While Jewish Americans certainly abounded in other areas of the musical theater, their predominance in the area of songwriting was nearly complete, with only the Episcopalian Cole Porter represented as a major figure in the pantheon of America's greatest composers of Broadway songs. And even Porter, after three Broadway flops, finally ascertained the surefire way to success: "I'm going to write Jewish tunes." As Andrew Lippa, the composer/lyricist of The Addams Family, points out in the film, "Porgy and Bess and Show Boat and Oklahoma! These are ideas that are fictions. What do we make America into? How do we take what we know and make it into America?"
The film features interviews with Sheldon Harnick, John Kander, Andrew Lippa, Stephen Schwartz, Phyllis Newman, Charles Strouse, Harold Prince, Maury Yeston, Mary Rodgers Guettel, Ernie Harburg, Marc Shaiman, David Shire, Stephen Sondheim, Mel Brooks, Stephen Schwartz and many others.
Rare clips include Irving Berlin singing "God Bless America," rehearsals for Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim's Gypsy, and original South Pacific star William Tabbert singing "You've Got to be Carefully Taught" with Richard Rodgers at the piano.
The film was produced, written, and directed by Michael Kantor, whose Broadway: The American Musical series was originally viewed by an estimated 15 million people, and won the 2005 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Nonfiction Series. Most recently, Kantor was executive producer of Give Me the Banjo hosted by Steve Martin, and one of the producers of"The Thomashefskys" with Michael Tilson Thomas (Great Performances March 28, 2012). Kantor created Make 'Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America, the Emmy-nominated six-part documentary series hosted by Billy Crystal that debuted on PBS in January 2009. Other PBS credits include writer, director and producer of "Quincy Jones: In the Pocket" forAmerican Masters, and producer of The West for PBS (Executive Producer Ken Burns).
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy is an Albert M. Tapper production, and Barbara Brilliant is creator and executive producer. For Great Performances, Bill O'Donnell is series producer, and David Horn is executive producer.
Major funding for this program was provided by the Patty and Jay Baker Foundation, Judith B. Resnick, the Blavatnik Family Foundation, The Barbara and Buddy Freitag Family Fund, The Laurents / Hatcher Foundation, The National Museum of American Jewish History, The Ira and Leonore Gershwin Philanthropic Fund, The Shubert Organization, The Leslie and Roslyn Goldstein Foundation, and The Raymond Tye and Family Charitable Trust.
Major funding for Great Performances is provided by the Irene Diamond Fund, The National Endowment for the Arts, the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, Vivian Milstein, The Agnes Varis Trust, the Starr Foundation, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, and PBS viewers.
Corporate support is provided by Stuart Weitzman and Family.
Photos and other material can be accessed at the THIRTEEN Online Pressroom.
Visit Great Performances Online at www.pbs.org/gperf for additional information about this and other programs.