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6 Degrees Entertainment

Broadway Musicals - A Jewish Legacy
(Matthew Broderick, Kelli O’Hara, Zero Mostel, Nathan Lane, Barbra Streisand / DVD / G / 2021 / PBS)

Overview: Narrated by Tony-and Academy Award-winner Joel Grey, this entertaining documentary mingles cultural history with illuminating perspectives on the origins and meanings of some of Broadway’s most beloved songs, stories and shows.

With performances by Matthew Broderick, Kelli O’Hara, Zero Mostel, Nathan Lane, Barbra Streisand, Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth and many more!

DVD Verdict: Primarily covering the years from between 1930-1960 - This Great Performances: Broadway Musicals - A Jewish Legacy documentary takes a close-up look at the vast influence that the noted American-Jewish composers (such as, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Leonard Bernstein) had all played in helping to define the Broadway musical as it existed throughout that period of the 20th century.

Engaging, humorous and provocative, Broadway Musicals - A Jewish Legacy examines the unique role of Jewish composers and lyricists in the creation of the modern American musical.

The film also brings to light interviews with songwriters and luminaries, including Sheldon Harnick, Stephen Schwartz, Harold Prince, Arthur Laurents, Charles Strouse and Mel Brooks provide insight, alongside standout performances and archival footage.

We learn that it was the actually predetermined hope of the composers to be able to assimilate, accommodate and bring music into the lives of audiences.

While we can see Jewish liturgy being used in composition, shows were made to highlight the traditions of all people, not only depicting the Jewish experience.

In fact, many of the composers went out of their way to write pieces dealing with non-Jewish characters. That is why 1964’s Fiddler on the Roof was such a break through in the history of the musical theater.

Mel Brooks’ idea of destroying Hitler through comedy is certainly unique, but as far as I’m concerned is still quite controversial to say the least. Indeed, Cole Porter claimed that he would be successful in the field by writing Jewish.

Ethel Merman disgraced herself by bringing a ham sandwich to a Seder on Passover. Merman lived in fear of being associated with Jewish identity. These and oh-so many more things are what we learn here in this totally enthralling Great Performances: Broadway Musicals - A Jewish Legacy. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

Official PBS Purchase Link