This documentary chronicles the '03-'04 Broadway season through the development of four plays--the "Wizard of Oz" prequel, "Wicked"; the adult-themed puppet show "Avenue Q"; the Boy George-penned "Taboo"; the racially charged "Caroline, or Change"--and their quest for a Tony.
Big question: Does "ShowBusiness" still seem like an inside look at Broadway more than three years after these shows came out?
Skip it: Any true theater fans already know which of these plays took off, and "ShowBusiness" does nothing to analyze why "Wicked" and "Avenue Q" became monster hits and the others didn't. Consequently, playwrights' doubts just sound ironic--some questioned if "Q" was more suited for off-Broadway--and discussions of bad sales aren't as effective as it would be for the film to actually show the empty seats.
Catch it: For glimpses of abstract theater-speak, like the director of "Caroline, or Change" instructing his actors to "invest in the unknowns" and not go "inside the surprise." If only "Wicked" had those pearls of wisdom maybe it could have made a few bucks.
Bottom line: With a backstage look at Broadway that has no insider perspective or vivid portrait of people born to perform, this flick offers nothing more than a ticket price infinitely lower than the plays it features. If "ShowBusiness" tried to make it on stage, it would close in a matter of days.
Bonus: You decide how to take this commentary from a fan who saw "Taboo" 52 times: "There are some people who said it was too gay but, I mean, come on. It's theater."
Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.
'ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway'
Directed by Dori Berinstein; screenplay by Berinstein and Richard Hankin; photographed by Alan S. Deutsch; edited by Adam Zucker; music by Jeanine Tesori; produced by Berinstein. Featuring Alan Cumming, Kristin Chenoweth, Tony Kushner, John Lahr and others. A Regent Releasing release; opens Friday at the Music Box Theatre. Running time: 1:42. MPAA rating: PG (for language and some sexual references).Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times