Can't get out to the theatre? PBS' Great Performances series, beginning its 26th year Sept. 30, will bring theatre to your TV several times during the fall. In fact, the season opener will be a gala George Gershwin centennial concert taped at Carnegie Hall.
Three-time Tony winner Audra McDonald (Carousel, Master Class, Ragtime) joins her Ragtime co-star Brian Stokes Mitchell to sing tunes from Porgy and Bess. The Sept. 30 broadcast also features conductor Michael Tilson Thomas leading the San Francisco Symphony in "An American In Paris" and the Second Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra.
Other theatrical highlights will include:
Paige, who originated the role of Grizabella in 1981, will play that shunned but ultimately redeemed cat in the video (which will be shot on film), singing the show's pop hit, "Memory." Paige made her Broadway debut in Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard. Page appeared as The Lord in Randy Newman's Faust at La Jolla Playhouse. Gillian Lynne, original choreographer, directed and choreographed the stage proceedings, with David Mallet directing the film itself. The Adelphi Theatre was used for the filming, said Lloyd Webber spokesperson Peter Brown, "because it was dark, and we needed a theatre. Plus, Andrew owns it." The theatre has a proscenium arch stage. A "specially augmented" 76 piece orchestra was engaged for the production.
The home version of Cats will be made commercially available Oct. 27, via PolyGram Video.
And speaking of Lord LW, his 50th birthday celebration will be broadcast Dec. 2. Those on hand for the proceedings at the Royal Albert Hall included Glenn Close, Donny Osmond, Kiri Te Kanawa and Antonio Banderas.
Dec. 4, "Pavarotti and Friends" will feature singer/actress Vanessa Williams (Kiss of the Spider Woman), while Dec. 30 marks the world premiere of Andre Previn and Philip Littell's operatic adaptation of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, featuring Rodney Gilfry as Stanley and Rene Fleming as Blanche.
A Dec. 31 "Dance In America" documentary on film choreographer Busby Berkeley should also be of interest to musical theatre buffs.
This past season, Great Performance broadcasts have included looks at Sam Shepard and the creation of Ragtime. Still coming up this season, Aug. 19, is 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.