Over the years Broadway has been popularized to the masses thanks to Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserable, and Cats. In recent years shows like Wicked and Spamalot have been tearing things up in the theater district. These are the big "modern" names that are easily recognizable by laymen, but what came before? Broadway has had a rich history that extends beyond the likes of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Eric Idle. If you're a fan of musical theatre or someone who just wants to see some of the classics among classics, then you'll probably want to check out Broadway's Lost Treasures.
If the show sounds familiar to some of you then chances are good that you have probably seen it broadcast on PBS at some point. Recently they aired a series that was similar to this one during a pledge drive. It featured various clips of musical performances. Make no mistake about it though; Lost Treasures is a theater fans dream come true because there isn't a better collection on the market for these classic numbers.
Everybody knows that the Tony Awards are the symbol for the very best of Broadway. They are basically the Oscars for theater productions and each year all of the elites get together to celebrate their peers. Fortunately instead of just seeing a bunch of people get handed awards, viewers also get treated to acts from the most popular musicals of the year. That's really were Lost Treasures hits the mark thanks to the fantastic collection of Tony Award performances and other rarities.
Now normally with a collection like this you might expect to see the material go in order based on broadcast date or how old the show is, but that's not how Lost Treasures handles things. When the program was shown on PBS it was done so in seemingly random order. This structure has been maintained for the DVD release. An archival collection like this would have best been served organized by time period or airing date; not randomly sorted by the producers. You do have the ability to jump between acts but there is really no other structure to the set.
Speaking of those acts, there are some excellent numbers included on this boxed set. Sitting through the program and soaking everything in proved to be an entertaining and nostalgic tour of some of my favorite shows. In some cases you are able to see the original casts perform key numbers from their musicals, often times in full costume. A couple of my favorites were performance of "One Day More" from Les Miserables and Joel Grey singing "Willkommen" from Cabaret. They never rerun this stuff on TV so this is really your only chance to see it.
There are several really entertaining numbers that are sort of hidden jewels in the set. Kristin Chenoweth as Sally singing "My New Philosophy" from You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, Jonathan Pryce as the The Engineer in "The American Dream" from Miss Saigon, and Patti LuPone, Bob Gunton and Mandy Patinkin in "A New Argentina" from Evita all are worth viewing a couple of times. Of course with over sixty musical acts in this collection these few barely scratch the surface of what's available, but are greatly appreciated.
As you dig deeper you'll also get to see the faces of Carol Channing, Yul Brynner, Angela Lansbury, Bea Arthur, Zero Mostell, and even the legendary Ethel Merman. The content here dates back as far as 1967 and gets as recent as 2002. Though there is one thing that I found disappointing thing about this set. Some numbers are not period. That is, it may be the original actor/actors performing the number but it is not from the year the show premiered.
For example, there is a wonderful number with Bea Arthur and Angela Lansbury singing "Bosom Buddies" from Mame. Now they were both in the original cast of the show, but the number is just a little special performance from 1987, not the original in 1966. There are others similar to this in the collection including a deceptive image of Julie Andrew's dressed up for My Fair Lady on a DVD case when in fact she is simply singing on stage in a black gown. Not quite what I was hoping for. Now in the end do I really care? No. Being able to see most of these is still amazing, but true period performances would have made it even more charming.
The main draw for this set is obviously the musical numbers. Heck three out of the four discs are comprised of just that, but the last disc in the collection is all about that other thing on Broadway, plays. If you are a fan of both types of art then you will definitely be pleased at the offerings here. Some fine inclusions are James Earl Jones in The Great White Hope, John Lithgow and B.D. Wong in M. Butterfly, and Kevin Kline in Hamlet.
Let's get one thing straight; this is a wonderful collection put together by people who love the theater for people who love the theatre just as much. It is a treasure trove of classical numbers and skits from Broadways history that will be adored by fans. To be fair there are quite a few numbers here that will be hit or miss depending what your particular tastes are. I found many of them to be passable, but the fact remains that most of the collection is gold.
With such a range in production dates it's no wonder that the video quality for Broadway's Lost Treasures is all over the map. The earlier clips from the 60's and 70's obviously feature a ton of grain and softer edges while the later numbers are much finer. There isn't a single bit on this collection that I would call "DVD Quality" but that's not really the point of this set. You can't go back into classics like these to restore the image and frankly that would affect the vintage nature of the material. You kind of have to just accept it for what it is and enjoy. The entire show is presented with a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio.
Just like the video presentation, you have to take the audio's quality with a grain of salt. The various production times and recordings lead to a great diversity in the subject matter. For the most part though the sound is presented clear and flaw free, though there seem to be a couple of synching issues here and there. I also came across a few points where the audio had some static and rough volume pitch, but I'm not being picky due to the nature of the program. Just don't come in looking to have your socks blown away by a 5.1 channel mix and you'll be adequately pleased with the job done on the stereo presentation.
For bonus material these discs each offer images of the original Playbills (where possible) for the respective performances. There is also some historical information with run times, locations, total performances, and what Tony Awards they won. These are definitely some fine additions for fans of the theater, but I was hoping for interviews and such with the people involved with these shows.
For anybody who loves Broadway this collection is just about as good as it gets. There simply isn't a finer collection of rarities and performances on the market and I'd go as far to say that most of the material here is historic. As with any compilation it's only natural to expect that some content is better than others, but the good definitely outweighs the bad here. The program may have been wedged together semi-haphazardly and the A/V quality isn't as high-end as one would hope, though really you have to take what you can get. Recommended
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