It didn’t get a great deal of promotion – in fact, it pretty much slipped between the cracks, and I only caught it on its repeat. But a couple weeks ago, Great Performances on PBS had a sequel to the documentary they did 18 years ago, Broadway: the Golden Age. This one is called Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age.
It’s absolutely great, arguably better than the first one. It’s a bit different– the first was largely an overview of the entire period. This is more focused on several shows, but it gives a sense of the era. And I don’t want to say why it’s so wonderful, since it’s full of surprises -- some of them small but lovely, some huge, some for the people who appear on camera. I’ll only mention one: Robert Redford, who talks with such warmth and affection about the early days of his career on Broadway. Also, the opening 5-10 minutes of the documentary are thrilling, as actors talk about what it’s like preparing for the curtain to go up, beautifully, rivetingly edited. But it’s not like that’s the high point of the production and downhill from there. It’s all terrific.
And sequences and moments are so great of a joyous, distant era, and include some rare, never-before-seen footage.
By the way, after watching it I found out through a friend who knows one of the producers why this appeared to be a bit different from the first documentary. That’s because this was only 98 minutes or so, but the full documentary was 150 minutes. They cut out a third of the film to fit in the PBS timeslot with Pledge Breaks. There’s almost another hour of material left! And yet it was still tremendous. On the positive end, I’m told that the company is looking for outlets.
Both films were directed by Rick McKay. Sadly, he passed away three years ago before this second production was completed. However, the production team and editor were finally able to finish it. A couple of friends got to know him well in the last 15 years or so of his life, though a sort of family connection, and spoke highly of him.
Hopefully you’ve had a chance to see it, or will be able to catch it on a repeat on one of the various PBS channels, or On Demand. But it’s also on the PBS Passport website for PBS subscribers. This is the direct link here.
However, good news! It appears that I can embed the show on my website – I just tested it, and that seems to be the case. Just know that the video expires in about two weeks, on September 11.
If you can make it full screen, do so.
It’s great. And one of those things I feel comfortable saying, “Trust me.”
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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