Filichia Features: Why ProductionPro is Right for You

Filichia Features: Why ProductionPro is Right for You

By Peter Filichia on November 17, 2017

In the years when Alexander Libby went from a tot to a tween, he would write, produce and direct a show for each of his parents' Friday Pizza Nights.

Twenty to 40 friends and relatives would congregate and watch Libby entertain them.

"Then one night right after pizza and just before showtime," recalls Libby, "my great-grandmother took my mother aside and said 'I'm leaving. I just can't sit through another of Alex's shows.'"

All right, we can't be good at everything. But Libby, whose Broadway resume includes production assistant for the 2004 revival of La Cage aux Folles and assistant stage manager for 13, has made a real theatrical contribution in an unexpected way.

It started when Libby was assisting director Stephen Daldry on the 2011 film Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. "Stephen was looking at the mounds of notes and papers in front of him," says Libby, "and muttered 'I need a way to see the script almost like a musical score.' And I understood. Hundreds of people have thousands of ideas and it's impossible to get everyone on the same page."

Now it is, technologically speaking. In 2013, Libby's ProductionPro became an app that's become the apple of many theater artists' eyes and ears.

"Within three days of contacting us," says Libby, "you'll have a digital script and score with a complete breakdown of what character is in what scene. You can use video, audio tracks and costume and set design. Directors can go to Google Images, take what they like, show their designers and say 'I want the show to look like this."

Choreographers find it a boon, too. "They can record their work in a step-by-step guide," Libby says. "Dancers can now see exactly what the choreography is if they want to practice at home. They'll also hear the music the exact way they'll hear it in the show."

Bob Boyett, one of the current producers of Dear Evan Hansen, was Libby's first investor. In July, Disney Accelerator - the company's program that seeks technological advances - chose ProductionPro as one of 11 companies in which it's investing; it lauded the app's ability in "pulling scripts, research, designs and continuity together to empower creative decision-making."

Libby agrees. "All those little details that would have occupied a large part of your brain? Now you can use that extra brain space for sheer creativity."

"And, says Serene Lim, the company's community manager, "Disney has given us unprecedented access to the creativity and imagination of its leadership team. There's a pilot in the works with live shows at Disneyland and motion pictures, too."

"Now," says Libby, "Our company is partnering with Music Theatre International to make ProductionPro available on over 60,000 productions across the country, every year. Young people are the storytellers of tomorrow so "we're bringing ProductionPro into schools allowing these students to collaborate like the professionals they'll become."

Rusty Mowery, Jerry Mitchell's associate choreographer on Kinky Boots both on Broadway and worldwide, says "I love that everything's right at my fingertips. Because it records general blocking, I can check out moves of the cast and see each character in any scene by clicking on 'Video' and going to the scene I want."

Mowery has used ProductionPro for the last 18 months. "When performers are out of the show for whatever reason," he adds, "it makes e-mailing to swings much more efficient. Keeping the actors' names straight is easier now. I used to have charts and charts with names, and after a while, I'd start using initials to save time. Then what would happen is I'd forget who 'A.C.' was. Now the full names are all there at the flick of a button. Oh - and instead of taping on the floor, ProductionPro allows you to create a floor plan on your iPad. I bet it could even be used for a marching band's half-time show."

Jeff Parvin, a Dodger Theatricals production manager, has been using ProductionPro on Summer, the bio-musical of Donna Summer that's currently at The La Jolla Playhouse.

"It eliminates the need for paper calendars," he says. Having everything centralized makes it a digital Bible. And when Summer closes its tryout, we'll have representation of every scene and what every department has done."

Parvin says this would have been a boon for the last hit show on which he worked: Jersey Boys. After all, the musical returns to New York next week, so Parvin would have welcomed "letting us iris-out a detailed look at the show as a whole. Even issues with microphone placement become easier with ProductionPro."

And then there's smoke and haze. "Equity has rules about how much can be used," he says. "ProductionPro lets us see right away if we're using too much."

ProductionPro is especially helpful to those working simultaneously on a number of projects - such as choreographer Nicole Ruark. You aren't awarded top honors for outstanding choreography at the Youth American Grand Prix or asked to work on the premiere of a musical in Russia if you don't have vision - and Ruark proved it after reading an article in Forbes.

"What it said about ProductionPro," she notes, "made me immediately contact the company."

Good thing she did. Right now Ruark's plate is so full that she really requires a serving platter. She's working on a holiday spectacular; a gala at the Italian Embassy; Hairspray at a magnet high school; a documentary with the National Museum of Civil War Medicine; and a piece with Mid Maryland Performing Arts Center and New Spire Arts.

That would mean five thick books of cryptic notes, scribbles, post-its and scratch-outs were it not for ProductionPro. "Here I am in my office," says Ruark, "looking at all those three-ring binders I used to use." She dramatically pauses. "Now I have all the necessary information just on my iPad."

Sounds terrific, no? If ProductionPro had been available to Alexander Libby when he was doing those pizza night extravaganzas, his shows might have improved enough to keep his great-grandmother in her seat.

Get ProductionPro for Your Next MTI Musical!

Available for these MTI Shows
9 to 5
Disney's Beauty and the Beast
Fiddler on the Roof
Guys and Dolls
Into the Woods
Legally Blonde
Les Misérables School Edition
Little Shop of Horrors
Mamma Mia!
Disney and Cameron Mackintosh's Mary Poppins
My Fair Lady
Peter and the Starcatcher
Singing In The Rain
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Disney's The Little Mermaid
West Side Story