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"Broadway: The American Musical"


RMeingast
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Caught an episode of this series on PBS last night.

 

Pretty good stuff:

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/broadway/timelines/

 

It's six one-hour episodes in length and last night was "Episode Two:

Syncopated City":

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/broadway/about/episode-descriptions/

 

Of course, many Broadway actors of the 1920s and 1930s crossed over into classic movies and that's why the series may be of interest to TCM fans...

 

Anyway, just FYI...

 

 

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After seeing a couple of the PBS episodes I purchased the series on DVD. It is a excellent history on the Broadway musical and great fun to watch. Julie Andrews was the perfect choice as host, with a lot of behind the scenes of historic Broadway and some of the home movies { sadly minus the audio } of Ethel Merman rehearsing " Annie Get Your Gun" and "Gypsy" . fun piece of entertainment..

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I caught the second half of this while searching....yeah I really enjoyed the tie-ins to Hollywood part of the story...but I was completely turned off by the production-it seemed to be made by film school students.

 

Full of insipid reinactments, cameras moving over unrelated period photos that were cooked in PhotoShop, flash animated lyrics of well known songs drifting past... Lame.gif

 

If it's an interesting story, there's no need to gunk it up with silly effects.

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Wish I had seen it. I'm kind of interested in the history of this genre. How it came about, WHY it came about and if whether or not it was 20th century America's attempt to create it's own version of "Opera". It did seem over the years that many producers of musicals, at least MOVIE musicals, used actors with operatic voices or operatic vocalists for overdubs in movie musicals in an attempt to add class to musicals with minimal storylines or marginal music.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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> {quote:title=TikiSoo wrote:}{quote}I caught the second half of this while searching....yeah I really enjoyed the tie-ins to Hollywood part of the story...but I was completely turned off by the production-it seemed to be made by film school students.

>

> Full of insipid reinactments, cameras moving over unrelated period photos that were cooked in PhotoShop, flash animated lyrics of well known songs drifting past... Lame.gif

>

> If it's an interesting story, there's no need to gunk it up with silly effects.

 

Yes, I know what you mean...

But much has to do with the film budget and the amount of time available, I guess.

It can cost much money and take time to get rights to films and photos that you want to feature in a documentary, I believe. So easier and less expensive to use filler like that between the talking heads...

Photos and film in the public domain, for example, even if unrelated specifically to the documentary...

Anyway, I know what you mean, certainly.

 

By contrast, I watched a program by Laurence Rees (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurence_Rees) recently that was just excellent.

It was "Auschwitz: The Nazis and the 'Final Solution'" that was aired on TVO:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auschwitz:_The_Nazis_and_the_%27Final_Solution%27

 

The re-enactments and computer-generated imagery and interviews were all put together very well and indicative of a big budget for the production.

But then it was a project of the BBC, so you expect high quality.

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*"...but I was completely turned off by the production-it seemed to be made by film school students. Full of insipid reinactments, cameras moving over unrelated period photos that were cooked in. If it's an interesting story, there's no need to gunk it up with silly effects."* - TikiSoo

 

I caught part of the first episode (Cohan, Ziegfeld, etc.) last week but none of the current week's episode. But I did see the entire series when it debuted a few years ago. At the time, I considered these the two best segments of the entire series. I probably still do.

 

If I remember correctly, the second episode concentrates on the 1920s and the rise of the great composers - Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Kern, etc. The challenge facing a documentary about such an era is that there are few, if any, moving images around to accompany and illustrate the content.

 

Ethel Merman singing Gershwin's "I've Got Rhythm" is an important theatrical milestone/event to include in the program. But how do you present it if all you have to work with is the audio recording? I thought the digital animation/illustration route was the best approach posssible. While far from perfect, it did emphisize the unique talent of Merman as a stage performer. The viewer was focused on the power of her remarkable voice. (At least, this viewer was.) It was much more instructive than the creator's dependence on James Cagney's portrayal of Cohan featured in episode one.

 

I understand how some would be distracted by such techniques. It is far from an ideal solution. But when the creators have little photographic record with which to work I don't know what other options there may have been - short of CGI . After all, it is a documentary about Broadway - which needs some visual razzmatazz - as opposed to a sober documentary about The Civil War.

 

Edited by: hlywdkjk on Oct 16, 2012 12:00 PM

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> {quote:title=hlywdkjk wrote:}{quote}

>

> If I remember correctly, the second episode concentrates on the 1920s and the rise of the great composers - Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Kern, etc. The challenge facing a documentary about such an era is that there are few, if any, moving images around to accompany and illustrate the content.

>

 

The episode descriptions are here:

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/broadway/about/episode-descriptions/

 

And it was the second episode I caught the other night.

I though it was good but also understand TikiSoo below.

 

Yes, I was gonna mention that too in my post below about the availability of film footage.

