STAGE TUBE: Watch PBS's BROADWAY MUSICALS: A JEWISH LEGACY from 'Great Performances'!
As Sir Robin carols merrily to King Arthur in Monty Python's Spamalot, "In any great adventure, if you don't want to lose...you won't succeed on Broadway if you don't have any Jews." Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy is a new, 90-minute documentary by Michael Kantor, creator of the Emmy-winning series, Broadway: The American Musical. The special just aired on Great Performances yesterday, January 1 on PBS. Click below to watch!
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy - narrated by Joel Grey -- explores the unique role of Jewish composers and lyricists in the creation of the modern American musical. Featuring interviews and conversations with some of the greatest composers and writers of the Broadway stage, Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy showcases the work of some of the nation's pre-eminent creators of musical theatre including Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George and Ira Gershwin, Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Kurt Weill, Sheldon Harnick, Jerry Bock, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz, Jule Styne and many others.
Dynamic footage includes performances by stars such as David Hyde Pierce (Spamalot), Matthew Broderick and Kelli O'Hara (Nice Work if You Can Get It), Zero Mostel (Fiddler on the Roof), Betty Comden and Adolph Green (On the Town), Nathan Lane (The Producers), Al Jolson (Sinbad), Fanny Brice(The Great Ziegfeld), Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl), Joel Grey (Cabaret), Dick Van Dyke (Bye Bye Birdie),Danny Kaye (Lady in the Dark), Ethel Merman (Gypsy), and Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel(Wicked).
The film is the first of its kind to examine the phenomenon that, over the 50-year period of its development, the songs of the Broadway musical were created almost exclusively by Jewish Americans. These are the popular songs that our nation took to war, sang to their children at bedtime, and whistled while waiting for the bus; taken in total they comprise the vast majority of what is now commonly referred to as "The American Songbook."
The film features interviews with Sheldon Harnick, John Kander, Andrew Lippa, Stephen Schwartz, Phyllis Newman, Charles Strouse, Harold Prince, Maury Yeston, Mary Rodgers Guettel, Ernie Harburg, Marc Shaiman, David Shire, Stephen Sondheim, Mel Brooks, Stephen Schwartz and many others.
Rare clips include Irving Berlin singing "God Bless America," rehearsals for Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim's Gypsy, and original South Pacific star William Tabbert singing "You've Got to be Carefully Taught" with Richard Rodgers at the piano.
The film was produced, written, and directed by Michael Kantor, whose Broadway: The American Musical series was originally viewed by an estimated 15 million people, and won the 2005 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Nonfiction Series. Most recently, Kantor was executive producer of Give Me the Banjo hosted by Steve Martin, and one of the producers of"The Thomashefskys" with Michael Tilson Thomas (Great Performances March 28, 2012). Kantor created Make 'Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America, the Emmy-nominated six-part documentary series hosted by Billy Crystal that debuted on PBS in January 2009. Other PBS credits include writer, director and producer of "Quincy Jones: In the Pocket" forAmerican Masters, and producer of The West for PBS (Executive Producer Ken Burns).
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy is an Albert M. Tapper production, and Barbara Brilliant is creator and executive producer. For Great Performances, Bill O'Donnell is series producer, and David Horn is executive producer.