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Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy

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ratherbewhaling
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joined:7/15/08
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 12/31/12 at 07:33pm
Anyone else excited to see this documentary? It's supposed to air tomorrow

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.

Though these remarkable songwriters were purveyors of what we think of today as the Broadway sound, the documentary demonstrates how there were echoes of Jewish strains in many of the works. From “Yiddishkeit” (all things Jewish) on the stages of the Lower East Side at the turn of the century to a wide range of shows including Porgy and Bess, West Side Story and Cabaret, the film explores how Jewish music and ethos informs many of America’s favorite musicals.

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).


http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/episodes/broadway-musicals-a-jewish-legacy/about-the-film/1476/
Nancy Reagan, meanest and thinnest of the first ladies moves into the white house. Yabba dabba! It's the eighties.
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 12/31/12 at 07:47pm
Sounds very good and I will watch, but the idea that Jews were absolutely central to the creation of the Broadway musical is not new. When Cole Porter (a rich WASP from Indiana) was young and not achieving the success he thought he deserved, he asked Jerome Kern what he should do? Kern replied, "Write more Jewish." (Porter responded by imitating the Muslim call to prayer in "Begin the Beguine". Close enough, apparently.)

It's the minor keys and intervals employed by Jewish cantors that became the basis for the "Broadway sound."

Add African-American rhythm and dance, Irish, Jewish and German comics, and homosexual designers and performers, and voila! You get the brand new theater form which wasn't so much new as a new mix.



Updated On: 12/31/12 at 07:47 PM
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PTOPhan
Featured Actor
joined:6/5/12
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/1/13 at 08:59pm
I'm certainly familiar with minor key Jewish liturgical melodies. I'm trying to think of how they influenced Broadway except for the obvious show: "Fiddler on the Roof," whose "Sabbath Prayer" is sometimes sung as part of Shabbat services -- life imitates art. The one song that many people, apparently mistakenly, think is Jewish in origin is "Those were the Days, my Friend," but I don't think that's a Broadway song.

"My Fair Lady," "The Sound of Music," "The King and I," "Camelot" -- I just can't see the musical connections to Solomon Sulzer and the other great 19th century cantorial composers or to Israeli music. I'm sorry I missed the documentary, because I'm sure it sets out the connection.
You alone can make my song take flight.
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iflip4musicals
Broadway Star
joined:11/30/06
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/1/13 at 09:38pm
Is anyone else having problems with the broadcast? It keeps pixelating, messing up the video and audio.
"I've never encountered such religiously, you know, loyal fans as Broadway musical theater fans. It's amazing." --Allison Janney
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/1/13 at 09:40pm
I may not be explaining the musicology well enough, as I am not a musician.

But compare George M. Cohan to Jerome Kern (and then Rodgers, Gershwin and eventually Porter (not Jewish but influenced by the sound)) and the distinction is pretty obvious.
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NYadgal
Broadway Legend
joined:5/18/04
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/1/13 at 09:49pm
I'm not having any trouble viewing it.

Fascinating.
"Two drifters off to see the world... there's such a lot of world to see"
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/1/13 at 09:53pm
It does come on here on the West Coast for a couple of hours, so thanks for the recommendation. I'll be sure to record it.
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iflip4musicals
Broadway Star
joined:11/30/06
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/1/13 at 10:03pm
Lucky you NYadgal! Loving this anyway, what a fantastic documentary.
"I've never encountered such religiously, you know, loyal fans as Broadway musical theater fans. It's amazing." --Allison Janney
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Patti LuPone FANatic
Broadway Legend
joined:3/4/06
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/1/13 at 10:13pm
There was a little sequence of Hugh Jackman singing "Oh What A Beautiful Morning" from "Oklahoma". He was wearing chaps. Wow! from RC in Austin, Texas
Susan Haskins (Theatre Talk): "I love children. That's why I work with Michael (Riedel)."
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Wishing Only Wounds
Broadway Star
joined:4/27/10
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/1/13 at 10:15pm
Loving this. I'm schvitzing.

I did not know that about West Side Story, fascinating!
Formerly: WishingOnlyWounds2 - Broadway Legend - Joined: 9/25/08
Updated On: 1/1/13 at 10:15 PM
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followspot
Broadway Star
joined:12/27/11
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/1/13 at 10:20pm
Somewhat superficial at a lightning-paced 90 minutes, but loved every minute of it!

It may not have occurred to me had I not just watched the Lincoln Center/PBS Marvin Hamlisch fiasco last night, but odd that this doc skipped over Hamlisch/Chorus Line completely.


"Tracy... Hold Mama's waffles."
Updated On: 1/2/13 at 10:20 PM
mamaleh
Broadway Star
joined:5/11/04
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/1/13 at 11:56pm
Good documentary -- that Strouse story was very troubling, however -- but I would have liked at least a mention of those who do not immediately come to mind, such as Leo Robin, Burton Lane, Dietz & Schwartz, Bacharach/David, Mitch Leigh, Alan Menken and so on. Let people know there's more to the story than R&H, Berlin and Sondheim. Nonetheless, a very enjoyable 90 minutes.
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Huey's Pop
Stand-by
joined:4/19/05
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/2/13 at 01:53am
Watching the program made me sooooo proud to be a Jew.

