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Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy

4.3 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews

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(May 07, 2013)
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Editorial Reviews

Recent Peabody Award winner as seen on PBS

Performances by Matthew Broderick, Kelli O'Hara, Zero Mostel, Nathan Lane, Barbra Streisand, Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, and many more

Engaging, humorous, and provocative, Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy examines the unique role of Jewish composers and lyricists in the creation of the modern American musical. The film showcases the work of legends such as Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George and Ira Gershwin, Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Leonard Bernstein, and Stephen Sondheim. Interviews with songwriters and luminaries including Sheldon Harnick, Stephen Schwartz, Harold Prince, Arthur Laurents, Charles Strouse, and Mel Brooks provide insight, alongside standout performances and archival footage.

Narrated by Tony® and Academy Award® winner Joel Grey, this entertaining documentary mingles cultural history with illuminating perspectives on the origins and meanings of some of Broadway's most beloved songs, stories, and shows.

Special Features

BONUS FEATURES

Bonus disc with additional interview clips and performances (3 hours)

16-page viewer’s guide featuring reflections on Jewish Broadway, with an introduction by Executive Producer Barbara Brilliant

Biography of narrator Joel Grey


SDH subtitles

Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Athena
  • DVD Release Date: May 7, 2013
  • Run Time: 84 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00BDSRB2S
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,325 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Harold Wolf TOP 50 REVIEWER on April 10, 2013
Format: DVD
GREAT, though I'm no Broadway musicals expert. This DVD made me want to watch musical after musical after musical. This DVD documentary considers a number of significant and much acclaimed shows. My experience with musicals has been enjoyable, but never one presented in NYC. It is not a definitive list but the people behind the productions discussed do tend to be heavily Jewish, the reason for the special emphasis and look at one nationality's impact on the art form. Note the emphasis is more on Jewish artists' (acting, writing, composing, directing) culture, not religion.

With narration by Joel Grey, it begins with early Yiddish theater--quickly the Broadway American Musical began to draw inspiration heavily from the NYC Jewish population. In 1920s 1 in 4 of NYC population was Jewish, partially explaining the heavy participation in musical production. Of course there are exceptions noted on this documentary. A major one being Cole Porter, who actually had 3 shows flops initially. Porter actually told Richard Rogers he was planning to write Jewish tunes--a sure method, accord to Porter, toward musical theater success. Cole Porter scores big in the 1930s.

An abundance of delightful archival footage of NYC and the theater district, Times Square is used. Also footage of old classic performance bits, even including the Marx Bros. For many Jews a name change was necessary to find success, i.e. Israel Baline (Irving Berlin); Jacob Gershowitz (George Gershwin); Isidone Hochbery (Yip Harburg) who wrote "The Wizard of Oz" lyrics, combining with composer Hyman Arluck (Harold Arlen). Jewish Kurt Weill changed from Germany's top theater composer to NYC due to Hitler.

SDH SUBTITLES provided.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The actual DVD Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy was very interesting, although the accompanying DVD with extended interviews was not so exciting. However as this is a bonus DVD it would not stop me from recommending people to buy the DVD's as the main DVD is terrific.
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This is a terrific DVD, saw it first on public television and loved it then. Highly recommend it for education and entertainment.
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It's an interesting documentary on the subject and the interviews are insightful but the lack of clips of full musical numbers is very disappointing and lets face it, most composers do not have the voice to sing their music. Disk 2 is supposed to have 3 hours of additional content including performances, however, unless they are hidden in an "easter egg" I have not found them,
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Format: DVD
So far I have seen only the broadcast version, not the DVD package, and despite some valuable moments of oral history, it adds up to a seriously skewed and unreliable account.

A fundamental thesis of this documentary is flawed: Broadway musicals actually began more than a century ago, not with Jewish songwriters but with the likes of David Braham (associated with Harrigan and Hart), George M. Cohan, and operetta composers such as Victor Herbert and Rudolf Friml, followed by Harry Tierney. Popular nineteenth-century American comic opera composers like John Philip Sousa and Reginald De Koven had also paved the way.

Are we really to believe that the Broadway musical was born when concepts adapted from Yiddish theater migrated uptown? The musical comedies of Broadway were, in truth, an amalgamation of many influences, including minstrel shows and melodramas; British music halls, Savoyard operas, Viennese and Parisian operettas; sentimental ballads and popular songs from the gay '90s; military marches and waltzes; African-American ragtime and jazz. The kind of musical extravaganza that was most popular in turn-of-the-century New York--like FLORODORA from London or THE WIZARD OF OZ from Chicago--might have started with a fanciful plot and a single pair of songwriters, but the script was, to some extent, little more than a pretext for showcasing the talents of different vaudeville-style singers, dancers, and comedians. The show would soon incorporate specialty numbers created by any number of tunesmiths, and the songs might come and go as various performers joined the cast or left it.
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Poor quality color. Bonus disc is really a stretch at 3 hours. This SHOULD have been a winner. The Jewish legacy on B'way is remarkable. This compilation does not do it justice.
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This is a great story about telling great stories! And it is beautifully done. It pulled me in and I did not want to leave - even at the end!
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A first-rate examination of the vital contribution Jewish talents have made to the musical theatre. The DVD includes some interviews and musical performances not shown on PBS, making this well worth owning. A must-have for anyone seriously interested in the history of Broadway musicals.
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