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BWW Blog: 10 Must-Watch Theatre Documentaries

What better way is there to wait for upcoming movie-musicals than by learning about their original stage productions?

BWW Blog: 10 Must-Watch Theatre Documentaries

While we patiently wait for theatres to reopen, Broadway-related films are making a triumphant return to Hollywood. The Wicked movie will be directed by In The Heights Director Jon M. Chu, both the Dear Evan Hansen movie and a filmed performance of Come From Away will be released in September, and The Prom and Hamilton each received 2 Golden Globe nominations. Both are competing for "Best Picture -- Musical or Comedy." The last time that two movie versions of a musical were nominated in this category was in 2007 (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Hairspray).

Movie-musicals have weaved their way into American culture. Who doesn't love watching Julie Andrews sing in The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins, or the Sharks and Jets dance-fight in West Side Story? The list goes on and on, from timeless classics every theatre lover has seen like Singin' in the Rain, My Fair Lady, Funny Girl, Grease, and Cabaret, to newer favorites like Chicago, Moulin Rouge, Mamma Mia, La La Land, and The Greatest Showman. But, what many theatre fans haven't seen, are the documentaries exploring the creation of these musicals. Here are ten of the best musical theatre documentaries available on streaming platforms and why you need to watch them:

1. Hamilton: One Shot to Broadway

Starting off strong, this documentary describes how one of America's most influential musicals came to be. In it, Lin Manuel-Miranda talks about the journey of marrying hip-hop and history to create Hamilton.

Watch it on Youtube.

2. Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles

Half a century before Hamiton took to the Broadway stage, Fiddler on the Roof dazzled audiences as it explored important themes relating to tradition, religion, and anti-Semitism. This documentary features rare archival footage and interviews with Broadway legends who have created and admired Fiddler on the Roof throughout the years.

Watch it on Amazon Prime.

3. We Are Freestyle Love Supreme

If you enjoyed "Hamilton: One Shot to Broadway," you'll love this. Released last year, "We Are Freestyle Love Supreme" follows Lin's hip-hop comedy improv group that was founded way before In The Heights and Hamilton.

Watch it on Hulu.

4. Show Business: The Road to Broadway

Number 4 on my list features 4 musicals of the 2004 Tony Awards season: Wicked, Avenue Q, Caroline or Change, and Taboo. This documentary takes the viewer through the step-by-step process of producing each show, leading up all the way to the night of the Tonys.

Watch it on Youtube.

5. Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened

Stephen Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along opened in November 1981 to devastating reviews and closed after a mere 16 performances. This combination of interviews and rehearsal footage opens the audience's eyes to the beauty of this critically-condemned flop.

Watch it on Netflix.

6. The Making of West Side Story

Unlike Merrily We Roll Along, West Side Story is perhaps one of the most beloved musicals of all time. In this documentary, the show's composer, the legendary Leonard Bernstein, conducts the 1985 recording of the score, which features opera stars Kiri Te Kanawa and Jose Carreras.

Watch it on Youtube.

7. Terrence McNally: Every Act of Life

Famous playwright Terrence McNally impacted theatre for over six decades. "Every Act of Life" examines his revolutionary work in Ragtime, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Master Class, Frankie and Johnnie, and more.

Watch it on Amazon Prime.

8. Legally Blonde: The Search for Elle Woods

Omigod You Guys! This amazing documentary, launched by MTV, is an intense 8-episode series of performers who audition to replace Laura Bell Bundy in her Tony-nominated role of Elle Woods.

Watch it on Youtube.

9. Six By Sondheim

You can never have too much Sondheim. He is unarguably one of the world's best lyricists. This documentary, directed and co-produced by his close companion and award-winning librettist, James Lapine, explores six Sondheim songs and their cultural and personal significance.

Watch it on Youtube.

10. Every Little Step

This theatre documentary list would be incomplete without "Every Little Step." It focuses on the audition process of the hit 2006 revival of A Chorus Line, ironically making it a documentary about getting cast in a musical about getting cast in a musical. It is the theatre documentary of all theatre documentaries, and will make you fall in love with musicals all over again by the strike of the first chord in "What I Did For Love."

Watch it on Youtube.


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From This Author Student Blogger: Joey Tabasco