In the last few years, I’ve noticed an explosion of Broadway musicals making their way to the big screen. And not as an adaption the way they tease us with Wicked or In The Heights. I’m talking about filming the Broadway (or West End) production in the theater, live, the way it is meant to be seen. And then releasing it in cinemas for those of us who couldn’t make it to NYC/London in time or who want to relive the magic all over again. Now I’m saying, “release the DVD!” If it’s on film, it could and needs to be released in DVD form. Here’s why.
I’ve seen many of these filmed productions over the years, and few have stuck with me like Allegiance. Based on George Takei’s family experience in the Japanese Internment camps during WW2 it sheds light on a dark time in American history. There have been many movies made surrounding various events during WW2, but few approach it from this angle. Is this a perfect description of what happened to all Japanese-Americans during that time? No. But it starts dialogue and conversation.
The King and I announced recently a filmed performance from London will be released in theaters this month. This is another piece that isn’t perfect but is a good conversation starter for history/civics/social studies classes surrounding European colonialism, cultural differences/biases and the downsides to Euro-centric viewpoints.
Bandstand is another show centered on the events of WW2 though this takes place after the war ends. It features a realistic, gritty portrayal of soldiers trying to acclimate to civilian life and the civilians they left behind trying to make sense of the new normal. Highlighting mental health issues like PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, and survivor’s guilt it’s not your typical show, and that’s what makes it needed in our lives. Too often we forget or attempt to gloss over the darker side of life. Bandstand makes the darkness front and center in a way that isn’t necessarily good or bad but simply “Everything Happens.”
Historical and educational benefits aside, filming these shows preserves actors, choreographers, and directors intentions for posterity. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a recording of Vivian Blaine’s full performance as Miss Adelaide from Guys and Dolls as opposed to the snippet from the 1971 Tony Awards two decades after she originated the role? (*I know she reprised her role in the MGM movie from 1955, but that’s like comparing apples to celery). Thanks to filmed concert version we have Neil Patrick Harris, Patti LuPone and the rest of that remarkable cast of Sondheim’s Company. We have the West End production of Oklahoma from 1999, and the first time the actress portraying Laurie also did her own dream-sequence ballet dancing which also captured Susan Stroman’s beautiful choreography for all time. If the show is being filmed (as all should but that’s for another post), we deserve the chance to watch and re-watch all the remarkable performances as many times as we want.
Lastly (and this is the one that probably resonates with the powers-that-be), YOU’LL MAKE MORE MONEY! After the show closes the chance of you making more money is zero. However, if you release the DVD, you’ll make money. Will these DVDs break sales records? No. But I’m willing to bet they’ll more than break even. Most of the screenings I attend are more than half full and given that the screenings are extremely limited releases both geographically and restricted to one or two days, my guess is there are far more people willing to pay for the DVD than who can make it to the cinema.
The cinema and theater reach us like nothing else. So give us the filmed versions of these theatrical masterpieces.