In episode 10 of the Filmed Live Musicals podcast, I chat with Broadway dancer and associate choreographer Barry Busby! We talk about Starlight Express, being a swing, the work of an associate choreographer, creating the incredible jump rope number in Holiday Inn, and more!
Barry Busby is a Texas native, MFA graduate from the University of Oklahoma, and has lived in NYC for over 11 years where he just recently closed the 11-time Tony nominated production of Tootsie. He has been the Associate choreographer to Denis Jones for over 8 years and together they have collaborated on Broadway, all over the country, and internationally on over 40 productions. His Broadway credits include: Honeymoon in Vegas, Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn, Sunset Boulevard starring Glenn Close, and Tootsie. Regionally he has worked at some of North America‘s most prominent theatres including: The MUNY, Goodspeed, Papermill Playhouse, The Kennedy Center, Dallas Theatre Center, TUTS, The Alley Theatre,and Williamstown Theatre Festival. In 2014 and 2016 he was featured on the iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and most recently in the 73rd annual Tony Awards hosted by James Corden. When his schedule allows, Barry travels the world teaching master classes to the next generation of musical theatre hopefuls.
Holiday Inn is currently available to stream on BroadwayHD and on PBS Passport!
Learn more about Barry at www.barrybusby.com and follow him on Instagram!
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As elemental as song and dance are to human nature, so are the quests for power and control of resources. One day some people are fighting each other, and the next, those same people, the people around them, and their descendants, recover from the pain of war, process grief, and try to find understanding by musicalizing the experiences of war.
In honor of Remembrance/Veteran's Day, here is a list of filmed live musicals telling the war stories of service, of survival, and sacrifice, from around the world.
Allegiance is loosely based on the events of actor George Takei’s life. During World War II, Takei and his family, along with 120,000 Japanese-American citizens were incarcerated in camps within the United States. Filmed live on Broadway in 2016, and released in cinemas in December of that year. It briefly held the record as Fathom Events’ highest grossing Broadway film. Allegiance was briefly available to stream on Broadway on Demand, and now is available in a Limited Edition Collector Box Set DVD.
An American in Paris
Using the music of George and Ira Gerswhin, this romanticized musical tells the story of an American GI who falls in love with a Parisian woman in the days following the end of WWII. Adapted from the MGM movie of the same name, the stage production was filmed live on the West End in 2017. It is currently available to stream on BroadwayHD.
A Tale of Two Cities
Set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, A Tale of Two Cities is based on Charles Dickens’ novel of the same name. The musical had a brief run on Broadway in 2008, and received concert stagings in London, Paris, and Brighton. The concert performances were compiled into a special which was broadcast on PBS and is also available on DVD.
Filmed live on Broadway in 2017, this swing musical tells the story of a musician who returns from fighting in Europe during WWII, traumatized but with the desire to re-build his life following the death of his best friend. Although the musical was the first theatrical production to be certified by Get Your 6 for its authentic portrayal of the military, Bandstand was criticized for its lack of characters or actors of color. Released in cinemas in 2018, the musical was briefly available to stream on Playbill and Broadway on Demand earlier this year.
From Here to Eternity
British musical From Here to Eternity is based on James Jones’ novel of the same name. With music by Stuart Brayson, lyrics by Sir Tim Rice, and a book by Bill Oakes, the musical depicts the affairs of US soldiers stationed in Hawaii in the lead-up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was filmed live during its West End run in 2014, and is currently available to stream on BroadwayHD.
A much lauded hip hop musical following the trials and tribulations of American founding father Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton depicts battles from the Revolutionary War, and the battles of the cabinet. Currently available to stream on Disney+.
A fictionalized re-telling of true events, Imagine This is set in the Warsaw Jewish ghetto during the Holocaust. With departure to a camp imminent, a local theatre troupe are encouraged by their director to stage a musical about Masada (where a group of 960 Jewish refugees in the year 70 attempted to evade Roman soldiers before committing mass suicide). The musical had a short-lived run on the West End in 2008 where it was filmed live. It is now available on DVD.
