Broadway: The American Musical: Putting It Together (1980 - Present)
Airs Friday, May 10, 2013 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV
Originally published November 13, 2012 at 12:04 p.m., updated May 1, 2013 at 3:09 p.m.
This six-part documentary series chronicles the Broadway musical throughout the 20th century and explores the evolution of this uniquely American art form. The series draws on a wealth of archival news footage, lost and found television moments, original cast recordings, still photos, feature films, diaries, journals, intimate first-person accounts and on-camera interviews with many of the principals involved in creating the American musical. 2005 Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Nonfiction Series. It originally aired on Fridays, November 2-16, 2012 at 9 p.m. & 10 p.m. on KPBS TV.
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Episode Six: "Putting It Together (1980 - Present)" - Legendary as the “Abominable Showman,” notorious producer David Merrick re-conquers Broadway in 1980 with a smash adaptation of the movie musical "42nd Street." But soon the biggest hits are arriving from an unexpected source – London.
Producer Cameron Mackintosh redefines the business of show business as "Cats," "Les Misérables," "The Phantom of the Opera," and "Miss Saigon" become international blockbusters. James Lapine lures Stephen Sondheim off-Broadway to develop "Sunday in the Park With George," while Jerry Herman’s crowd-pleasing "La Cage aux Folles" has two men sing a love song to each other for the first time on Broadway.
The AIDS crisis decimates Broadway. With Julie Taymor’s triumphant re-imagining of "The Lion King," Disney leads an astonishing resurrection of "42nd Street." Composer Jonathan Larson scores a bittersweet victory with the rock-flavored "Rent," and the old-style musical is reborn in Mel Brooks’ "The Producers," which becomes the first must-see musical comedy in decades, fetching a ticket price of $480 for each VIP seat.
After 9/11, Broadway – like the rest of America – emerges from the darkness. Broadway’s corporate dominance continues to grow, as evidenced by new shows such as "Wicked," the biggest hit of the 2003-04 season. “Oh, I’ve been hearing about Broadway disappearing ever since I put on long pants,” says the illustrator Al Hirschfeld. “I mean, it’s been the fabulous invalid. You know, but it survives, it survives.”
The episode features interviews with writer/producer Mel Brooks, actor Kristin Chenoweth, Walt Disney Corporation CEO Michael Eisner, actor/bookwriter Harvey Fierstein, composer/lyricist Jerry Herman, actor Nathan Lane, playwright/director James Lapine, producer Rocco Landesman, director Arthur Laurents, actor Idina Menzel, Nederlander Theaters chairman James Nederlander Sr., director Susan Stroman, and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Highlights include home movies of Jonathan Larson working as a waiter before leaving his job to create "Rent," and exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of "Wicked" in rehearsal and opening on Broadway.