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 are a visit to the new Globe Theatre, a look at the creation of Ragtime, and a show featuring performer Chita Rivera.
Up next, Dec. 3 (9 PM EST), is "Kander And Ebb Celebration," an hour-long performance documentary, built around a tribute to the songwriting team at NY's Supper Club. Taped soon after Steel Pier opened on Broadway, the event saluted the musical team behind Cabaret, Flora, The Red Menace, and Chicago.
Performances and insights are offered by Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey, Dorothy Loudon, Rosie O'Donnell, Lauren Bacall, Ann Reinking, Bebe Neuwirth, Gwen Verdon, Jerry Herman, Hal Prince, Frank Rich and Chita Rivera.
Special clips will also be part of the mix, according to Great Performances spokesperson Bill Grayson. "For the first time we see the original ending (in try-outs) of Chicago, with Gwen and Chita doing the finale -- which is different from the current finale. Chita plays the drums; Gwen the sax."
* Upcoming "Great Performances" topics include:
* "Creating Ragtime" -- Livent and WNET are co-producing this lo ee Toronto/L.A. Sensation on its way to New York. E.L. Doctorw, author of the original novel, will be featured prominently in the documentary, as will creators Stephen Flaherty, Lynn Ahrens and director Frank Galati. Director of the documentary, Sandy Pearl, says, "What we are going for in this film is the full realization of a modern-day producer's [Garth Drabinsky's] quest to create a definitive musical while simultaneously creating the theatre of his dreams." (Jan. 21, 1998) * "Porgy And Bess -- An American Voice." A look at George Gershwin's creation of the legendary American folk opera. Interviewees include Maya Angelou, Diahann Carroll and William Warfield. (Feb. 4, 1998)
* Feb. 13, 1998: A piece on The New Jersey Performing Arts Center, featuring Chita Rivera performing a medley from West Side Story.
* (tentative date) March 6, 1998: A pre-taped concert of Alan Menken's music, to be staged at Carnegie Hall in February 1998.
* June 10, 1998: The making of the Cameron Mackintosh London hit, Swan Lake.
Spokesperson 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.
-- By David Lefkowitz