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Broadway: The American Musical: Tradition (1957-1979)

Airs Friday, May 3, 2013 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: "A Chorus Line" finale, 1975.

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 on KPBS TV.

Courtesy of PBS

A scene from "West Side Story," 1957.

Broadway Trivia Quiz

How much do you know about Broadway? Take the quiz and find out!

Courtesy of Martha Swope

Scene from the musical "Hair," 1968.

Your Stories

Is there a musical you saw on Broadway or touring in your hometown that you really loved and couldn’t forget or a performer who completely mesmerized you? If so, we want to hear your stories.

Episode Five: "Tradition (1957-1979)" - "West Side Story" not only brings nontraditional subject matter to the musical stage, it ushers in a new breed of director/choreographer who insists on performers who can dance, sing and act.

But by the time Jerome Robbins’ last original musical, "Fiddler on the Roof," closes after a record run of 3,242 performances in 1972, the world of Broadway has changed forever.

Rock ‘n’ roll, civil rights and Vietnam usher in new talents, many trained by the retiring masters, taking musical theater in daring new directions with innovative productions like "Hair," the first Broadway musical with an entire score of rock music.

The non-linear narrative of George Furth and Stephen Sondheim’s "Company" plunges the musical into a new era. Hal Prince’s conceptual staging showcases John Kander and Fred Ebb’s dynamic score for "Cabaret."

Bob Fosse captures a sexuality and cynicism ahead of its time with "Chicago," but it is director/choreographer Michael Bennett who spearheads the biggest blockbuster of all – "A Chorus Line." “It totally changed the musical theater,” says Shubert Organization chairman Gerald Schoenfeld. “It was a catalyst for the improvement of this area, and of course this area is now the most desirable area in New York.”

With Sondheim’s "Sweeney Todd," the Broadway musical reaches unexpected new heights in style and material with a tale of slaughter and cannibalism set in 19th-century London. By the end of the 1970s, Broadway becomes the centerpiece of a remarkably successful public relations campaign that will lure tourists to New York for years to come.

The episode features interviews with actor Joel Grey, composer Marvin Hamlisch, actor Jerry Orbach, producer Hal Prince, writer Frank Rich, lyricist Stephen Sondheim, director Julie Taymor, and actor Ben Vereen.

Highlights include rare footage of Ethel Merman rehearsing for "Gypsy" and home movies from the original stage production of "Chicago."

Up Next: The final episode, "Putting It Together (1980 - Present)," airs Friday, May 10, 2013 at 10 p.m.

Video

Series Preview: Broadway: The American Musical

Above: 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.