Based on Victor Hugo’s historical novel of the same name, Les Miserables is not set during the French Revolution, but is based on the uprisings that took place a few decades later (as brilliantly described by Forbidden Broadway). Although the stories and characters in Les Mis are fiction, they are drawn from Hugo’s close observations of Paris life. The musical has been filmed live three times, the 10th anniversary concert, 25th anniversary concert, and, most recently, last year’s West End staged concert. All three versions are available on DVD, the 25th anniversary is available on BroadwayHD, and the 2019 staged concert is available on Amazon UK, Apple TV. and Sky.
A modernized re-telling of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, Miss Saigon is set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon. The musical tells the ill-fated love story of Kim, a young woman in Saigon, and an American G.I., Chris. The 25th anniversary gala production was filmed live on the West End in 2016 and is currently available to view on Amazon UK, BroadwayHD, and on Blu-Ray and DVD.
Only the Brave
Based on true stories, this British musical follows Captain John Howard and Lieutenant Denholm Brotheridge, and their wives Joy and Maggie, as the soldiers prepare for the D-Day landings. The 2016 production at the Wales Millennium Centre featured a real-life vet playing the role of John Howard Senior. Only the Brave was filmed live for archival purposes in 2016 and is available on Vimeo.
Pieces of String
Set in 1940 and the present day, British musical Pieces of String was inspired by a BBC documentary that briefly mentioned gay relationships in the armed forces during World War II, and modern day stories of gay men being unable to donate blood. Composer Gus Gowland sought to widen the scope for the way gay male characters are portrayed in musical theatre (a topic which he later explored in his PhD dissertation), and attempted to ensure women were also equally represented in the musical. Filmed live during its run at Mercury Theatre Colchester in 2018, the production is available to stream via Digital Theatre.
Return: The Promise of the Day
Produced by the Korean Army and Insight Entertainment, this musical tells the story of a Korean War vet who goes in search of his lost comrades. The musical featured K-pop stars D.O. and Xiumin of EXO and former Wanna One member Yoon Ji-sung. Four performances were streamed online in late September.
Based on the short story collection Tales of the South Pacific, the now classic musical South Pacific was ground breaking musical for its exploration of racism, war, and interracial relationships. The show marked the fourth collaboration for legendary musical theatre composers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. There are currently two filmed live productions of South Pacific in the database. The 2005 concert filmed at Carnegie Hall (available on DVD) and the 2010 Broadway revival filmed at Lincoln Center (not currently available).
Tyneham: No Small Sacrifice
This British musical tells the story of the residents of Tyneham, who were told to leave their homes in 1942 as the bequest of the British military. Although the residents were promised their homes would be returned, the Tyneham remains military property to this day. Performed by amateur theatre company Generations Apart in 2013, the musical is currently available to view on YouTube.
V for Victory
This still-in-development British musical explores the lives of a group of friends in the resistance against the German occupation of Jersey during World War II. A concert version was performed at the Stockwell Playhouse in 2018 and was filmed live. It is currently available to view on YouTube.
Waiting for the Ship to Sail
Produced by Chickenshed in the UK, this timely musical is an artistic response to the urgent and pressing questions of global migration, and investigates the concepts of national and personal identity. It is currently available on YouTube.
The off-Broadway musical YANK! tells the story of soldiers falling in love, and depicts the gay scene that “thrived just beneath the surface of the US Army in the 1940s.” The musical was a hit of the NY Musical Theatre Festival in 2005, and had a successful off-Broadway run in 2010. Below 54th hosted a 10th anniversary concert earlier this year, and the video is currently available on YouTube.
In this week's episode of the podcast, I chat with Kelly Kessler, Associate Professor of Cinema and Media Studies at DePaul University, about her new book Broadway in the Box: Television's Lasting Love Affair with the Musical.
We talk about Kelly's research, why television networks produce live musicals, the role of adverts, the first musicals on television, the first Broadway musical to air live on television (and who got to watch it), and why we should put musicals on television!
Broadway in the Box: Television's Lasting Love Affair with the Musical is available at all major bookstores.
