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.
Two weeks ago in the post "Tickets, Please", we took a brief look at the new ways in which ticketing companies are attempting to reach theatre audiences as a result of the pandemic. Another solution to keep steering people back to the theatre is re-vamping the concept of the drive-in. Over the summer, drive-in theatres were popping up all over the place.
Prague in the Czech Republic hosted a multi-genre drive-in theatre festival called Art Parking from May to through to June. The festival included live performance and cinema screenings, and was reportedly seen by 11,000 people.
In September, Prima Theatre (who were featured on Episode 3 of the Filmed Live Musicals podcast) in Lancaster, Pennsylvania hosted a drive-in concert, Brave and Beautiful, featuring the music of all-female singers and singer-songwriters. Performed on the back of a 30-foot flatbed truck, the concert was also available for hire for neighborhood performances in Lancaster.
Six, the smash hit West End musical about the wives of Henry VIII, had announced a drive-in tour taking place throughout the UK. The tour was unfortunately cancelled due to local restrictions, and I had hoped it would be a chance for a filmed live version to be released. Instead, the musical announced shortly after that it will now perform a limited 11-week engagement in the West End at the Lyric Theatre, commencing November 14th. The original London cast also reunited for a special pop concert that was streamed live on October 10. Give us the musical already! #SorryNotSorry.
Kicking off at the end of September, Radial Park at Halletts Point Astoria Queens began “Broadway at the Drive-In”, a new drive-in cinema that includes live performances along with film screenings. New Yorkers without cars can rent picnic tables, which come with retro boom boxes. The first film on the calendar was Phantom of the Opera, filmed live not on Broadway but at Royal Albert Hall in London. The screening included in-person performances by Broadway performers Ali Ewoldt and Derrick Davis.
Contract negotiations for filming live theatre often did not foresee digital content. Will they have room for the drive-in?
Episode 7 of the Filmed Live Musicals podcast is out!
This week I chat with the Executive Director of the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT), Julie Leach. Based in Sarasota, Florida, WBTT is a non-profit theatre founded in 1999 by Nate Jacobs. The company’s mission is “to produce professional theatre that promotes and celebrates the African American experience, that attracts diverse audiences, supports and develops African American artists, and builds the self-esteem of African American youth.”
We look at how WBTT were able to pivot during the COVID-19 shutdown, connection with community, the business end of putting theatre online, and Vinnette Carroll's Your Arms Too Short to Box With God.
Learn more WBTT's filmed live productions Your Arms Too Short to Box With God and Rockin' Down Fairytale Lane in the Filmed Live Musicals database, and check out WBTT's current productions at www.westcoastblacktheatre.org.
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It is no secret that as a result of the pandemic, theatre companies have lost their most significant stream of revenue: ticket sales. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, while some theatres are streaming shows, others are responding to the COVID-19 shutdown by branching out into new areas, creating new streaming platforms, and selling virtual tickets to online content.
In May, TodayTix temporarily rebranded as TomorrowTix and launched a platform allowing theatre companies across the United States to sell tickets to online shows. As with the previous incarnation of the site, content is available by city, though it seems most virtual content is available across all cities.
At the time of writing, offerings include comedy and improv, concerts, drag shows, and two musical-esque productions, The Keep Going Song and A Killer Party.
The Keep Going Song is presented by the Actors Theatre of Louisville (who back in 1973 produced In Fashion). Described as “an intimate evening of storytelling through song,” the piece was written and performed by indie-folk duo Abigail and Shaun Bengson during lockdown. Ben Brantley gave The Keep Going Song the New York Times Critic’s Pick stamp of approval, and the music is truly extraordinary. You have until October 8 to stream it. Virtual tickets are available via TodayTix and directly from Actors Theatre of Louisville, on a sliding scale between $15 - $100 (not including fees).
A Killer Party is an episodic murder mystery musical directed by Broadway musical director Marc Bruni. The cast includes a slew of Broadway stars including Carolee Carmello, Jackie Burns, Jeremy Jordan, Laura Osnes, and Alex Newell. The music was composed by Jason Howland (who, among many other credits, did the arrangements on Jekyll and Hyde), with lyrics by Nathan Tysen, and book by Kait Karrigan. Rachel Axler, who worked on Veep, The Daily Show, and Parks and Recreation, is also credited as a writer. Composed and performed entirely during quarantine, A Killer Party is a laugh out loud, silly, and joyful spoof. It’s available via TodayTix and directly from A Killer Party Musical for $12.99, which provides access to all 9 episodes.
In late July, Playbill launched Social Selects, theatre-themed interactive online events that include tours of Broadway theatres and theatre sites in NYC, storytelling events, cooking, and wine-pairing. Events range in price from $9.99 - $21.99. Tickets for the HamilTour, which will visit Hamilton-related locations around NYC on October 7 and 14, are currently on sale.
And just a couple of weeks ago, Goldstar launched Stellar, a new monetized streaming platform. The site currently has nearly 50 productions, including concerts, comedy, and from-artist-living-room events.
