6 Documentaries Every Broadway Fan Should Watch

Special Features   6 Documentaries Every Broadway Fan Should Watch Some of Broadway’s most fascinating moments happened off stage. Here’s a look at six showbiz documentaries that should be on every theatre fan’s must-watch list.
Documentaries_Broadway_HR

Two documentary films premiering this fall spotlight the history of an influential Broadway musical, adding to a handful of films that offer a rare cinematic glimpse of theatre history.

Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened..., the new film from original Merrily We Roll Along cast member Lonny Price, looks back at the creation and short-lived Broadway run of the 1981 musical by Stephen Sondheim, George Furth and director Harold Prince. The film premiered at the New York Film Festival October 9 with a wide theatrical release November 18.

On October 21, PBS premieres Hamilton’s America, the new documentary from Alex Horwitz that traces the history of the groundbreaking Broadway hit Hamilton. From inception to its early days at the Public Theater and its acclaimed arrival on Broadway, Hamilton’s America also includes never-before-seen, high-def footage of the original cast performing the show on Broadway.

Here are six more that capture the ups, downs and the legendary moments of life onstage:

1. Carol Channing: Larger Than Life

A fitting tribute to a beloved Broadway legend, filmmaker and Broadway producer Dori Berinstein chronicles the life, loves and historic career of Tony winner Carol Channing in this 2012 film. From her San Francisco childhood, to her 1941 Broadway debut (at age 19) and her iconic performance in Hello, Dolly!, Channing recounts the highs and lows of a life spent on the stage. Channing opens up about her personal life, including her four marriages and her relationship with her son. Showbiz groundbreakers, including Lily Tomlin, Chita Rivera, Debbie Reynolds, Phyllis Diller and more, offer heartfelt tributes celebrating Channing’s singular talent. (87 minutes)
Available on: Netflix DVD, iTunes and Amazon Video

2. Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

“It's a little frightening for people to get into your life that much, but I don't have anything to hide,” the late Elaine Stritch told Playbill.com during the filming. “There's no point in doing a documentary unless you absolutely deliver the 100 percent truth.” Filmmaker Chiemi Karasawa began shooting the documentary in 2011, three years before Stritch’s death. The film is classic Stritch: unflinchingly candid, shrewdly funny, deeply moving and flecked with tension. Karasawa delivers a gripping film that captures a Broadway lion still capable of roaring in the final years of her life. (81 minutes)
Available on: Netflix DVD, iTunes, Amazon Video

3. Every Little Step

This backstage look at the 2006 Broadway revival of A Chorus Line documents the hopes and dreams as the latest round of dancers audition for a spot on the line. Directed and produced by James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo, along with executive producer John Breglio (who controls rights to the landmark musical), Every Little Step provides an intimate look at the rigors of the audition process, and the highs and lows that come with it. The 2008 film also explores the late Michael Bennett's creation of the original production. The documentary includes testimonials from A Chorus Line's initial workshop tapes, which feature the voices of the original 1975 cast members. (96 minutes)
Available on: Netflix DVD, iTunes, Amazon Video

4. Original Cast Album: Company

Company_Original_cast_Album_HR

Packed with drama, D. A. Pennebaker’s documentary goes inside the recording studio for the original Broadway cast album of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s groundbreaking 1970 musical Company. Recorded (and filmed) over a breakneck 24-hour period, the behind-the-scenes account of the album’s creation is the stuff of Broadway legend. Sondheim and director Harold Prince provide illuminating insight, and performances by Dean Jones’ (“Being Alive”) and Elaine Stritch, who comes to a standstill during a frazzled late-night recording of “Ladies Who Lunch” will leave you speechless. (58 minutes)
Available on: Netflix DVD

5. Show Business: The Road to Broadway

The destiny of four Broadway musicals from the 2003-2004 season are captured in this must-watch 2007 documentary from Dori Berinstein. The movie offers a rare behind-the-scenes view of a show’s creative process—from casting to opening night. Critics, creatives and Broadway’s biggest movers and shakers are the key players in this documentary that focuses on Wicked, Taboo, Avenue Q and Caroline, or Change. (102 minutes)
Available on: Netflix DVD

6. Six By Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim’s frequent collaborator, James Lapine, directed this 2013 HBO documentary exploring the composer-lyricist’s prolific career. Lapine executive-produced the film with Frank Rich. Sondheim offers a glimpse into the creation of such songs as “Something's Coming,” “Opening Doors,” “Send in the Clowns,” “I’m Still Here,” “Being Alive” and “Sunday.” The documentary is punctuated with a series of musical performances from stars including Audra McDonald, Darren Criss, Jeremy Jordan, America Ferrera and more. (86 minutes)
Available on: HBOGo, YouTube, iTunes, Amazon Video

THEATRE-LOVER’S GUIDE TO WHAT’S STREAMING IN NOVEMBER

Recommended Reading: