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Broadway Comes To The Burns
Wednesday, May 16-----Broadway came to the Burns on Monday evening, as the Jacob Burns Film Center, Westchester's premiere arthouse cinema, presented a special screening of SHOW BUSINESS: The Road To Broadway, the new documentary that explores the triumph and tragedies of New York's Great White Way. The film, which opened in New York last week and is scheduled to open in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Boston next month, is an entertaining and informative look at the 2004 Broadway season.
[img_assist|nid=4529|title=|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=140|height=94]The film is the directorial debut of Dori Berinstein, a three-time Tony-winning Broadway producer who has produced such milestones as THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE (Tony Award), FOOL MOON (Tony Award), ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (Tony Award), THE CRUCIBLE and FLOWER DRUM SONG. Her musical adaptation of the hit film LEGALLY BLONDE just opened to great reviews and a substantial advance last week.
SHOW BUSINESS chronicles the ups-and-downs of producing original material for the high-stakes Broadway stage. Even more of a risk than the film industry, where even a flop can eventually make its money back in foreign and ancillary markets, a Broadway show can lose its entire investment in a number of days or weeks. This puts incredible pressure on the producers and financial backers, not to mention the musical composers, the actors and directors, who never know if their show will be a hit or a flop.
[img_assist|nid=4530|title=TABOO|desc=|link=node|align=right|width=140|height=93]Without knowing what their fates would be, Berinstein focused on four different musical shows that were as different as could be. WICKED, a musical adaptation of a book about the witch sisters of the children's fable The Wizard of Oz, was a mega-production, with music and lyrics by established Broadway tunesmith Stephen Schwartz (GODSPELL, PIPPIN) and a high profile cast including Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Menzel and Joel Grey. TABOO was a London theater transplant which had its own tabloid-friendly names in the guise of Rosie O'Donnell (her first Broadway show as a producer) and music and lyrics by Boy George, of the 1980s group Culture Club. The show, which was loosely based on George's early London career, was a hit in the West End.
[img_assist|nid=4531|title=|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=140|height=105]AVENUE Q began life in a tiny off-Broadway theater, and was the first professional effort of a composer/lyricist duo who, at the time, were still working their temp day jobs. Creating a musical about the challenges of starting out in New York, the show used a Sesame Street-like approach of combining live actors with puppets to comment on sexual, gender and racial issues. CAROLINE OR CHANGE, also had an off-Broadway pedigree, was the first "serious musical" collaboration between composer Jeanine Tesori and Pulitzer Prize winning dramatist Tony Kushner (ANGELS IN AMERICA), based on Kushner's childhood in Louisiana in the 1960s.
[img_assist|nid=4532|title=|desc=|link=node|align=right|width=140|height=105]Berinstein interlaces the development of the productions, contrasts their ups-and-downs as they move towards their respective opening nights, with the hopes of securing nominations for Tony Awards, the theater's highest honor. By interlacing interviews with behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage, Berinstein showcases the incredible hard work and exhausting creative energy necessary to create magic on the stage. All this is ably contrasted with scenes of some of New York's most acerbic theater critics, who could not stop themselves from handicapping the shows even before they opened. This mix of nuance and nasty is among the film's most eye-opening and revelatory sequences.
The film follows the shows through the preparation for and the actual Tony Awards ceremonies, where several unexpected upsets rule the day. The stakes are incredibly high and the tension is palpable as the winners and losers reflect on the vagaries of audiences and critics in shaping a given Broadway season. Live theater becomes the most dangerous sport there is.
[img_assist|nid=4533|title=|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=140|height=96]An added pleasure for audiences on Monday night was a post-screening discussion with Berinstein, composer Jeanine Tesori and two representatives of the critical establishment: Jacques Le Sourde of the Journal News and Michael Riedel, a gossip columnist for the Rupert Murdoch tabloid, the New York Post. A lively discussion ensued with the capacity crowd, covering the topics of the creative process, the responsibility of theater critics and the strategic decisions involved in the making of the film. For anyone who loves live theater, the combination of the film and its live discussion gave an enlightening, if not always inspirational, perspective on the challenge of doing it live. For creators and critics alike, it is the only place they want to be.
For more information on the film and to view the film trailer, visit the website: www.showbusiness-themovie.com
Sandy Mandelberger, Film New York Editor
The Bulletin Board
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