Can't get out to the theatre? PBS' Great Performances series, now in its 25th year, is bringing theatre to your TV several times this season. Included this season have been a visit to the new Globe Theatre, a look at the creation of Ragtime, and the history of Porgy and Bess.
Upcoming programs include:
* June 10: A broadcast of Matthew Bourne's hit London staging of Swan Lake. It's the same show producer Cameron Mackintosh is opening on Broadway in late September.
* July 8: "Sam Shepard: Stalking Himself." From Buried Child to The Eyes Of Conseula, a look at the uniquely American playwright. Shepard will read from his own works in the documentary, which will also include footage from mountings of such plays as Curse of the Starving Class and The Tooth of Crime.
Offering their thoughts on the playwright will be Gary Sinise, John Malkovich, Ethan Hawke, Lois Smith and Ed Harris. Perhaps the most telling comment about Shepard's work comes from the author himself: "You know, it's ridiculous to think you were born out of thin air. There's ancestors, and if you don't honor your ancestors in the real sense, you're committing a kind of suicide." On most stations, the documentary will be followed by a rebroadcast of the legendary 1984 American Playhouse tele-staging of True West, with Malkovich and Sinise.
* Aug. 12: Opera: "The Elixir of Love."
* Aug. 19: A concert saluting producer Cameron Mackintosh (Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon), taped June 8 at London's Lyceum Theatre. Titled "Hey Mr. Producer! The Musical World of Cameron Mackintosh," the show is directed by Bob Avian and Julia McKenzie.
Appearing in concert are Judi Dench, Bernadette Peters, Elaine Paige, Stephen Sondheim, Colm Wilkinson (Les Miz), Jonathan Pryce and Lea Salonga, (Miss Saigon), Michael Hayden (Carousel), Ruthie Henshall and musical satirist Tom Lehrer. A benefit for the Royal National Institute of the Blind and the Combined Theatrical Charities, the event will feature Queen Elizabeth in the audience.
Excerpts from Mackintosh's many produced musicals in the U.S. and London will be shown, including Side By Side By Sondheim, Five Guys Named Moe, Martin Guerre and Salad Days, the latter being the first musical Mackintosh ever saw (age 8), which he later remounted.
Spokesperson Bill Grayson told Playbill On-Line that several of the shows this season fall into a new genre, "performance documentary," which means half the program follows a journalistic, documentary format, with the other half devoted to excerpts from productions/concerts. Information on next season's Great Performances will likely be released mid-July.
-- By David Lefkowitz