Can't get out to the theatre? PBS' Great Performances series will be bringing theatre to your TV several times this season, including televised documentaries on the new Globe Theatre in London, a tribute to John Kander & Fred Ebb, a look at the creation of Ragtime, and a show featuring performer Chita Rivera, among others.
Spokesperson Bill Grayson told Playbill On-Line that several of the shows would fall into a new genre, "performance documentary," which means half the program would follow a journalistic, documentary format, with the other half devoted to excerpts from productions/concerts.
Here's the Great Performances 25th anniversary line-up so far (dates given are East Coast premieres; check local stations for schedules and re broadcasts):
* "Henry V At Shakespeare's Globe" -- An hour-long documentary on London's rebuilt Globe theatre will also feature a lengthy section of Henry V, Act IV (Henry's famous speech to the weary troops). Richard Olivier directed the production shown, which starred artistic director Mark Rylance and was taped opening night, June 12, 1997. Queen Elizabeth II was in attendance. Not available on video, the documentary is produced by Euphoria Films in association wiith BBC 4 and NY's WNET. (Nov. 5)
* "Kander And Ebb Celebration" is a 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. Performing were Joel Grey, Dorothy Loudon, Rosie O'Donnell and Chita Rivera. The documentary section of the piece is still being prepared. (Dec. 3) * "Creating Ragtime" -- Livent and WNET are co-producing this look at the 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)
Also on tap for 1998 are a piece on the New Jersey Performing Arts Center featuring Chita Rivera (to be taped in September) and a documentary on the making of the Broadway-bound, London import, Swan Lake.
--By David Lefkowitz