About This Week's Guest
Kelly Kessler is an Associate Professor of Cinema and Media Studies at DePaul University. Her work draws on three main areas: the American musical, the intersection of genre and gender, and the mainstreaming of lesbianism in American television and film. Her scholarship can be found in works such as Studies in Musical Theatre, The Journal of E-Media Studies, The Journal of Popular Music Studies, Television and New Media, Movies, Moves, and Music: The Sonic World of the Dance Film, Televising Queer Women: A Reader, and The New Queer Aesthetic on Television: Essays on Recent Programming. Kessler has published two books, including Destabilizing the Hollywood Musical: Music, Masculinity and Mayhem and Broadway in the Box: Television's Lasting Love Affair with the Musical.
My first exposure to a musical not in English was the 10th Anniversary Concert of Les Miserables where 17 Valjeans from “just some of the world-wide productions” sang “Do You Hear the People Sing” in 13 different languages. Currently holding the title as the longest running West End musical, Les Miserables is itself an English translation of a French musical (Herbert Kretzmer, who provided the libretto for the English version, recently passed away at the age of 95).
Filmed live musicals in languages other than English are currently lacking from the database, but there is certainly a plethora of them out there. Some of the titles are translations of English-language musicals, but many are original musicals, showing the popularity of the musical form worldwide.
Here’s a brief look at filmed live musicals in Dutch, Korean, Russian, and Spanish, that have been released online in 2020.
Dutch company De Graaf & Cornelissen Entertainment have released four full-length filmed live musicals for free on YouTube including Wat Zien Ik?! (What Do I See?!), Liesbeth, Volendam, and Op Hoop Van Zegen (Hoping for the Best).
Wat Zien Ik?! is based on the book by Albert Mol. The musical premiered in October 2006 and ran until May 2007. Wat Zien Ik?! is set in the 1960s and follows the trials and tribulations of two women who work in Amsterdam’s Red Light District.
Liesbeth is a biographical musical about Dutch entertainer Liesbeth List who was famous for her interpretations of the songs of Jacques Brel and Edith Piaf. The musical premiered in October 2017, and closed in January 2018.
Set in a village fair, Volendam tells the story of a woman named Mary, who returns to the town of her childhood, and must confront her past. The musical was performed from November 2010 until April 2011.
Based on the 1900 play, Op Hoop Van Zegen, tells the story of a fisherman’s widow and her fight for survival amidst social injustice. The production was filmed in 2008.
Efteling is a Dutch fantasy-themed amusement park that pre-dates Disneyland by three years. The park’s theatre, Efteling Theater have released several filmed live musicals on their YouTube channel including Sprookjessprokkelaar de musical (Fairytale Collector: The Musical), De gelaarsde Kat (Puss in Boots), Pinokkio, and three Sprookjesboom de Musical (Fairytale Tree the Musical) titles. All are freely available on the Efteling YouTube channel, and have received hundreds of thousands of views.
Commencing with Korean-language versions of RENT in 2000, The Phantom of the Opera in 2001, and Mozart Das Musikal in 2010, American and European musicals have become an immensely popular form of entertainment in Korea, growing to a $300 million business. In an effort to further boost ticket sales in a saturated market, producers have stunt cast K-pop and soap opera stars in lead roles for select performances.
Although some theatres in Korea have managed to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic, audience numbers are obviously lower than normal. Producers have turned to livestreams to boost sales and provide audiences at home with musical theatre content.
Produced by the Korean Army and Insight Entertainment, Korean musical Return: The Promise of the Day was livestreamed over four performances in late September and featured K-pop stars D.O. and Xiumin of EXO and former Wanna One member Yoon Ji-sung. The musical tells the story of a Korean War vet who goes in search of his lost comrades. Viewers were required to purchase tickets to view the stream, which was also broadcast with English subtitles.
Sonata of a Flame, starring Ryeowook of Super Junior, Hui of Pentagon, and Yoo Hwe-seung of N. Flying, was livestreamed over thirteen performances from September 18 - 26. Like Return, viewers were required to purchase tickets to watch the stream, which was available worldwide (though not in China or Indonesia).
In September K-Musical On Air hosted a free online musical theatre festival. featuring “four of the hottest Korean musicals in real time.” The musicals included The Fan Letter, The Goddess is Watching You, Red Cliff, and The Fiction. English subtitles were available for viewers watching on V Live. The festival was an initiative of the Korea Tourism Organization, which since 2017 has sponsored 14 Korean musicals to provide foreign-language subtitles.