Coming up we'll be taking a look at another innovation, drive-in theatre!
What are you watching? Let me know in the comments, or on Twitter or Facebook!
In episode 6 of the Filmed Live Musicals podcast, I chat with actor David Colston Corris who portrayed Maximus the horse in the recently released filmed live Disney musical Tangled, which was performed aboard the cruise ship Disney Magic. We chat about puppeteering, working on a cruise ship, and what it took to bring Maximus to life.
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, David has performed for audiences all over the world! National/International Tours: AVENUE Q (Princeton/Rod), RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER: THE MUSICAL (Coach Comet, Charlie-in-the-Box), CURIOUS GEORGE LIVE! (Freddy), and John Tartagila's IMAGINOCEAN (Dorsel). Cruise Lines: DISNEY CRUISE LINE (World Premier cast of TANGLED: THE MUSICAL (Maximus), FROZEN: A MUSICAL SPECTACULAR (Olaf, Duke of Weselton) and NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE (Nickelodeon Host). Regional Theaters: CASA MANANA, SAN JOSE STAGE COMPANY, THE HANGAR THEATRE, GEVA THEATRE CENTER. Theme Parks: WALT DISNEY WORLD, UNIVERSAL STUDIOS ORLANDO, SESAME PLACE and STORYLAND. In addition to performing, David designs and builds puppets. He has also taught puppetry privately, regionally, and for shows and workshops at WALT DISNEY WORLD. David is an active member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. David holds a B.F.A. in Musical Theater from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.
Available now on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Overcast and more! Click here for links!
In case you somehow missed it, one of the most vaunted musicals in history, Hamilton was released on Disney+ on July 3rd. While Hamilton is not the first Broadway musical to be streamed online, its prominence and undeniable success may finally be shifting some very deep seated views that filmed live theatre can’t adequately capture the live experience, and that filmed live theatre should exist at all. In an unprecedented move, it was announced earlier in the month the yet-to-officially-open Broadway musical Diana, would be filmed (without an audience) and broadcast on Netflix.
Many people know by now that Disney acquired the distribution rights for the filmed live production of Hamilton for approximately $75million (the final figure was adjusted due to the pandemic and the decision to release it online rather in cinemas). Much like Hamilton and Burr, you gotta be in the room where it happens to get the figures on how much Hamilton is bringing Disney financially, but it seems to bode well. As reported in Variety, early data suggests the musical had a significantly larger audience than any other single program across Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, Apple TV+, and Disney+ in July.
Much like Hamilton and Burr, you gotta be in the room where it happens to get the actual figures on how much Hamilton is bringing Disney financially. At the end of June, just prior to the release of Hamilton, Disney+ reported it had 54.5 million subscribers (for comparison, Netflix currently has about 190 million subscribers worldwide). According to Variety, in comparison to the four weeks prior, the weekend of Hamilton’s digital release saw a 74% increase in Disney+ app downloads within the United States, and 46% worldwide. At the beginning the August, Disney+ reported it had 60.5 million subscribers. These numbers do not include subscribers who purchased subscriptions through packages or where Disney+ is included in existing apps.
Going forward, there are still many questions for producers for consider: when to release filmed live productions, who gets access (due to copyright or union agreements, films may not be able to be released worldwide), if viewers should pay to access streams and for how much, how to fairly compensate cast/crew/creatives, and what platforms to use.
With all that in mind, here’s a look at existing models for distributing filmed live musicals online:
Online video platforms like YouTube and Vimeo have made it easier than ever to just upload existing footage. During the pandemic big names like Andrew Lloyd Webber and the National Theatre have released content for free online. Companies such as Southwark Playhouse, Chichester Festival Theatre, Wise Children, and Wales Millennium Centre, and independent artists like Dave Malloy and Angela Sclafani, have also made filmed live musicals freely available.
The quality of free recordings varies greatly. From productions staged in black box theatres filmed with a camera on a tripod located behind the audience like Beardo, to slick captures like the arena production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Sometimes recordings were made for archival purposes, like Only the Brave and Wasted. Archival recordings vary in quality, but thanks to digital cameras, recent captures make for decent viewing.
The length of time free streams are available can vary. Some are placed online indefinitely, such as The Room and Passion Project. Others, like titles from the National Theatre at Home, The Shows Must Go On, or Wise Children, have a limited window ranging from 48 hours to several weeks.
Unless the producers/creatives uploading material for free are covering the cost of paying artists for use of their work on screen, cast, crew, and creatives are less likely receive any income from free streams. The exception to this is new platform SceneSaver, which encourages viewers to donate the cost of an average ticket, and shares 95% of donations directly with artists (for more info, take a listen to episode 2 of the Filmed Live Musicals podcast for an interview with SceneSaver founder Caroline Friedman).
Especially during the pandemic, viewers are often encouraged to make a donation to the theatre company, or to a selected charity or organization.
There are several kinds of paid options: one-off payments, subscriptions, and passes.
