Curtain Call: PBS to air Broadway titles, offering at-home theater experience
With many of our area theaters continuing to provide entertainment during this era of COVID-19, Broadway has now added some entertainment of its own. It’s not brand new, but these are great Broadway hits from the past that are now going to be offered via public broadcasting. As of July 24, Great Performances will present Broadway at Home. Once a week, favorite theater productions will be broadcast via PBS including “She Loves Me,” “Present Laughter,” “In the Heights,” “Much Ado About Nothing” and “The King and I.”
“She Loves Me” kicks off the series of great shows on Friday, July 24, at 9 p.m. This romantic musical adaptation with book by Joe Masteroff and music by Jerry Bock opened on Broadway in 1963 was revived in 2016. It is the story of two perfume clerks who don’t get along until they discover they are actually pen pals who have fallen in love.
“Present Laughter” is a comedy by Noel Coward and airs on PBS July 31 at 9 p.m. Considering that this play was first produced in 1942 and is still produced today at many theaters is a testament to its timeless appeal. In 1942, the production featured Coward in the leading role. This play resembles the playwright who said it was semi-autobiographical in that it is about a theater star at the height of his career. The lead character has a way of getting entangled in relationships which are comically more difficult to get out of. There’s plenty of hilarious situations as he tries to get ready for a tour.
“In the Heights — Chasing Broadway Dreams” is about how the musical written by Quiara Alegria Hudes with music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda of “Hamilton” fame came to Broadway. It is a program that offers an intimate look at the production backstage and off-stage. It includes an up close and personal look at the cast members as they moved through workshops to off-Broadway and ultimately to a full Broadway production. It is scheduled for PBS on Aug. 7 at 9 p.m. Having won many awards, the show opened on Broadway in 2008. It is the story of the lives of Latinos in Washington Heights in New York City and it is filled with great music and romance.
Aug. 14 welcomes The Public Theater’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” which was recorded live at Free Shakespeare in the Park. This bold interpretation features an all Black cast. This is Shakespeare’s comedy featuring Benedick and Beatrice. The storyline focuses on love and deception and with Shakespeare you can expect plenty of misunderstanding.
Last but certainly not least on the production schedule for PBS’ Broadway at Home series is Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I.” This is Lincoln Center Theater’s 2015 production directed by Baartlett Sher. It went on to receive the Tony Award for Best Musical Revival. Many people don’t realize that this story is based on a true story. In 1862, a British schoolteacher Anna Leonowens went to Siam (today, known as Thailand) to teach the royal children of the King’s several wives. There are so many well-known and wonderful songs in this show that it will be hard not to sing along as you watch this on Aug. 21 at 9 p.m.
The coronavirus can’t erase theater with shows like this airing straight into your living rooms.
Joanne Greco Rochman is a founding member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.