Broadway Documentaries

Happy World Theatre Day!!!

I decided to honour this day by watching some Broadway/theatre documentaries that I had not yet seen. It was a great decision!

I started with The Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened- which I recently found out was added to Canadian Netflix- about the show Merrily We Roll Along, followed by The Heat Is Back On about the revival of Miss Saigon in London, and as I am writing this I am watching The Standbys which focuses on 3 people who are standbys in Broadway shows.

Watching these documentaries today has gotten me thinking about the other Broadway documentaries I have seen (and ones that I want to see) and how much I enjoy watching and learning from these films. I always love learning about Broadway- whether it’s learning about general Broadway history or show specific history/information and I have found documentaries to be a great and entertaining source of information. I don’t think I’ve seen a Broadway documentary that I haven’t liked. Most of them I will even happily watch multiple times, like I would any movie I like.

There are some really great documentaries about Broadway history and some really great show specific documentaries. The following are some of the ones I’ve seen and enjoyed (in no particular order)

  • The Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened– about the musical Merrily We Roll Along, 35 years later
  • Every Little Step– about casting the revival of A Chorus Line with stuff about the history of the show and the original production as well
  • Broadway Idiot– about the musical American Idiot, behind-the-scenes and the process of creating the show
  • Life After Tomorrow– about former Annies and orphans from various productions of Annie; their lives during their respective runs of the show and their lives afterwards
  • Show Business: The Road to Broadway– focusing on the musicals Wicked, Avenue Q, Taboo, and Caroline, or Change
  • Broadway the Golden Age- focuses on Broadway in the 40’s and 50’s
  • Broadway: The American Musical– a documentary in 6 parts, covering Broadway from the late 1800s to 2004
  • The Heat Is Back On– about the revival of Miss Saigon in London in 2014
  • The Standbys– focusing on 3 people who are standbys for Broadway shows, talking about the roles of standbys and understudies and that side of Broadway
  • In the Heights- Chasing Broadway Dreams– about the musical In the Heights (part of Great Performances on PBS)
  • Hamilton’s America– about the musical Hamilton and some of the real history about Alexander Hamilton (part of Great Performances on PBS)
  • Six by Sondheim– looking at the career of Stephen Sondheim (an HBO documentary)

I have learned a lot from these documentaries. So many interesting things come up when you’re hearing from the people who have worked on the shows and been a part of the history, while seeing clips from shows, behind the scenes clips, audition clips and more. I find it all so fascinating. I love seeing the process of creating a show and I love seeing how Broadway has changed over the years (even just hearing how much the price of a ticket has changed is mind-boggling). Documentaries like these can also give you some insight and understanding of a show even if you haven’t actually seen the show itself. I’ve never seen American Idiot but I absolutely love Broadway Idiot as a documentary and now whenever I do get the chance to see it, I’ll already have all this interesting back story and information in my head, which I know will only add to the experience! There are so many interesting bits of information you can get from these documentaries, like Billie Joe Armstrong talking about finding a community in the Broadway world, or hearing how they found a way to hide mike packs in wigs for Miss Saigon so it wasn’t an issue when the girls were in bikinis- I can’t get enough of it!

I can’t wait to see what the future brings for Broadway documentaries- which shows will release making-of documentaries, which eras or Broadway seasons will become the focus of documentaries, or even specific people.

(If anyone has any suggestions of other Broadway-related documentaries, please let me know! I’m always on the lookout for more! And if you would like me to talk about any of these documentaries in more detail let me know and perhaps I can do some more specific posts about them!)

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