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Customer Review

TOP 50 REVIEWERon April 10, 2013
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. You even get a look at Huge Jackman (Les Miz) in an excerpt of "Oklahoma" on Broadway (1999). Leonard Bernstein turned me on to musical productions in the 1960s, "West Side Story". The first Jewish created Jewish story musical, "Fiddler on the Roof" led the wave to follow. (A fact I learned from this DVD) You see/hear interviews with some of the great legends, and some of their descendants. It's all presented--and more.

The Jewish community may not have been the only contribution to the stage, but they certainly made -and make- a huge historical mark. It made me realize another aspect of what the world lost due to the command of Hitler.
Mazel Tov
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