Unless you are on vacation in New York, live in New York, or are a theater critic, the world of Broadway plays and musicals has mostly been foreign to everyone else...until now. With Dori Berinstein's documentary "Show Business: The Road To Broadway," viewers can finally get a glimpse at the frantic world of Broadway.
The documentary focuses on four musical shows in the 2003/2004 season. There's "Wicked" which is about the wicked witch from the "Wizard Of Oz." There's "Avenue Q" which is an adult puppet musical reminiscent of "Sesame Street." There's also "Taboo" the Rosie O'Donnell produced Boy George musical, and "Caroline, Or Change" which is a dramatic musical set in Louisiana during the Civil Rights movement. We get to see the evolution of the play as it's being written, rehearsed, premiered to the public, and eventually vying to win Tony Awards.
Even though some viewers may know which of these 4 shows succeed or fail in advance, that doesn't make the film any less engrossing. The strength of the documentary not only lies within seeing the insane amount of work put into each show, but seeing everyone's perspective. We see the perspective of the the producers, the writers, the directors, the fans, and my favorite aspect- the critics. What makes theater critics such an interesting subject is that their reviews can either save or kill a play or musical. Since Broadway shows aren't on thousands or millions of screens like films and TV shows, audiences rely on word of mouth and critic's reviews, which gives theater critic's words more power. The film exploits this idea and often comically portrays the critics as villains.
Another highlight of the documentary was seeing the journey of the musical "Avenue Q." The musical started out as an underdog show no one believed in, but that quickly changed when it defied the odds by becoming an overwhelming commercial success. Since the writers/creators of "Avenue Q" were newbies, it was inspiring to see them rise to the top. It gives everyone out there with a dream hope that they too can achieve success.
The 4X3 Full Frame picture is sufficient enough for a documentary. As I've stated before, you don't watch documentaries for picture quality. It's inconsequential.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 English audio isn't quite up to snuff. A lot of the dialogue is overpowered by music arrangements, which is a shame.
* Original trailer.
* 3 Tony Awards clips titled "Putting It Together," "Collaboration," and "The Nominees." These 3 clips are a collection of interviews with nominees and actors, as well as glimpses at the writers working on music for the shows.
* "Broadway Speaks"- Alan Cumming interviews Liza Minnelli, John Lithgow and Patrick Stewart, while Donna Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Brian Dennehy, and Alan Cumming speak to the camera. Everyone talks about their love of Broadway, the fan support, memories of the past, etc.
* 2 brief clips titled "Braodway Cares Flea Market" and "Harvey Fierstein BC/EFA "Hairspray" speech. Both clips talk about a auction/fundraiser for an Aids benefit.
* Bonus Footage- 7 "Wicked" scenes, 6 from "Taboo," and 3 each for "Avenue Q" and "Caroline, Or Change." Scenes include actors, writers, costume designers, producers at work or being interviewed.
* 9 1/2 minutes of deleted scenes. The scenes are "Taboo Record Signing Event," "Tony Awards Rehearsal," "Avenue Q Reviews," "Avenue Q Record Signing Event," "Avenue Q Tony Campaign Party," "Wicked Set Construction/San Francisco," and "Ethan Hawke and Michael Hayden- Sword Fight Rehearsal (for Henry IV)."
* A DVD-ROM Study Guide of facts.
* An enjoyable commentary with Dori Berinstein, Alan Cumming, and Jeff Marx. The trio discuss everything from how Alan was originally going to narrate the film, how they shot tons of materials on the sets of other shows like "Fiddler On The Roof" (it sounded like this could have been a multiple disk set from all the footage they shot), and how Dori Berinstein starred on Broadway herself.
"Show Business: The Road To Broadway" is a fascinating look at the various stages and seasons of Broadways musicals. Don't worry if you are not a fan of musical theater because you don't have to be a musical fan to enjoy this documentary. A must see.
Film and television enthusiast Nick Lyons recently had his first book published titled "Attack of the Sci-Fi Trivia." It is available on Amazon.com.