I'm so glad we have PBS to air programs like this one.
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Patti LuPone FANatic
Broadway Legend
joined:3/4/06
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/2/13 at 09:51am
I had to look up the word "schvitzing". I now know what it means...sort of. from RC in Austin, Texas
Susan Haskins (Theatre Talk): "I love children. That's why I work with Michael (Riedel)."
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ErinDillyFan
Broadway Star
joined:7/14/06
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/2/13 at 10:15am
I found it interesting that they only came up with Cole Porter as the lone non jewish composer (most likely because he longed to make is music sound jewish). Meredith Wilson, would have been another example from the pre-Hair heydays.

It is interesting that after the infusion and success of non jewish composers on broadway that until recently almost all were non american, Galt MacDermott, ALW, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, Elton John, Eric Idle.

Recently we have seen success from american composers Robert Lopez and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
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iluvtheatertrash
Broadway Legend
joined:11/9/04
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/2/13 at 10:48am
Found this to be really fascinating, and wonderful. A lot I already knew, but so much I hadn't actually put together in my mind. Hearing how so many songs developed from klezmer - ACTUALLY hearing it - blew my mind. I guess I'd known, but never really actually put it together.

Great stuff. Catch it if you missed it.
"I know now that theatre saved my life." - Susan Stroman
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Smaxie
Broadway Legend
joined:9/26/05
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/2/13 at 10:59am
I think Wishing probably meant plotzing or kvelling instead of schvitzing.

Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.
Updated On: 1/2/13 at 10:59 AM
Jon
Broadway Legend
joined:2/20/04
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/2/13 at 11:18am
"Schvitzing" = sweating. "Go for a schvitz" = go sit in a sauna or steam room.
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ErinDillyFan
Broadway Star
joined:7/14/06
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/2/13 at 12:05pm
I also found it interesting that sexuality was not discussed in the program at all. As Laurence O'Keefe wrote in Legally Blonde, "They're gay and european" or as Marc Shaiman more succinctly put it in "Big Black Lady Stops the Show":

"Now will somebody please explain
Why whether gospel or some blues
These songs are always written
By some old fart white gay Jews"

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darquegk
Broadway Legend
joined:2/5/09
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/2/13 at 12:26pm
Every so often, years apart, I start a thread dealing with the common conception that theatre is inherently gay and inherently Jewish, and allowing debate to unpack and deconstruct- or support and explain- these cultural assumptions. This has added huge evidence and support to te claim that musical theatre is, or at least was, inherently Jewish. So now the question remains: is the theatre gay? How? Why?
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goldenboy
Broadway Legend
joined:7/15/05
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/2/13 at 12:28pm
Are they re broadcasting this? Alas I missed it
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ErinDillyFan
Broadway Star
joined:7/14/06
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/2/13 at 12:38pm
Sorry GoldenBoy... I didn't know about it either, until I checked my DVR. Luckily for me, I record all "Great Performance" airings.
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ErinDillyFan
Broadway Star
joined:7/14/06
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/2/13 at 12:46pm
darquegk: The show focused on the creative side of the equation. They only touched on another major issue tangentially, financial backing in relation to two shows, "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Cabaret", but only in relation to how they effected the creative process. The fact is that a large portion of the whole industry, producers and the financial backers behind them, theater owners, agents, directors, critics, and to a much lesser extent now performers... are jewish.
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followspot
Broadway Star
joined:12/27/11
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/2/13 at 01:07pm
It can now be viewed online:
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
"Tracy... Hold Mama's waffles."
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/2/13 at 02:52pm
I was a little disappointed that after a good discussion of Irving Berlin and other turn-of-the-20th-century immigrants, the piece just became a laundry list of Jewish writers until it got to FIDDLER and, later, Stephen Sondheim. (Fortunately the doc did a much better job of explaining Jewish music and its relationship to the blues than I did above!)

There are distinct differences between the "Second Hand Rose" songs of Fannie Brice et al., the idealistic assimilation of R&H ("Brand new state/Gonna treat you great!") and the chest-thumping of Laurents and Herman ("*I* Am What *I* Am"). There were brief references to the idea that American Jews were themselves changing, but this got short shrift, imo.
zamedy
Broadway Star
joined:6/27/07
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Posted: 1/2/13 at 10:51pm
Great documentary. I learned a lot! Loved hearing Laurents tell the Passover Seder story about Merman and her ham sandwich. Classic. Priceless. Also.. the irony surrounding the work of Irving Berlin never hit me until this documentary. The best-selling Christmas song of all time ("White Christmas") was written by a Jew. The most popular secular Easter song of all time ("Easter Parade") was written by a Jew. He was and is the greatest American songwriter of all time.

My DVR says there's an encore performance this morning (at 2am I believe).

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