|Index||6 reviews in total|
The odds against a Broadway musical becoming a profitable hit make
Hollywood studio film deals seem like a sure thing by comparison.
However, there is a more palpable energy to live theater and arguably a
genuine sense of risk. Filmmaker Dori Berinstein has captured this
high-wire dynamic in spades with this enthusiastic 2007 documentary,
which covers the 2003-04 Broadway season culminating in the Tony Awards
held in June. There are plenty of random shots from the season's shows
and even coverage of a little-known rehearsal ritual of having the most
prolific cast member wear a gypsy robe before opening. Berinstein's
focus is primarily on four disparate musicals the successful
$14-million "Wizard of Oz"-inspired extravaganza, "Wicked"; a socially
conscious period piece, the powerful "Caroline, or Change"; the
glam-rock Boy George autobiography, the financially stunted 'Taboo";
and the season's underdog, the adult-oriented comic paean to Sesame
Street, "Avenue Q".
Bouncing between the productions in various stages of development, the filmmaker intersperses brief interviews with the producers, directors, writers and principal actors, as well as scabrous roundtable conversations about the spotlighted shows among the influential theater critics who have the power to close a show with a scathing review. The diverse combination of perspectives provides interesting fodder, even though given the wealth of material gathered here, the treatment sometimes feels truncated and cursory, for example, composer Stephen Schwartz and star Idina Menzel are given plenty of attention on "Wicked", but not nearly as much is lavished on co-star Kristin Chenoweth or the other creative forces behind the show. Intriguingly, the near-legendary backstage turmoil behind "Taboo" is mentioned, but very little of that tension is evident in the rehearsal scenes or the interviews with producer Rosie O'Donnell, Boy George or stars Euan Morton and Raúl Esparza.
Even though it is not remotely a warts-and-all type of film, there are refreshingly candid comments from O' Donnell and Boy George about the unfair press coverage "Taboo" received from the New York Post's smarmy Michael Riedel. There are also moments that are surprisingly poignant like "Caroline" star Tonya Pinkins recounting her grief-filled back story and Morton near tears as he talks about his post-close struggles. Easily the most amusing scenes spotlight the young, precocious composers of "Avenue Q", Jeff Marx and Bobby Perez, who seem to have accidentally backed into their show idea and ironically came out the true victors. The interviews with Marx's proud but dumbfounded father are especially hilarious. As a Broadway aficionado, I couldn't help but wish there were more musical moments included beyond the snippets shown, in particular, more of Pinkins' stirring turn in her show or the wildly talented Esparza's cross-dressing turn in "Taboo". But otherwise, this all-access peek into the Broadway theater scene is genuinely insightful and wonderfully entertaining.
I would highly recommend this documentary for anyone interested in
Broadway generally, and musicals specifically. It documents the entire
2003-04 Broadway season. It focuses primarily on four musicals: Avenue
Q, Wicked, Caroline or Change, and Taboo. The unrestricted access to
the musical process from casting to rehearsals to previews all through
to the Tony Awards was amazing.
At our screening, we were surprised by the appearance of Dori Berinstein (writer/director/producer) and Jeff Marx (composer/lyricist of "Avenue Q"), for a Q & A. Dori revealed that they had over 400 hours of video, from which to produce this final product.
I'm looking forward to the release of the DVD which we were promised would include footage that didn't make it into the movie.
"Show Business" provides us with a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the
making of four original musicals that debuted on Broadway during the
2004 season: "Wicked," an inside-out re-interpretation of "The Wizard
of Oz," told from the viewpoint of the Wicked Witch of the West;
"Taboo," a Rosie O'Donnell-backed chronicle of the life of Boy George;
"Avenue Q," a parody of "Sesame Street," done with live actors and
puppets; and "Caroline, or Change," a civil rights drama set in the
Deep South of the 1960s.
The movie follows all four shows through their various stages of rehearsal, their opening (and sometimes closing) nights, their reception by audiences and critics, and their recognition (or lack thereof) by the Tony Awards. To bring this self-contained and exclusive world to life, director Dori Berinstein interviews a healthy dose of Broadway insiders and hangers-on, including producers, performers, writers, composers, fans and reviewers. The movie captures all the joy and heartbreak, along with all the pressures - both artistic and financial - that go into the creation of a Broadway show (there's a reason, after all, why they call it "show BUSINESS"!).
This doesn't quite qualify as a must-see documentary, but fans of musical theater - and of these shows in particular - should relish all the juicy backstage info they'll find here.
A very exciting film...not the usual documentary...but a dramatic and often comedic look in to the backstage life of the Broadway musical...full of life...and most importantly...an honest view of a complicated industry...thank you Dori...it is amazing to see close up the coordination between a host of individuals...all with varied goals...working together in an exciting creative process...to watch this process be honestly and searingly recorded is a definite first...Show Business, The Road to Broadway is a MUST for anyone with an interest in the profession theatre...most especially in the musical theatre...four more different productions could not have been documented to greater effect...as well...Show Business is a loving shrine to a business/industry we all love...again...thank you Dori...and huge thanks to all those appearing in Show Business as well as the myriad of behind-the-scenes theatre makers.
This documentary is perfect for both theater people and non-theater
people --- really, anybody who's ever gone to a musical and had a good
time. It gives a pretty good account of the long, sometimes arduous
process of writing, rehearsing, and staging a musical. It's
informative, it's entertaining, it's funny. It's very inspiring to see
a group of people doing what they love to do (it's like Man on Wire in
that sense), but it's very honest about the fact that shows close
early, people can be out on the streets pretty quickly, and there is a
sense of sadness as well as joy to the film.
The only reason I don't give it ten stars is that its issues are not as important as, say, "When the Levee Broke" or "Sicko." But it does what it sets out to do, is well worth watching, and I know I'll be watching it more than once.
A refreshingly heartfelt look at theater, the theater community and the many facets of the creative process. This documentary provides an insider view of the challenges, risks, joy, sweat, tears and dedication required in pursuing the creative process, particularly theater. It affords parents a wonderful opportunity to share an experience with their children and open a dialogue about the magic of theater and what it takes to really be good at something. The documentary proves the pompous absurdity of the media critics in the act of expressing their ignorance, lack of respect for process and how often they completely misjudge what they have seen. By tracking the evolution of several shows, the documentary allows the viewer to see the value in forming one's own opinions and what can happen by pursuing one's "truth" and making the necessary sacrifices and risks to do whatever one loves. The payoff in this movie is illustrating what beauty, spontaneity and truth can be revealed in live theater and the depth of dedication required by all of those who devote their life to it.
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