Carl Moellenberg is a prolific producer who has 13 Tony Awards. Producing over 70 shows on Broadway, off Broadway and around the world, his credits includes some of Broadway's most successful shows like Spring Awakening, War Horse, Hair, Death of a Salesman, Pippin, All the Way, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Dear Evan Hansen, Angels in America, The Band’s Visit, Oklahoma, Hadestown, Company and many more. Moellenberg is devoted to shows that tell compelling stories, have stunning music and transform lives.
Moellenberg shares his very personal journey in his memoir Carl Moellenberg's Story: Broadway and Spirituality as a Path to Survival. At a recent event in the Civilian hotel's Rosevale Cocktail Room Moellenberg sat down to chat about his book, what he overcame, the joy of being open to change and his journey to happiness.
What inspired you to write Broadway and Spirituality as a Path to Survival?
Many friends told me that they thought my personal journey would be inspiring to others. And it's been a 40 year health journey, which is outlined in the book. The terrifying parts of it and the wonderful joy that ultimately emerged at the end of the story. I wanted to write the book, which actually occurred during Covid-19. So it became a project for me to have something to inspire other people. I was hoping that the words in it and the fact that I found my passion and joy was something that, for me was beautiful. And I believe for other people, I was a small part of them seeing beautiful stories and messages on Broadway and also in film now.
It’s interesting that it’s not a how-to become a producer book, but really outlines your personal story.
This book is not about my career or accomplishments, such as they are. It's more about about finding inspiration in your own life, no matter what your own personal challenges might be. We are living in a pretty crazy world right now. People have all kinds of individual challenges that they are trying to make their way through. I offered the way that I personally made it through and came out in a beautiful place, which has been so joyful to me.
If somebody asked you, "what is what this book about?" what would you say?
It's about finding your way to lead a brave life regardless of your circumstances. You can get through it. I had some amazing signs along the way a couple times from what I truly believe was a divine presence. I feel that there are signals out there all over the place. I tell a story in the book about a moment when I was sitting on the banks of the Loire and a divine being was speaking to me with glistening sun coming onto my face. It was saying that I was going to live a long life and would create art and beauty.
Then you had another sign.
Another time I was walking down Fifth Avenue and this incredible looking golden bird, which you would think would be in the Caribbean and not New York City. This was right after I had been ordained as a minister. The bird walked and flew to get ahead of me and turned its head back and would wait for me. It walked 30 blocks down fifth Avenue with me. And then when I had to turn west, it looked at me and it flew right at me and grazed my hair. And I called my teacher and he said, 'it's another sign that there is a reason that you are here. You have a gift to contribute to the world.' And I'm doing my best to contribute what I can. Also, this is why there's a golden bird on the cover of the book.
Which of your shows has given you the best bonding experience?
Hair is my favorite. It's a musical about peace, love, acceptance and self-expression. The casting was so perfect on that show that every single actor exhibited those traits in their personal life. We called each other, "The Tribe" and hung out together. And I'll never forget that experience. There have been a lot of shows since then. But that will forever stand out.
I think about the courage you had going from investment baking to doing a complete about face and going into the arts. You took the Commercial Theater Institute (CTI) training course and took that leap. And one of the first shows that you produced was Spring Awakening.
I loved that show. It was a brave show to put for everyone involved. It dealt with suicide, abortion, teachers who were basically abusive to their students and parents not understanding their children. It had this incredible, haunting Duncan Sheik music. And it also had three people in the show getting their first big break: Lea Michele, Jonathan Groff and John Gallagher Jr. And then there were others that are amazing too, like Gideon Glick. And they've become huge stars. And we were watching them become stars from the beginning of that show to the end of the run. They are fantastic and beautiful people.
What do you hope people come away with after reading your book?
I hope people come away realizing that although they have major challenges in their lives they can look at what makes them them happy. What what makes them joyful. What is their passion that perhaps they haven't been pursuing so far. And they try to emerge from the other side of the challenge with a new path that's really brave, inspires them and lets them live their life more fully.