At just 21-years-old, Greg Nobile is the youngest producer on Broadway this season. He not only is a producer for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (which scored the most Tony nominations of any show this season), Nobile is also an investor in Of Mice and Men, the hit revival of the classic play starring James Franco, Leighton Meester and Tony-nominee Chris O’Dowd.
I had the pleasure of interviewing the wunderkind about his thoughts on the current state of Broadway, how he broke into the business at such a young age and his work as a creative associate on the recent show Witness Uganda, which was staged by Diane Paulus at the American Repertory Theater in Boston.
Coffee Drink of Choice
How does it feel to be a Tony nominee?
Being my first show, Gentleman’s Guide will forever have an incredibly special place in my heart. It was a leap of faith for me personally to get involved with this show — an unknown property with a relatively unknown creative team is certainly not risk-free opportunity for a first foray into producing. But I went with my gut and passion and followed the show through. So for it to be acknowledged on this platform is incredible and so rewarding.
But it’s really our unbelievably talented creative team, cast and close management of the show from Joey Parnes’ office that deserve all of the accolades. They drive this show forward eight times a week and have made our show “the little show that could” in an extremely busy season.
How do you feel about the nominations this year overall?
It was an incredibly crowded season on Broadway — especially for new musicals. Twelve, specifically. Personally, I was a little disappointed that the first time the committee had an opportunity to nominate five shows, we still only have four nominees. The Tony’s are such an unparalleled opportunity for shows to have national recognition and it is sad that some of the original work on Broadway will not have a chance at gaining traction from the awards.
But nevertheless, I am very excited for all of the shows and nominees. And I am particularly excited for members of our creative team at Gentleman’s Guide making their Broadway debut with nominations including Robert Freedman for his book, Steven Lutvak for his score, Darko Tresnjak for his direction, and Lindo Cho for her costumes.
What trends have you seen this season and what do you think they say about the future of Broadway?
At my company, Seaview Productions, we are particularly passionate about supporting new original musicals. With three of the four Best Musicals based on preexisting scores or popular source material, I am fearful that the rest of the industry may take a cue and take fewer chances on new and original work. However, I still am incredibly confident there are so many new and exciting stories to tell and I hope that Gentleman’s Guide scoring the most nominations of the season will keep fellow producers and investors motivated to develop these important stories.
How did you get started in theater?
It was in my blood. I come from an entrepreneurial family. My father and grandfather were both entrepreneurs. I got started in the non-profit world very young. My best friend Ryan and I had a good friend that lived across the street from us. His name was Brian. He was diagnosed at 12 with a rare disorder called Adrenoleukodystrophy….so we started selling lemonade to raise money to start a foundation for Brian’s disease.
As we got older we kept doing the lemonade stands. Then my friend and I, since we both had a common passion for theater, started doing little neighborhood productions. So we did Anything Goes on the boat-shaped playground in our friend’s backyard. We did Guys and Dolls in the guest bedroom with the Murphy bed as the Hot Box. Friends and family would come and give $5. Then as we got older, those shows started to grow more and more. Then we had a full band and a full cast. It became a sell-out event on the Connecticut shoreline.
My roots are in philanthropy. That was the first time that I learned that you can put on a show, and people will come and exchange money. That was a mind-swap for me.
What steps did you take to become a producer?
I did coffee with anyone who would listen. This industry is so incredible and anyone will sit down with you. So for Gentleman’s Guide, I saw it at Hartford Stage, and through my billion meetings over the past year, I knew a couple people who knew Joey [Parnes]. And I told him I wanted to be in on the project. It was a risk for them to take me on board. And really, I owe the start of my career to coffee, in terms of just forming those relationships.
In addition to producing, what other projects are you currently working on?
We’re in the midst of a capital campaign [for The Legacy Theatre in Connecticut]. Hopefully we’ll be open by the summer of 2015. We’re going to have a rep company, a conservatory program, with a big focus on new works. I also have an option on a piece called College Musical that’s an adaptation of a YouTube web series that went viral a few years ago. They wrote this very tongue-and-cheek commentary on their days at Yale. We’re developing it at Ars Nova. All of the instrumentation is going to be done on iPhones through iPhone apps and we’re going to have a lot of second screens going on, and Twitter and app integrations.
When I was in middle school I saw Diane’s [Paulus] production of Hair. And I fell in love with the show. So I wrote Diana a letter where I told her I loved her and loved the show. It was like a love letter. I told her I wanted her to direct my musical based on the movie Lorenzo’s Oil. In hindsight, it’s like the world’s worst idea since it’s such a sad story!
Years later, I went to the Witness Uganda reading and afterwards walked up to her. I said, “You have no idea who I am but about five or six years ago I wrote you this letter.” And she actually remembered me. So we had breakfast and we got to chatting about the project and the future life of it. Then she connected me with the boy who the story is based on. We became very good friends. So now became a creative associate on the project.
Do you have a dream project?
My dream project is a revival of Carousel. It’s my favorite show and it was my grandfather’s favorite show, and he got me into theater. Every time I would visit him, he’d have the soundtrack on. And if I needed to star cast it, Josh Groban would be in it. I’m dreaming of this production and there hasn’t been one on Broadway in years. It’s not on the horizon, but it’ll happen eventually.
Any advice for someone who wants to get started in the industry?
Drink a lot of coffee! Anything just to get in front of people, even if it is just for a cup of coffee. When I was new and knew nobody, my line was, “Can I just have 5 minutes?” And that’s how I ended up meeting with Jordan [Roth] and we ended up talking for 90 minutes. It’s about just reaching out, getting in front of people, and delivering on what you say.
Amanda Bohan will be chatting with theater insiders regularly for NewYork.com. Click here to read more Coffee on Broadway.