Dori Berinstein used her status as a stage producer to make the very revealing 2007 documentary “Show Business” which follows one stormy season on Broadway.
The movie only received limited distribution, but the DVD is superior to the theatrical version because of the high quality of the many deleted scenes on the disc.
Berinstein used the classic William Goldman book, “The Season,” as her inspiration.
Back in the days before he was an Oscar-winning screenwriter, Goldman decided to follow one season on Broadway in detail as the framework for a book about the inner workings of the Great White Way.
Like Berinstein, Goldman had an insider’s advantage — he had worked on shows with his playwright brother James Goldman — so he was able to go places and to talk with people unavailable to the average journalist.
Although Goldman’s account of the 1967-1968 season is now, of course, “dated” in terms of finances and trends-of-the-moment, “The Season” remains one of the very best examinations of the inner workings of Broadway (the accounts of the creation of shows such as “Hair” give the book a wonderful time capsule quality, too).
Berinstein chose to follow the 2003-2004 season on Broadway, with a special emphasis on four musicals that debuted then — “Taboo,” “Wicked,” “Avenue Q” and “Caroline, or Change.”
The film takes us to rehearsals, out-of-town try-outs (“Wicked” had a pre-Broadway run in San Francisco), opening night parties, and serves up interviews with some very excited, very anxious theater artists and the critics who would judge them.
Berinstein lucked into the tremendous drama of Rosie O’Donnell personally producing “Taboo” (below) — and losing $10 million of her own money in the process — as well as one of the biggest Tony upsets in modern history when the underdog show “Avenue Q” took the top prize from “Wicked” (above).
The documentary reminds us that “Wicked” opened to mediocre reviews and was not viewed as a blockbuster-in-the-making by theater insiders.
One of the most amusing aspects of the film is the way it exposes the cluelessness of the New York theater press when it comes to predicting hits and flops and forecasting the Tony winners.
Berinstein shows us several restaurant gatherings of writers such as Michael Riedel of The New York Post, Charles Isherwood of The New York Times and Linda Winer of Newsday who predict that “Avenue Q” will fail to make it on Broadway — after transfering from the off-Broadway Vineyard Theatre downtown — and who dismiss “Wicked” as an over-produced bore. Then when Tony season arrives they all predict that “Wicked” will win the best musical prize!
The film packs an amazing amount of material in, from the recording of the original cast album of “Wicked” to videotapes showing us the earliest backers auditions for “Avenue Q” — almost a decade before it opened on Broadway — when it was also being considered as a cable television series.
The extra footage on the DVD gives us a much fuller account of the sad failure of the off-Broadway hit “Caroline or Change” to survive on Broadway, as well as interviews with several stars who didn’t make the theatrical cut from Donna Murphy to John Lithgow (who shares a poignant anecdote about the early closing of “Sweet Smell of Success”).