Birmingham-based Broadway producer Louise Beard is hoping the second time is the charm for winning a Tony award.
Beard is one of the producers of the critically acclaimed Broadway musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, which is up for 10 awards at this year’s Tony Awards, including the Best Musical prize for which she could receive the golden statue.
The win, she said, would be just another delight in an already surprising new career for the former tap dancing instructor. The show received the most Tony nominations for a single production this year, for best direction, best score and best costume design, so it would seem that the odds are in the show’s favor to win big.
“I’ve got my fingers crossed,” said Beard from her Birmingham home. “I would love to have that Tony on my mantle.”
Just last year Beard made her first trip to the Tony Awards when the musical she helped produce, A Christmas Story, was up for the top musical award. She did not win, but Beard said she was happy to be there. “It was very exciting,” she gushed. “You see all the stars.”
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder stars Bryce Pinkham and Jefferson Mays, who are both up for best acting honors at the Tony Awards. The musical, based on Roy Horniman’s novel Israel Rank, is the story of a man who learns he is ninth in line for an inheritance, so he decides to kill the other eight people standing in the way of his riches. Not only is the show up for 10 Tony Awards, the production has been honored with 12 Drama Desk award nominations. The long list of producers of the show lists on its official website includes Beard as the first member of “Four Ladies and One Gent.”
“It is a funny show, you just get into it,” Beard said. “Jefferson Mays is great. He plays all of the other heirs and he is very funny.”
Although Beard has long been an admirer of things theatrical, the Birmingham-Southern College graduate said she never would have imagined she would have forged a career as a Broadway producer.
“Six years ago I would have never thought this was possible,” she said. “This has been a wonderful career transition.”
When her knees ended her 29 years dancing and teaching tap, for her second act, Beard took her love of theater in a new direction by investing in plays. In 2006, she was going to Broadway and off-Broadway shows in New York City, meeting choreographers and producers and making connections.
She invested in about 50 productions, including about 20 Broadway shows. Beard was also supporting theater locally, including productions by Red Mountain Theater, Terrific New Theater and Birmingham Festival Theatre.
“We have good theater here,” Beard said.
Eventually, Beard decided to try her hand at producing – a big step up from merely investing in a show because of the commitment to raise a substantial amount of money. She learned the ins and outs of producing from her mentor Michael Filerman, a former television producer for such 1980s shows as Knots Landing and Falcon Crest who turned his attention to Broadway productions before he died this year. Filerman, she said, knew how to spot a good show to get involved in.
“I trusted his instincts and he had good financial successes,” she said.
Beard said her instincts told her A Christmas Story would be a hit because of the enduring popularity of the classic movie it is based on, so she made her first foray into producing a Broadway show.
Now, with Gentleman’s Guide added to her list of credits, Beard is on to the next production: Dames at Sea. She said that show, a revival, is in the works and looking for a home on Broadway. Dames at Sea will keep her busy before and after the Tony Awards.
Beard also has a hand in producing independent films — she produced and appeared in Blues for Willadean starring Oscar winner and Montgomery native Octavia Spencer — and is planning on taking a few productions on the festival circuit.
Beard said she will once again attend the Tony Awards with her daughter Landford Beard, a writer for Entertainment Weekly in New York. The show will air on CBS June 8.