The Fan Letter is a fictional re-telling of historical events as seen by artists and writers during the Japanese occupation of Korea in the 1930s.
Set during the Korean war, The Goddess is Watching tells the story of two soldiers from North and South Korea who find themselves on uninhabited islands during the conflict. The musical premiered in 2013, and has been playing ever since.
Produced by Jeongdong Theater in Seoul, Red Cliff first opened in 2017 and has proved a popular draw. Influenced by pansori, a traditional Korean form of musical storytelling using drums and singing, Red Cliff is based on one of five pansori tales, “Jeokbyeokga”, which means “The Song of the Red Cliffs.” Red Cliff was also streamed for one night on Jeondong Theater’s YouTube channel in April.
Also set in the 1930s, though this time in New York City, The Fiction is a murder mystery musical. It was first developed through the “Prepare for Your Debut” project hosted by the Korea Creative Content Agency in 2016. The Fiction received praise at the Daegu International Musical Festival in 2017.
The Daegu International Musical Festival also has several full-length videos on their YouTube channel.
At the end of June, the American streaming service Broadway on Demand streamed the Korean language musical XCalibur. Produced by EMK, with a score by Frank Wildhorn, XCalibur is a re-telling of the King Arthur legend, and featured Exo K-pop star Kai. It was available to stream on Broadway on Demand between June 27 and July 6, 2020.
Originally a German musical, Mozart das Musical was translated into Korean and presented by EMK in 2010. The musical was very popular, and was re-staged for a 10th anniversary production in early 2020. The musical was streamed on Naver and VLive on October 3 and 4.
New Korean streaming service IM.Culture will stream Legendary Little Basketball Team, an original musical about a basketball coach and his ailing team, on November 1 and 2.
In a similar trend to Korea, American and British musicals have seen a swell in popularity in the 21st century. Since 2008, the Moscow Operetta Theatre has sought to create original Russian-language musicals that according to Russia Beyond the Headlines reporter Julia Shevelkina, appeal to audiences “who love costume dramas,” and “a minister of culture who didn’t want state-run theatres to stage radical modern plays.”
Stage Russia have released two Moscow Operetta Theatre musicals online, Count Orlov and Anna Karenina. Both are based on Russian novels, and feature sumptuous costumes, striking scenic design, and epic Euro-pop scores. Both are also streamed with English subtitles.
Although it was filmed without a live audience, the Spanish-language Mexican production Daddy Long Legs, Papi Piernas Largas, is a delight. Produced by Oak Live, the two-hander musical was performed live to an empty theatre in Mexico City in early October, and streamed on Ticketmaster Live. The production was reminiscent of the off-Broadway production (the first off-Broadway musical to be livestreamed), though it had slightly different staging which included a clever story-book set. Papi Piernas Largas will stream again via Ticketmaster on November 15 (tickets are around $10US). English subtitles are not available.
Also streaming on Ticketmaster Mexico is La Juala de Las Locas, a Spanish-language production of La Cage Aux Folles. Filmed live with an audience, the the production was streamed live on October 17. It will be available stream again on November 20 via Ticketmaster, though it is currently only available to stream in Mexico.
Mentiras El Musical (Lies the Musical) is a Spanish-language Mexican jukebox musical that incorporates pop songs from the 1980s. Mentiras will be streamed live via Multistellar on November 7.
The popular Spanish-language production of The Man of La Mancha, El Hombre de La Mancha, will stream on November 14. Tickets are available via Ticketmaster.
On November 21 and 22, Shakespeare Foro in Mexico City will stream a Spanish-language production of End of the Rainbow, Al Fin del Arcoiris, a musical drama about the final days of Judy Garland. Tickets are available via Shakespeare Foro.
And to cap off the list, you can belatedly celebrate Dia de los Muertos with Si, Nos Dejan! (If They Let Us!), a Mexican musical celebrating the history of Mexican cinema. Filmed live at the Mejor Teatro in 2011, ¡Si, Nos Dejan! was broadcast via Ticketmaster Mexico on September 16, and will be re-broadcast on November 2. Tickets available via Ticketmaster.