Unless I'm mistaken, what there is you would have to pay for rights to use unless it's in the public domain or in an archive and you have permission. Depending on your budget, easier to just use what is free to use in public domain, if you can find it.

 

Anyway, based on the one episode I saw, I'll try and catch more of this series. I like it.

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>Kyle said: The challenge facing a documentary about such an era is that there are few, if any, moving images around to accompany and illustrate the content. (snipped) I understand how some would be distracted by such techniques. It is far from an ideal solution. But when the creators have little photographic record with which to work I don't know what other options there may have been

 

You're right....I know you're right

 

th?id=I.4541735422986826&pid=15.1

 

I much prefer a slow pan over a still photo that relates to the subject of the narrative than words dancing across the screen. But the meaty info contained within the episode I saw, was fascinating. Great subject, would make a lovely read.

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>Kyle said: While far from perfect, it did emphisize the unique talent of Merman as a stage performer. The viewer was focused on the power of her remarkable voice.

 

I just finished reading Rose Marie's fascinating autobio "Hold The Roses". She had this Merman story that took place in Hawaii for a charity telethon;

"When the telethon was over we went to the hotel, sat in the coffee shop and finally went to bed. We had the poster boy and his girlfriend with us, they were named John & Joanie. John had been the poster boy ten years earlier when he was 16. He was now 26 and in love with Joanie (the current poster girl). They were to be married in October. Richard Deacon said, "Why don't you get married here in Hawaii?" They said they had to call their parents which we thought was adorable. We paid for everything. The wedding was the next day in Merman's suite. She acted like the mother of the bride, she was so excited.

(snipped)

Both the bride and groom wore wedding leis and while the minister said the service Merman sang "They Say That Falling In Love Is Wonderful" a capella. There wasn't a dry eye in the house."

 

Can you imagine? It brought tears to my eyes just reading it.

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> {quote:title=lzcutter wrote:}{quote}Rick McKay's *The Golden Age of Broadway* is a nifty documentary that includes interviews from a variety of post-WW II Broadway stars.

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> Jerry Orbach is especially moving in his interview:

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> http://www.rickmckay.com/home.html

 

 

lzcutter, I agree, an excellent documentary. The name of it was actually Broadway: The Golden Age. I remember it played a few theaters, and I caught it at the Egyptian. Rick McKay was there, as well as a few theater people like Hal Linden (Barney Miller).

 

I hope he is contuining to work on the second part of the series.

 

Another excellent documentary was "Every Little Step: The Journey of 'A Chorus Line'".

 

Fans of both "Broadway: The American Musical" and "Broadway: The Golden Age" should definitely pick up the DVDs. BTAM has additional performances and over 3 hours of additional interviews. BTGA has over an hour of additional material.

 

UPDATE: Just noticed that Broadway The American Musical just got released on Blu-ray yesterday!

 

Edited by: filmlover on Oct 17, 2012 9:40 AM

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Kyle, thanks for you input on BTAM. I think it was Rick McKay who poitned out in his own documentary that these performances are so often lost, existing now only the memory of people who saw them. And these stars...people who lit up Broadway, and dimmed it with their passing.

 

One thing we can be thankful for is that since the mid-Eighties, Broadway shows have been filmed/videotaped and stored in the library at Lincoln Center. At this time, only scholars doing research can view them. Maybe, with time, they will be released to the public. What a treasure trove!

 

If people would like to see some excellent bits of Broadway musicals and and plays, I recommend the 4-DVD set, "*Broadway's Lost Treasures Collection*." It collects 82 performances from The Tony Awards broadcasts, covering the late 1980s to the early 2000s. These are basically a song or two, Among the ones I like best from it are Evita, with Patti Luipone and Mandy Patinkin, Chicago with Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera, How to Succeed in Business with Robert Morse, Piaf with Jane Lapotaire, Me And My Girl with Robert Lindsay, and Joseph & His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with the wonderful (but who died too young) Laurie Beechman.

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> {quote:title=finance wrote:}{quote}If you missed the series, look for the book "Show Time", by Gene Brown. It gives a chronoogical history of Broadway, and from the perspective of today, is constantly mentioning Broadway's interection with film and film actors.

finance, there was a companion book of "Broadway: The American Musical". A huge thing, very heavy.

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Funny. But, actually, only a few theaters are on Broadway. Most are on side streets, from about 41st Street to around 49th.

 

By the way, the rest of you, for anyone who has never made a trek to New York and been at night to Broadway (meaning: the theater district AND the American theatre industry), you should. I've always felt that my favorite idea of Heaven is put me in the middle of the theater district. I will spend my days at matinees and evenings at the theaters. You can see a touring show in your hometown...but no experience equals seeing it on BROADWAY!

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Yes, that's true. Most are on the west side of Broadway on the 40s streets.......There are a handful on Broadway itself. Sadly most of the old movie palaces on Broadway were torn down during the 70s to make way for new skyscrapers. :(

 

 

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