to mount the “Godspell” revival for around $5 million, will use the Internet to return to the old Broadway system, wherein a producer counted on many small investors, or angels, to put on a show.

“We’re always so small and protective and we do everything with a few people,” Davenport, 38, said of the business of Broadway. “I’m a firm believer that entertainment should be an asset class for an investor.”

Independent films and small-budget shows presented at the New York International Fringe Festival have accepted small sums via the web, a process known as crowd-sourcing. Davenport said next year’s “Godspell” will be the first Broadway show to take that route. On his blog, Davenport promises to make every small investor “a producer.”

One in five Broadway shows earns a profit. Davenport said seven of the nine shows he has produced, on and off-Broadway, were profitable, including revivals of “Speed-the-Plow” and “Blithe Spirit.” Off-Broadway’s “Altar Boyz” ran nearly five years and paid back about $1.30 for every $1 invested, he said. Davenport’s blog warns that this venture “involves a high degree of risk” and people shouldn’t participate “unless they can afford to lose their entire investment.”

Crowd Pleaser

“Godspell” is ripe for raising money from a crowd because, according to the show’s composer, Stephen Schwartz, it’s “about a community of people coming together,” Davenport wrote on his blog. Conceived by John-Michael Tebelak when he was an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon University, “Godspell” is based on parables from the Gospel of Matthew.

It opened off-Broadway in 1971 and ran more than 2,000 performances off-Broadway and on Broadway. Schwartz went on to compose “Wicked,” one of Broadway’s most successful musicals.

A recent planned “Godspell” revival was indefinitely postponed after its producer, Adam Epstein, couldn’t raise the money.

Davenport said he wasn’t involved with that production and he didn’t try to raise the money in what has now become the traditional way, from a few rich people or corporations.

His lawyers corresponded for months with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to address its concerns, according to letters filed with the SEC. Unlike other Broadway ventures, “Godspell” will not be limited to “accredited investors,” Davenport said. The U.S. Securities Act of 1933 defines accredited investors as people or couples with a net worth of at least $1 million or a joint annual income of at least $300,000.

Davenport said every investor in his revival will have his or her name on a poster outside the theater. Each unit will cost $100, with a minimum of 10.

“It’s going to be a big poster,” he said.

To contact the writer on this story: Philip Boroff in New York at pboroff@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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