‘Everybody leaves the theater happy’

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Tony-winning producer Pat Flicker Addiss on her new show “Desperate Measures” — and what the MeToo movement means for women on Broadway


  • Photo: Paola Aurisicchio

  • Photo: Paola Aurisicchio

In “Desperate Measures,” the young cowboy Johnny Blood (Conor Ryan) is sentenced to hang after killing a man in a bar fight. His sister, the novice nun Susanna (Sarah Parnicky) pleads with the governor to spare his brother’s life, but the governor offers to pardon Johnny only in exchange of a romantic night with her. The hilarious plot, involving a voluptuous saloon girl and a priest who read Nietzsche, is a musical comedy directed by Bill Castellino currently running at New World Stages in New York. When Pat Flicker Addiss, a Tony-winning producer, saw the show for the first time at the York Theatre in New York, she thought that it was witty and clever, funny and serious. “It was my dream, I had to do it,” Addiss said. The show opened at New World Stages on June 13 and since then Addiss has seen it almost every day, enjoying the audience laughing and walking out full of joy. “Everybody leaves the theater happy,” she said. “That’s the rewarding part of my job.”

Addiss, a native New Yorker, is almost a novice at Broadway. She ran a promotion company, Pat Addiss Enterprises, for thirty years to support three children as a single mom. She gave the business to her daughter Wendy and she embarked on a new career as theater producer. Her success was immediate. Starting with “Little Women” in 2005, Addiss has produced over 18 plays on and off Broadway, including “Spring Awakening” which garnered eleven Tony Award nominations and won eight, including Best Musical. Addiss’s Broadway credits as a producer also include “39 Steps,” “A Christmas Story,” and “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.” However, “Desperate Measures” has a special place in her career because, she said, “I’m involved 100 percent as a producer. The story is fabulous and it has a wonderful music.” The musical comedy is adapted from Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” and transplanted to the Wild West in 1890. The show, with music by David Friedman and book and lyrics by Peter Kellogg, is the recipient of Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Music and Outstanding Lyrics, the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best New Off-Broadway Musical, and the Off Broadway Alliance Award for Best Musical. It will play through December 31.

What led you to become a theater producer?

I ran a promotion company for thirty years. I loved marketing and design, and I have always loved theater. The people who worked for me always said, “I want you to be a Broadway producer.” I had no idea what it meant. After thirty years spent in my company, I gave it to my daughter Wendy and I took a course at the Commercial Theatre Institute (CTI) to learn how to produce. But you don’t know anything when you get out of the course because you learn while producing. In 2005 a woman called me asking, “Do you want to produce ‘Little Women’ with me?” Okay, I said, and I began my career as a theater producer. “Desperate Measures” is the best show I have ever produced.


I sit and enjoy it almost every day. It’s glorious, it has a wonderful music, the story is fabulous, witty and clever. It makes everybody happy. During my career, “39 Steps” was great, “Spring Awakening” was wonderful and with an important message. I’m always in between something that has an important message and something that is pure joy and clever. That’s why I thought that I had to do “Desperate Measures.” The show is based on “Measure for Measure,” one of Shakespeare’s weakest plays because the plot is very confusing. Our plot is not confusing at all and it’s written in rhyming couplets. It requires very good actors and we have a wonderful ensemble. Everybody is on the same page.

“Desperate Measures” is a hilarious musical comedy. What makes you laugh?

It’s funny. Lauren Molina, who plays the saloon girl Bella, has no filter. In the real life she is sweet and totally different, but on stage nothing stops her. I really laugh seeing the scene between Johnny Blood and his girlfriend Bella. They are so funny together.

What are the best and the worst part of your job?

My job is rewarding and I love to see people so happy after seeing “Desperate Measures.” The show takes place in 1890 and the governor, who is Nick Wyman, is very relevant with the MeToo movement. The worst part of my job? It is very important to have a good lawyer!

Is it hard to be a woman on Broadway?

It was hard when I had a business. At that time, I became a legend because I was a woman with a successful company. Nowadays, in the theater across the country there are more women producers and directors. I also believe that the MeToo movement has helped to create more jobs for women. I’m an advocate for Women’s Equality and I’m on the board of the League of Professional Theatre Women (LPTW).

What theater do you like to see?

I like everything [that’s] good. I usually go from being very serious on one side and funny on the other. I’m a Tony voter and I have to see every show on Broadway. What’s also interesting is to experience different audiences. A quiet audience usually will get up to give a standing ovation; a noisy audience doesn’t give a standing ovation. When you are in large theater you don’t notice the differences, but in smaller places it’s fascinating to see how the audience reacts. I love the New World Stages because is so intimate and perfect for “Desperate Measures.”

What’s your relationship with New York?

I was born and raised in New York. I love New York because it’s a working town. There is something for everybody no matter your clothes, your appearance. I grew up on 55th Street on the West Side and now I live on the East Side. However, I would like to have my ashes [scattered] down Broadway! I remember the joy of the first show; I was jumping up and down. I still get excited, and when we won two Drama Desk Awards — tears came to my eyes.

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