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Showbusiness: The Road to Broadway

ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway (Dori Berinstein)

At the opening of “ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway,” we see actors and actresses in their dressing rooms, the famous, the soon-to-be famous, preparing to hit the stage, running into the lights and the hearing the applause. “ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway” is a look at the production, toils, and the people behind the making of four new Broadway shows during the 2003/2004 season: Avenue Q, Wicked, Taboo and Caroline, or Change, and their trek as Tony nominees for Best Musical.


The reality of Broadway is summed up at the very beginning of the film. There’s the person in charge of marketing the film, who informs that after putting blood, sweat, tears time and money into a production, it arrives on the stage, and in one night, it’s analyzed and criticized by a small group of people.

And then there are the theatrical critics themselves, who gather in a New York bistro to celebrate the start of a new season. One critic, Michael Riedel (New York Post) says with a smile while raising his Cosmo with a toast to, “More bombs so I have something to write about this season, that’s what I’m looking forward to,” commenting a bit later that he wonders about the validity of a Boy George musical. This is definite foreshadowing of his journalistic persona, which seems to take more joy in digging up dirt than supporting the foundation and the continual evolution of theater.

This musical he mentions is of course, Taboo, which was funded and produced by Rosie O’Donnell. Since both characters involved in this production draw attention, the media was more intrigued with the gossip relating to internal fighting than the actual production itself. I have to say that Euan Morton, who plays Boy George and in full-makeup, even freaks out the original at how much he looks like George in the ‘80s. So it would be interesting to see him at work.

Avenue Q is totally new concept, based on the Sesame Street formula for educating through entertainment, but this time the students are adults, learning about all facets of the human condition, but with really sharp and racy wit (written by Jeff Witty). Things that Internet porn, homophobia, and all those “dirty” topics people don’t always talk about but in this scenario, it’s all out there and because of the writing, laughing their asses off.

Alan Cumming (X-Men: The Official Game, The L Word, co-producer of film), within his modern kitchen, talks frankly about the length of time it takes to get a play off the ground, while Idina Monzel, lead actress in Wicked, is amazed the play made it to the Broadway stage because of the volatility of show business—the money could drop out, the creative group could disenfranchise, and the list goes on.

The heartbreaking time came when they showed Taboo closing after just three months to the dismay of not only the players but the fans as well. Many other plays and musicals may last just one night, so after all that, it is back to square one all over again. But for those that live, breath and love the theater, this is just a way of life—all the highs and the lows.

The risks are great, but a musical that was told it couldn’t fill an average sized theater wins a Tony and three years later, has another production in Vegas, a television show in development and a nationwide tour going through the summer of 2007. So much for crystal ball theories.

Where “The Golden Age of Broadway” looked at the life of New York’s theater community and the foundation it built, “ShowBusiness…” is a look at where we are now with American theater. Director Dori Bernstein, who is also a three three-time Tony-winning Broadway producer with a long list of film and television producing projects on her resume, has made a great film. Quite simply, it give us a great understanding of everything it takes to entertain us for a few hours—from the light bulb idea moment, to the writing of the songs, the ongoing fine-tuning of the screenplay, rehearsing, raising money and working with budgets, making the costumes, dealing with critics like Riedel, etc., etc.—and all those people (some of which held onto their dream since they were children), who make it happen.

It kinda makes it a little easier to stand in line and swallow the $100+ ticket price, but it also inspires a new found appreciation and admiration for this art form. Irving Berlin had it right from the start. There’s nothing like it.

-Kim Owens, August 8,


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