ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway
NEW YORK -- A sort of cinematic equivalent to William Goldman's classic nonfiction book "The Season," Dori Berinstein's documentary chronicles the stories of four Broadway musicals during the 2003-04 season. Filled with an insider's perspective and access -- the filmmaker is a three-time Tony-winning producer, with "Legally Blonde" her most recent credit -- "ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway" will be necessary viewing to anyone interested in the current state of Broadway theater.
The shows in question -- "Wicked," "Avenue Q," "Taboo" and "Caroline, or Change" -- received greatly varying responses on the Great White Way. The filmmaker, who shot footage of these and many other productions of the season, clearly has concentrated on these four because each was nominated for that Holy Grail of theater, the Tony for best musical.
Depicting their journeys from writing and rehearsals to final productions to the Tonys, the film makes vividly clear the largely unseen blood and sweat that go into the making of a Broadway show. Berinstein was particularly fortunate in her choice of seasons, as there were more than a few major backstage dramas during the frame, from the financial debacle that was the Rosie O'Donnell-produced "Taboo" to the little puppet show that could, "Avenue Q," which bucked the odds in its jump from off-Broadway and managed to snatch the Tony from the more heavily favored blockbuster "Wicked."
Director Berinstein's inexperience is reflected in the film's haphazard narrative and frequently awkward interludes. (Typical of the latter are the stiffly staged scenes featuring a group of theater critics sitting around a restaurant table gossiping about the season.) But the wealth of fascinating backstage material and interviews make up for any shortcomings, with the results shedding much-needed light on a fascinating show-business institution.