(This story was first published in the October 17, 2013 edition of the Vermont Standard.)
By Katy Savage
HARTLAND — When he’s not reviewing court documents or sitting in court for misdemeanor cases, Assistant Side Judge Dave Singer spends his time reading and researching Broadway plays.
Singer, 74, started investing in Broadway five years ago with his sister, who used to be an entertainment editor for Newsday.
“Other than my family it’s my second favorite thing in my life,” said Singer, who also enjoys skiing.
Singer took a training course through the Commercial Theatre Institute, where he learned that 75 percent of plays that go to Broadway fail. Plays that don’t do well are killed in five weeks.
Singer knew little about theater when he started, but he quickly learned the importance of a good review.
Above, from left, Milly Shapiro and Karen Aldridge, who plays a sympathetic librarian in “Matilda.” “Matilda” was one of several Broadway productions that local judge David Singer has invested in.
Joan Marcus Photo
“If you get a bad review, you’re dead meat,” he said.
Singer has invested in six plays so far. Though he has no musical talent himself, Singer uses his gut instinct to decide which plays to invest in. Some of his investments have done so-so, others have failed.
“White’s Lies,” the play about a highly compensated divorce lawyer, for example, ended its run after three months.
“It was kind of funny, but it didn’t make it” Singer said. “I was a little bit disillusioned.”
Singer got a break this year when he got the opportunity to invest in “Matilda,” a musical based on the book by Roald Dahl that was brought from the Royal Shakespeare Company in London to New York.
The play won seven Tony Awards with critics calling it, “the most satisfying and subversive musical ever to come out of Britain.”
The New York Times said it should have won Best Musical, according to Singer.
“I called my sister and said, ‘We hit on this one,’” Singer said. “It’s like panning gold.”
The musical, which costs $16 million to produce, is about a fiveyear old girl who has an impressive I.Q. and dreams of a better life. It’s almost completely sold out until February.
“(This) will go down as one of the major successes,” he said.
Singer compares the play to “Annie,” a multigenerational play that stayed on Broadway for years.
“If something goes well and people like it, its nice to know that someone even remotely involved with it brings pleasure,” he said. “It’s the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.”
Before he was a judge, Singer was a police officer for 20 years. Now he spends his day listening to court proceedings where sometimes, families fall apart. It’s part of the reason he’s always had an interest in art and theater.
“I work in a system that kind of engenders tightening up family ties or at least making them work,” he said. “I just think that if more of us enjoyed the arts, we’d be a better society.”
Singer also contributes to Northern Stage and the Hartland Jazz Festival. He plans to retire next year after eight years as an assistant judge.
“You see a lot of life, good and bad and it’s not easy,” he said. “It’s hard to come home after a tough family court hearing and see your family and not thinking about that day in court.”
Singer is reading scripts and watching run-throughs of upcoming plays to invest in.
Besides continuing his Broadway endeavors, Singer plans to ski and learn Italian in his retirement.
“It’s not time to give up,” he said. “It’s time to start having fun.”