A Binghamton University student is using skills developed in her courses to produce theatre shows in New York City.
Last summer, Molly Heller, a senior majoring in theatre, interned at Feinstein’s/54 Below in the programming department and took an interest in producing. Using the knowledge she gained in her internship, she signed a contract with the New York City cabaret and restaurant as a producer.
Heller solo-produced two shows at Feinstein’s/54 Below, with her June show, “54 Sings the ’90s,” becoming a sold-out success. Heller said her latest production, “54 Sings Ed Sheeran,” helped her build a network of cast members that she can call to help her with future productions.
“I am so lucky to work with some of the most kind and talented people,” Heller wrote in an email. “With ‘54 Sings Ed Sheeran,’ I was so much more confident, as I had already produced a successful concert earlier this summer.”
Heller will be co-producing two upcoming shows at the same venue. One of the concerts is “54 Celebrates Music of Empowering, Female Pop Icons,” which will be co-produced with fellow BU student Carly Heitner, a junior majoring in English. Heller will also be co-producing “54 Sings Carole King.”
Heller and Heitner have worked together on previous shows, with Heitner helping Heller on her very first show this past summer.
“These next two will be the first time I have a co-producer, so it will for sure be nice to have a partner in crime,” Heller wrote.
“54 Celebrates Music of Empowering, Female Pop Icons” will highlight Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, Beyoncé, Shania Twain, Whitney Houston and more. Heller said the show will celebrate the empowerment of women and pure fun.
She also said she is excited to produce “54 Sings Carole King.”
“I was shocked that ‘54 Sings Carole King’ has not already been done, so I jumped at the chance,” Heller wrote. “I love her music and her story, so why not celebrate her music?”
When it comes to producing, Heller said she tries to give the performers some freedom in choosing what songs they sing. Essentially, she runs the booking, chooses the cast, hires the music director and comes up with the ideas.
“I really just hope everyone has fun!” Heller wrote. “That’s why we do this. To make people smile and sing and have a good time.”
There are no auditions for Heller’s shows. Instead, she contacts performers that she believes would enjoy singing the genre of music she chooses. Most performers spend less than an hour rehearsing with the music director in the days leading up to the show.
“Everyone I have worked with is so talented and kind,” Heller wrote. “I have really made such incredible friends through this while gaining the best experience I could ask for.”
To help balance her time, Heller plans her concerts during breaks from BU and during other periods when she has a lighter workload. She said she has utilized skills that BU courses have taught her, such as being able to look at music and art from different viewpoints, as well as enhancing her performance skills.
“[Broadway for Beginners course] helped immensely with my communication skills and helped get rid of my crippling stage fright,” Heller said. “I would not be able to get on stage at my shows if it were not for that class.”
At 21 years old, Heller said she feared not being respected in the industry, but she has been pleasantly surprised.
“I have received so much love from colleagues and cast members and it truly warms my heart,” Heller wrote. “I also value the guidance that I have received from other producer friends and am excited to be able to give advice to new and aspiring concert producers.”
Heller said she hopes she can inspire others to take a risk by meeting and talking to as many contacts as possible. She said it is important to ask for advice, and she still leans on her friends when she needs guidance.
“Breathe, stay calm,” she wrote. “Things are bound to go wrong, but everything can be fixed as long as you keep your head on straight and have a positive and calm mindset. Be yourself, be kind, be confident and take chances. Don’t let anyone tell your passions and dreams are invalid.”
“54 Celebrates the Music of Empowering, Female Pop Icons” will be held on Jan. 4 at 11:30 p.m. at Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York City, and “54 Sings Carole King” will be on Feb. 2 at 9:30 p.m. For tickets and info, call 646-476-3551.
Editor’s note: Carly Heitner was a contributing writer for Pipe Dream’s Arts & Culture section from November 2017 to February 2019.