Viewers make a one-time payment or purchase a “ticket” to gain access to the stream. The stream is often played at a scheduled time, and then is available on demand for a limited time. These films usually have a set period of availability, and are sometimes are also limited to a specific number of streams. Occasionally, as in the case of 21 Chump Street: The Musical, the payment provides indefinite access. Companies using this model include Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, Broadway on Demand, and Streaming Musicals.
Like free streams, the quality of content can vary. Particularly during the pandemic, when companies and artists are desperate for cashflow, archival footage not intended for mass consumption has been distributed.
The pricing for one-off payments ranges, though is usually between $10 - $30 USD. Although it is not common, instead of a set price, viewers are sometimes given the option to make a donation, or pay-as-you-like.
Following the Netflix model, subscriptions provide access to a catalog of shows. In the subscription model, like Netflix, titles are usually available for longer periods of time, and can appear and disappear. Most subscriptions run for a year, though some also provide month-to-month payments at a slightly higher rate. BroadwayHD, Stage, PBS, and Disney+ all currently use the subscription model.
Passes work in a similar way to a subscription, but often for a limited time. Prima, a theater in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, have created passes as varying price points for viewers to gain access to online content. As have SheNYC Arts, a female led organization running online festivals based in New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta over the summer.
Some companies use a combination of models. Broadway on Demand offers some content for free, some content for a one-off fee, and also plans to offer a subscription in the future. Streaming Musicals hosts free premiere nights, and titles are available to rent or buy through one-off payments. Digital Theatre offers an all-access yearly subscription, or the option to rent individual titles. While BroadwayHD offers monthly and yearly subscription models, throughout the pandemic they have been hosting free watch parties in partnership with Playbill, Roundabout, and the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization.
As live theatre online becomes more and more mainstream, and as we learn more about the number of views and profits from ticket sales, it will be interesting to see which models are adopted.
With the pandemic came a plethora of filmed live theatre content being released online. Many in the industry were genuinely surprised that audiences wanted to watch theatre on screen, and even pay for it! As discussed with Caroline Friedman - CEO of the new theatre streaming service Scenesaver - in this month’s podcast, we have been recording live theatre since the invention of the moving picture.
Despite the fact that the first live broadcast of a musical took place in 1939, and even with the release of Hamilton last month, the theatre industry as a whole is still not savvy to the history, magic, and importance of filmed live theatre. In a recent interview for The TheaterMakers Studio, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of BroadwayWorld, claimed that “very little” has happened in the world of filmed live theatre despite decades of discussions. The nearly 200 musicals in the Filmed Live Musicals database heartily disagree! And that doesn’t even include the hundreds, possibly thousands, of operas, plays, ballets, and classical concerts that have been captured and enjoyed by literally millions of people around the world!
After the release of Hamilton, Jon Kamen, CEO of RadicalMedia, reportedly claimed that with the filming of RENT: Live on Broadway in 2008, RadicalMedia had "developed the nomenclature and a whole style of filming it in a very cinematic fashion.” Again, the producers of Pacific Overtures (filmed live in 1976), Into the Woods (filmed in 1991), and the cinematographers for the Met Live in HD, founded in 2006, all might have something to say about that.
We still have to answer questions of when to release films, and how to fairly pay the cast, crew, and creatives, but these should not be obstacles to documenting theatre. Filming live theatre provides access to theatre for people who may not be able to see a production due to geography, cost, or disability. It is an incredible educational tool, not just for students, but for historians, industry folks, and the wider public. Digital technology has made captures easier, more dynamic, and more watchable than ever.
All of this is why I started Filmed Live Musicals. As a place to catalog the musicals that have been legally captured for the screen and publicly distributed, to provide a space for people to find that content, and to show the historic value of filmed live musicals. Ultimately, it is a way to capture ephemeral moments in time so that we may enjoy them, learn from them, and remember the musicals, even when the bodies inside the now-disintegrated costumes have turned to dust.
On episode 2 of the Filmed Live Musicals podcast, Luisa chats with Caroline Friedman, founder of new theatre streaming of Scenesaver.
Scenesaver is the only website making performances from off Broadway, off- West End, small theatres, and emerging artists accessible to everyone online. It's free to register and watch with 150 shows of all genres from around the world available now. New work is being added all the time.
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Filmed Live Musicals now has a podcast! We will talk about the world of filmed live musicals, interview creatives, actors, producers and industry folks, look at the research being carried out on filmed theatre, dive into some history, and, of course, talk about the musicals themselves!
In our first episode, host Luisa Lyons and guest host Al Monaco take a look at firsts in filmed live musicals.
In episode two, out on August 3, Luisa chats with the founder of Scenesaver, Caroline Friedman. Scenesaver is a new platform making performances from the world's off-Broadway, off West End, small theatres, and emerging artists available to everyone online. It's free to register and watch with over 150 shows of all genres from around the world available now!
Subscribe on your preferred podcast app and join us for the Filmed Live Musicals podcast!