Jon Landau On Bruce Springsteen’s Return To Broadway: ‘The Show Feels New, Even More Profound’

jon Landau
Rob DeMartin/Courtesy Shore Fire Media

I Have Seen The Future of Rock and Roll and Broadway: Manager Jon Landau with Bruce Springsteen, who he’s managed since 1977, at the St. James Theater where “Springsteen On Broadway” made its triumphant return June 26, 2021.

On Saturday, Bruce Springsteen and his team, led by longtime manager Jon Landau, brought back the wildly successful “Springsteen on Broadway” show, marking the first time Broadway has had a live performance since the pandemic darkened New York’s Theater District for some 471 days ago.

The initial run, held at the 960-capacity Walter Kerr Theatre, won a special Tony Award and received rave reviews from anyone lucky enough to see Springsteen up close performing solo acoustic renditions from his classic catalog and candidly discussing his life.  Based on Springsteen’s 2016 memoir, “Born To Run,” the show’s 236 sold-out performances from October 2017 to December 2018 grossed more than $113 million and sold more than 223,000 tickets, landing Springsteen at No. 13 on Pollstar’s Year End Worldwide Tours chart in 2018.

This is not the same show. For logistical reasons, “Springsteen on Broadway” moved to the larger, 1,710-capacity St. James Theatre (owned, like Walter Kerr, by Jujamcyn Theaters) and features significant setlist changes and alterations to the narrative, which one would expect with the deep societal challenges experienced over the last 16 months.

“Bruce has subtly but significantly enlarged the emotional landscape of the show,” Landau tells
Pollstar. “The show feels new, and I think an even more profound experience.” 

The longtime manager would know: He’s the show’s producer and runs the team that makes its nightly magic happen. Pollstar caught up with the music industry legend by email following the opener to find out more about the new show, safety protocols, Broadway’s return and whether “Springsteen On Broadway” will be extended.

Bruce Springsteen
Rob DeMartin/Courtesy Shore Fire

Bruce Springsteen

Pollstar: What were the biggest challenges you faced mounting this run of “Springsteen on Broadway,” with Broadway being completely dark for 471 days?
Jon Landau: Bruce decided to accept our friend Jordan Roth’s invitation to return to Broadway in late May. However, the Walter Kerr Theatre, where we had done the original 230-plus shows, was unavailable. So, instead, Jordan suggested the St. James, and Bruce loved it at first sight. So, our team, led by our longtime colleague George Travis, one of the show’s producers, had a month to recreate the look we had at the Walter Kerr for the shows at the St. James.

The New York Times today had a great play on words with your famous quote, saying, “I’ve seen the return of Broadway, and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” Do you think there’s any truth to that in the way you mounted the show and how others may now follow suit?
We are, of course, thrilled and honored to be kicking off the new Broadway season. I believe that Bruce’s show is utterly unique, and Broadway is the perfect location for it.

How rusty was the team in putting together the show after so long?
Not at all – the prep was all smooth as silk. Once again, we had our lighting director, Natasha Katz, our set designer Heather Wolensky and our Broadway sound designer Brian Ronan, who have all made stellar contributions.

Apparently, the proof of vaccine process went well. How were the protocols developed and what’s your take on them? How long do you think they may continue for?

We have generally been following New York state recommendations, and we are personally interested in providing the audience, the staff and crew and ourselves with the safest possible environment. We will continue to monitor and update our approach as new recommendations are issued.

Bruce Springsteen
Rob DeMartin/Courtesy Shore Fire

New York City Serenade: Bruce Springsteen backstage.

Three new songs were added: “American Skin (41 Shots)” instead of “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” “Fire” instead of “Brilliant Disguise” and “I’ll See You In My Dreams” instead of “Born To Run.” The monologue was trimmed with some of those stories and observations coming later, and there was mention of these troubling times and our fragile democracy. How were those decisions made and how much input did you have in making those decisions? Will the show continue to be honed?

Three major public events have occurred since Bruce last performed: One, the pandemic; two, the rise of Black Lives Matter; and three, the threat to democracy as embodied by the [Capitol] insurrection of January 6. Every person in the audience and the artist on stage have all felt the emotional impact of those events. I think Bruce has subtly but significantly enlarged the emotional landscape of the show to encompass those feelings. There are only three song changes, but the show feels new, and I think an even more profound experience.

It’s incredible that the opening line from the previous run, “I am here tonight to give proof of life,” became even more resonant, was that the case with other parts of the show?
I think it has all been deepened by the events of our recent history.

How are ticket sales and pricing as we’re seeing inflation increasing expenses and prices and a lot of tours coming up competing for consumer dollars?
Our prices have remained the same as they were in October 2017, when “Springsteen on Broadway” opened at the Walter Kerr.

There’s 30 dates announced now, do you think it will extend past August?