Three Fabulous Broadway Documentaries - Seriously - you don’t want to miss them!
Enough with “Tiger King” and "The Last Dance" already (but seriously, how good were those shows?!). If you’re seeking something a little different and a lot of wonderful, check out these three recent documentaries on Broadway musicals. Each is unique and well worth the time spent watching, whether you’re exploring:
- The origins of an unlikely musical hit, now known the world over.
- An epic failure that seemed like a sure thing.
- An altogether forgotten (and hilarious) genre of musical theater.
Great music, tons of nostalgia and a timely reminder that nothing compares to live theater. Happy Watching!
THE UNLIKELY HIT
“Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles”
Rent or Buy on YouTube or Amazon Prime
How did a story about a village of orthodox Jews living in Czarist Russia in the early 1900s turn into one of the most beloved musicals of all time? This 2019 film recounts the origin story of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF and the enduring popularity of this unlikely musical around the world. Remarkably, its themes of tradition and rebellion, as well as songs like “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Sunrise, Sunset” and “To Life,” continue to resonate with people of all cultures and experiences. Touching, fascinating, funny, and truly a delight to watch.
THE UNEXPECTED FLOP
“Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened”
Streaming on Netflix; Rent or Buy on iTunes.
This 2016 documentary combines footage of auditions, rehearsals and cast interviews then and now from the original 1981 production of MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG. With the team of Stephen Sondheim (Music and Lyrics), George Furth (Book) and Director Hal Prince leading the way, MERRILY seemed to have everything going for it: seasoned pros harnessing the youthful enthusiasm of a cast of teen and early 20-something actors. But this show everyone expected to be a hit actually turned out to be a massive flop. It ran only 16 performances after opening on Broadway. Did I mention the cast included future stars like Tony Award winners Tonya Pinkins and Jason Alexander (you know him as George on “Seinfeld”), Broadway director Lonnie Price and Emmy winner Liz Callaway. With the original, gorgeous Sondheim soundtrack playing throughout, this one is full of nostalgia, hope and bittersweet recollections.
THE FORGOTTEN WORLD
“Bathtubs Over Broadway”
Streaming on Netflix; Rent or Buy on YouTube.
This brilliant 2018 documentary follows the journey of comedy writer Steve Young (“Late Night with Dave Letterman”) as he unearths a forgotten genre of musical theater: industrial musicals. These shows, which had their heyday in the 1950s - 1970s, were created to entertain and inspire sales teams, as well as elevate their mission from simply peddling products—like wheat, car tires and bathroom fixtures—to serving as emissaries of the American dream. “This was a full-fledged Broadway style, musical show for a private audience of people within the company,” says Young in the film. With no background in musicals, we see Young hunt down these hilarious and extraordinarily rare cast recordings. What’s more, these shows which were often written and performed by well-known artists, are surprisingly good.