Great Performances: Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy (PBS)
It’s hardly a secret that Jewish songwriters and composers, from Irving Berlin to Stephen Sondheim, have played outsized roles in the history of the Broadway musical. Yet this immensely entertaining documentary, by virtue of its rich, specific detail, still comes across as a revelation. With vintage film clips and fresh, instructive performances, it demonstrates how music of the temple and the Yiddishkeit, the Yiddish theater of early 20th Century New York, was repurposed into both the melodies and lyrics of songs like “It Ain’t Necessarily So” from George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Or how Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart’s early hit “Manhattan” abounds with references to New York’s predominantly Jewish Lower East Side. And it shows us how these immigrants or children of immigrants channeled their eagerness for assimilation and acceptance into songs that idealized what it meant to be an American. For providing a key to our national identity while delighting us with some of the most tuneful entertainment the world has ever known, Great Performances: Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy receives a Peabody Award.
Executive Producers: Albert M. Tapper, Barbara Brilliant, David Horn. Producer: Michael Kantor. Co-Producers: Jan Gura, Sylvia Cahill. Director: Michael Kantor. Writer: Michael Kantor. Narrator: Joel Grey. Editor: Kris Liem. Music Supervisor: Andy Einhorn.