Friday, May 11, 2007

Show Business

If Irving Berlin had been a filmmaker instead of a song writer, he would have created “Show Business,” the glossy new documentary that brings his great anthem, “There’s No Business Like Show Business” to life.

This movie has it all, taking viewers along to “the openings when your heart beats like a drum” to “the closings when the customers don’t come.” “Show Business” follows four new musicals -- “Wicked,” Avenue Q,” “Caroline, or Change” and “Taboo” -- for one year, starting in the summer with rehearsals, moving on to previews, openings and, in the case of the last two, closings. In between is an unprecedentedly intimate step inside these worlds that few people outside the business get to see.

The filming is excellent, right from the opening shot of a bird's eye view of Manhattan at night in all its shimmering glory. The narrator sets the scene, talking of “the people who love it,” for whom movies and TV “don’t do it.” Then the camera floats down to Times Square, the theatres and the stage doors. “They want to be in these buildings. There’s something magical about going into these buildings. It is like nothing else.” And for the next 100 minutes we go in those buildings too and experience what it’s like to get a show from idea to opening night, the suspense of the Tony nominations and the excitement of that night, with all the glory, as well as “the headaches, the heartaches, the backaches, the flops.” Among those featured are Rosie O’Donnell, Alan Cumming, John Lithgow, Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Menzel, Tonya Pinkins and George C. Wolfe.

“Show Business” is produced by Dori Berinstein, a three-time Tony-winning producer (“Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Fool Moon.”) who is a producer of the delightful new musical “Legally Blonde.” Growing up in Los Angeles, Ms. Berinstein went to the Wiltshire Boulevard Synagogue where many actors, actresses and theatre people went, and she caught their fever. While most of her friends were trying to get out of attending, she says she went to temple "religiously," especially for the speaker’s forum at which professionals in the movie business spoke about their experiences. This captivated her in such a way that she wanted to carve her own niche in the movie/theater/entertainment industry.

Luckily for us, she did. And just as those professional shared their experiences, Ms. Berinstein is doing the same thing now with "Show Business," giving us a never-before-seen look at the inner workings of Broadway shows. She proves what Mr. Berlin knew too -- there really is no business like it.

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