DVD Review: On Broadway

STUDIO: Kino Lorber | DIRECTOR: Oren Jacoby
RELEASE DATE: Oct. 19, 2021 | PRICE: DVD $19.99
SPECS: NR | 82 min. | Documentary

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie   | Audio  | Video  | Overall 

The Great White Way recently reopened for business after a lengthy COVID-affected shutdown, so the timing of the release of 2019’s On Broadway, a celebration of five decades of Broadway history, seems perfectly suited for the event.

Teeming with first-rate interviews, philosophical reflections about the New York stage and fine archival footage, this documentary from filmmaker Oren Jacoby offers a fairly comprehensive overview of the highlights and occasional lowlights of Broadway past, and takes us behind-the-scenes of preparation and rehearsals for The Nap, a short-lived 2018 Manhattan Theater Club production set around the British game of snooker.

Despite its exclusivity, the Nap segments don’t hold as much interest as one would hope, but the rest of On Broadway is enjoyable and well-organized.  There are stops along the way for such subjects as Sondheim, Fosse, August Wilson, Joe Papp’s Public Theater, the “British Invasion” spearheaded by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the closing of old theaters and opening of new ones, and the impact of such smashes as A Chorus Line, Rent and Angels in America.  There are serious moments about the cleanup and resurrection of Times Square started by Mayor Abe Beame in the mid-1970s after it became a hub for strip clubs, porno theaters and prostitution, along with the effects of the AIDS crisis on the theatrical world. The latter subject is handled powerfully with obituaries that remind us of the talents that were lost.

Along with a host of talking heads captured previously before the cameras, the film boasts recent candid sit-downs with the likes of Helen Mirren, Ian McKellen, John Lithgow, Tommy Tune, Alec Baldwin, James Corden, Hugh Jackman, columnist Michael Riedel and director George C. Wolfe. One of the more unique aspects of On Broadway is the importance it places on the theater owners, especially the Schubert Organization, which led the way as a new source of producing shows by backing expensive productions that went on to become hits.

Even Broadway fans familiar with the ground covered here should get a few kicks out of On Broadway even if they don’t give it an extended standing ovation.

Buy or Rent On Broadway

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.