Hey this looks like a great PBS series! I'll post a press release about it below. Click here to check your local listings for air times. Looks like it started last night in some cities, tonight in others. They're running one of the three parts every night for a week here in Houston.
Today, with new musicals such as Wicked enjoying phenomenal success with 10 recent Tony Award nominations, revivals like Fiddler on the Roof filling the house and the Hollywood adaptation of Chicago winning the 2003 Oscar for Best Picture, Broadway is proving once again that its vitality and magic endure. BROADWAY: THE AMERICAN MUSICAL, an unprecedented six-part, six-hour documentary series, airs on PBS Tuesday-Thursday, October 19-21.
The first comprehensive documentary series on the history of the American musical ever created for television, BROADWAY: THE AMERICAN MUSICAL is hosted by Julie Andrews, Academy Award-winning star of stage, film and television - and PBS's unofficial "ambassador for the Broadway musical."
BROADWAY: THE AMERICAN MUSICAL tells two stories: the 100-year history of musical theater and the story of its relationship to 20th-century American life. Producer Michael Kantor's chronological approach begins with the immigrant experience at the turn of the century, when a melting pot of voices and styles gave rise to a popular new form of entertainment. The series ends with today's Broadway, where big-budget new productions and revivals of classic favorites compete side by side for box office success.
Peppered throughout are legendary moments in Broadway history: George Gershwin's sojourn to Folly Island, where he began to compose his celebrated score for Porgy and Bess; the thrill of Oklahoma!'s opening night; comedienne Fanny Brice's heart-grabbing performance of "My Man." From the titillating yet artful spectacle of The Ziegfeld Follies to Ethel Merman's brassy rendition of "I've Got Rhythm," and from Julie Taymor's visionary staging of The Lion King to a behind-the-scenes look at Wicked's opening night, the series enlightens, educates and offers unique insight into this truly American art form.
BROADWAY: THE AMERICAN MUSICAL assembled first-person accounts from dozens of theater luminaries - among them late greats such as Adolph Green, Brendan Gill, Peter Stone, "Ziegfeld Girl" Dana O'Connell, Al Hirschfeld and Frances Gershwin Godowsky. The whole of Broadway is represented: writers, lyricists, producers, performers, directors and scholars. Among them are Mel Brooks, Carol Channing, Betty Comden, Kitty Carlisle Hart, Jerry Herman, Margo Jefferson, John Kander and Fred Ebb, Joel Grey, Harvey Fierstein, Robert Kimball, Chita Rivera, John Lahr, Rocco Landesman, Jerry Orbach, Arthur Laurents, Harold Prince, Gerald Schoenfeld, Stephen Sondheim, Tommy Tune, Ben Vereen, George Wolfe and many others.
"There's no place in the world like Broadway - it's where the American dream is realized eight times a week, and even though it's become an expensive ticket, it continues to embody the optimistic heartbeat of American culture," says Kantor. "As Times Square celebrates its 100th anniversary, it's crucial to hear from the key Broadway figures who actually had a role in shaping the course of American culture - to document the stories of these creative legends in their own words - before it's too late."
Executive producer Jac Venza says the series is a sterling addition to Thirteen/WNET's four-decade tradition of showcasing musical theater and its creative talents on PBS with such series as GREAT PERFORMANCES, THEATER IN AMERICA, DANCE IN AMERICA and STAGE ON SCREEN. "Our long history of collaboration with the theater community, as well as our extensive track record in performance programming, has provided us with the access and relationships necessary to tell the complete, epic story of Broadway."
The series traverses a century of national events with seismic reverberations on the Broadway stage, including recorded sound, the rise of Hollywood, the Great Depression, both World Wars, labor relations, the advent of television, civil rights, the sexual revolution and AIDS. Each of the six films demonstrates how America's ever-changing cultural landscape is reflected back from the Broadway stage.
To bring this story to life, BROADWAY: THE AMERICAN MUSICAL uses an extraordinary collection of archival footage, newsreels, private home movies, original cast recordings, still photos, diary excerpts, personal correspondences, rare television and audio archives, and autobiographical material.
BROADWAY is geared to audiences of all ages, offering insights from Irving Berlin, Bert Williams and Yip Harburg through to Agnes DeMille, Hal Prince and George C. Wolfe, while spanning a century of musical productions from Show Boat, Anything Goes and On the Town to Company, Hair and The Producers.
"With this series, we not only showcase the magic of the musical theater, we discover its underlying connection to history," says executive producer David Horn. "And it's a history underscored by some of the most memorable music ever written - songs that are brash, unforgettably passionate and indelibly American."
To complement and expand the reach of the series, Kantor and co-writer Laurence Maslon are creating a lavishly illustrated companion book, to be published by Bulfinch Press in conjunction with the PBS premiere. A companion five-CD box set, a dynamic Web site and a variety of educational outreach activities are also in development.