Knight at the Movies Archives
A vibrant documentary about Broadway theatre and a return to form for the Ocean crew
The only thing clunky about ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway is its title. The deliberate mash up between the words
“show” and “business” to emphasize the direct correlation of the two is nothing if not forced. We all know how much “business”
dictates “show” thanks to an inexhaustible entertainment media reporting figures on inflated budgets, grosses, salaries, how much
was raked in for a triumph or lost on a failure. We also know the long shot odds, riskiest of all, in mounting a Broadway musical. So
yes, though director Dori Berinstein’s documentary could have used a more original title nothing else in her thrilling look at the
mounting of four Broadway musicals during the 2003-2004 Season suffers for it. As an avowed show tune queen I felt I was being
fed mother’s milk as I watched this fabulously entertaining film. You will too.
Berinstein, a Tony award winning Broadway producer was inspired by writer William Goldman’s legendary book “The Season,” which
documented the 1967-68 Broadway season, to try and do the same on film. Though the geographical area of Broadway is just 12
blocks in Manhattan (which we see lit up at night in a breathtaking opening shot) the difficulty of the task Berinstein set for herself
(this is her debut as a feature director) must have been daunting. How to sum up a world that rises or fails on so many creative
intangibles? Goldman had the poetry of words and a reader’s imagination on his side, Berinstein about 90 minutes and the harsh
immediacy of film to do the same. But lucky for Berinstein (and us) the season she documents (2003-2004) included a batch of
new musicals – “Wicked,” “Avenue Q,” “Caroline, or Change,” “Taboo” – that do just that. We do see glimpses of several of that
season’s plays but in the Disneyfied Broadway world of today musicals account for the majority of shows on the Great White Way with
the Tony being the equivalent of the Best Picture Oscar.
Berinstein captures everything about these four very different shows which run the budget and artistic gamut as they prepare for their
respective opening nights and that’s what makes the film so enticing. Never before has anyone seemed to have this kind of access
to so many shows at once. And these were also musicals that vividly demonstrated the power of marketing and gossip on their
eventual outcome and the movie has its share of juicy moments that are hard to resist. The movie also offers a feast of behind the
scene details – we see Idina Menzel as Elphaba the wicked witch in “Wicked” painted green for the first time (and overhear her
counterpart Kristen Chenoweth as Glinda quip, “I think I want to be green”), Boy George in make-up for his role as performance
artist Leigh Bowery and Rosie O’Donnell, the sole producer of “Taboo,” arriving for their press conference and denying rumors of
trouble with the show, Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori sitting at a piano trying to solve a problem with a song in “Caroline, or
Change” – and much, much more.
Interviews with cast members and the creative and marketing teams behind the shows are interspersed throughout. Berinstein has
also added a series of catty vignettes of lunchtime gatherings of powerful New York critics predicting the outcomes of the shows we’re
getting glimpses of. In addition, Broadway veteran watchers (including Goldman) weigh in with their thoughts with out performer Alan
Cumming doing most of the opining. His charming and thoughtful insights amount to a one man Greek chorus (he is the film’s co-
producer and at one point was slated to narrate). As the film builds to the various opening nights, the Tony nominations and then
the Tony Awards ceremony with which it ends, the “all or nothing” stakes of Broadway theatre are palpable. (One quibble: Berinstein
gives too much camera time to the annoying New York Post theatre critic and his comments at the Tony Awards finally push him into
the “enough already” column).
This being a document of Broadway musicals, naturally, the input of gay men and women in the process is enormous and Our
People are everywhere throughout the movie and its very gratifying to see that tacit recognition. This and Berinstein’s unfettered
access adds to the giddy feeling of being the ultimate Broadway insider. Showbusinesss: The Road to Broadway is a deeply
entertaining movie that deserves a standing ovation. Opens this Friday at Chicago's Music Box Theatre. www.musicboxtheatre.com
“Is it better than Ocean’s Twelve?” a friend asked the other day after learning I’d just seen a screening of Ocean’s Thirteen. I
had to think. “Twelve was the one where Andy Garcia the casino owner who got taken in Eleven got his revenge, right?” My friend
couldn’t remember. I couldn’t remember either though we both eventually decided that was the case and that it took place in Italy.
Maybe. “So, yeah, this one is better because they’re back in Vegas where they belong” and indeed, that’s where George Clooney,
Brad Pitt, Matt Damon et al really DO belong and where these impossibly confident, gorgeously tailored, impossibly handsome men
resonate and ring-a-ding-ding-ding, baby.
I’m not sure how long that will hold true. By the time of Ocean’s Fourteen I will probably have forgotten all the intricacies of the plot of
the movie which hinges on the group taking revenge in the name of Elliott Gould who has been foolishly taken in by nefarious casino
owner Al Pacino. Much of the plot frittered away DURING the movie but that doesn’t impede this from being light, easy going
entertainment, perfect summer fare, perfect date fare, perfect favorite waste of time fare. Director Steven Soderbergh and his
modern day rat pack cast have again perfectly played off their Mr. Cool public personas and there’s a bounce in everyone’s step as
they zip through the lavish, gigantic, tech stuffed sets, chatting on their Blue Tooths that’s palpable. The soundtrack includes the
usual assortment of space age bachelor pad instrumentals to add to the playful mood and fittingly a Sinatra tune is heard at its
ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway-Ocean's Thirteen
6-6-07 Windy City Times Knight at the Movies Column
By Richard Knight, Jr.