Filmed Live Musicals

Firsts

July 27, 2020 Luisa Season 1 Episode 1
Filmed Live Musicals
Firsts
Chapters
Filmed Live Musicals
Firsts
Jul 27, 2020 Season 1 Episode 1
Luisa

It's our very first podcast!

Host Luisa Lyons and guest host Al Monaco take a look at firsts in the world of filmed live musicals and dive into a range of other topics.

A couple of corrections: Me and My Girl was composed by Noel Gay with book and lyrics by Douglas Furber and L. Arthur Rose. The online audience for Daddy Long Legs could have filled the theatre for 2.7 years.

Thanks for listening! If you enjoyed the episode, please like and subscribe!

Visit Filmed Live Musicals at www.filmedlivemusicals.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also support the site at Patreon.  

Host Luisa Lyons is an Australian actor, writer, and musician. She holds a Masters in Music Theatre from London's Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and now lives, works, and plays in New York. Learn more at www.luisalyons.com or follow on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

Guest Al Monaco is emerging director, playwright and poet based in New York City. Her work has been seen at Dixon Place, Manhattan Repertory Theater, The Drawing Board and various festivals throughout New York City and Buffalo. Learn more at www.directoralmonaco.com or follow on Twitter and Instagram

With thanks to Brian Ziegenhagen for editing!

Show Notes Transcript

It's our very first podcast!

Host Luisa Lyons and guest host Al Monaco take a look at firsts in the world of filmed live musicals and dive into a range of other topics.

A couple of corrections: Me and My Girl was composed by Noel Gay with book and lyrics by Douglas Furber and L. Arthur Rose. The online audience for Daddy Long Legs could have filled the theatre for 2.7 years.

Thanks for listening! If you enjoyed the episode, please like and subscribe!

Visit Filmed Live Musicals at www.filmedlivemusicals.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also support the site at Patreon.  

Host Luisa Lyons is an Australian actor, writer, and musician. She holds a Masters in Music Theatre from London's Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and now lives, works, and plays in New York. Learn more at www.luisalyons.com or follow on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

Guest Al Monaco is emerging director, playwright and poet based in New York City. Her work has been seen at Dixon Place, Manhattan Repertory Theater, The Drawing Board and various festivals throughout New York City and Buffalo. Learn more at www.directoralmonaco.com or follow on Twitter and Instagram

With thanks to Brian Ziegenhagen for editing!

Luisa Lyons:

Welcome to the Filmed Live Musicals podcast. A podcast about stage musicals that have been legally filmed and publicly distributed. The Filmed Live Musicals website contains information on nearly 200 musicals that have been captured live. Check it out at www.filmedlivemusicals.com. And now, on with the show! Welcome, bienvenue, to the first episode of Filmed Live Musicals, the podcast. My name is Luisa Lyons, I run Filmed Live Musicals. And with me is Al Monaco, a director extraordinare and Lincoln Center afficionado.

Al Monaco:

Hello! Yay! Hi!

Luisa Lyons:

Welcome Al. Thank you for joining me on this adventure.

Al Monaco:

Oh my gosh, this is gonna be great.

Luisa Lyons:

I'm very excited.

Al Monaco:

Me too!

Luisa Lyons:

So Filmed Live Musicals started in 2011. And I was studying for my Masters of Musical theater at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. And I was at the cinema with a group of friends from school and we were watching "Company" filmed live from Lincoln Center starring Neil Patrick Harris and Patti LuPone. And before the film started, there was a little pre-show interview segment with Ellen M. Krass, the producer. And she produced "Sunday in the Park with George" and "Into the Woods". And in this pre-show interview, she talked about how difficult it was to get funding for filming live musicals, because no one had ever heard of it. And I immediately like sat up and said, "Wait, haven't people heard of "Into the Woods" or "Sunday in the Park with George"? Things I had grown up watching. And I was surprised that it was so difficult. So I ended up writing my thesis on filmed live musicals, and couldn't really get away from it when I finished school. And so I built a website, filmedlivemusicals.com, which is a database of stage musicals that have been legally captured and distributed to the public. So it doesn't include bootlegs. It's all films that have been legally captured. So that is the database.

Al Monaco:

Love it. It's such a wonderful resource such it. Yep. such a wonderful resource, especially for people who don't have easy access to live theater. Yeah. And that's my hope is that it will legitimize filmed live musical. And I think the pandemic has certainly changed all of that. Oh, yes.

Luisa Lyons:

Filmed live musicals have become so, and filmed live theater in general, there is such a demand for it during the pandemic and of course, with "Hamilton" being released just yesterday, or two days ago, as we record this, it's a game changer.

Al Monaco:

Mm hmm. Absolutely.

Luisa Lyons:

So what in your research at the New York Public Library, have you seen many musicals at the New York Public Library?

Al Monaco:

No, I actually see mostly plays, but I did watch Millie. I do remember watching "Millie." The Sutton Foster version? Yeah. Because I was up for a position to work on that show. So I wanted to refresh. Do you remember what the quality was like? Oh, it's fantastic. I think that I don't ever feel like the film directing ever gets in the way of the actual stage production, if that makes sense. Yeah. So everything is always very, like you like you're right in room with them, which I always appreciate. Yeah. Do you remember how many cameras or like what kind of angles they used? It's a good question. Wide like wide shot and then so it was very much like "Hamilton" like some very up close, some very, you know, whole entire whole picture. Mostly whole picture though I think with musicals, you kind of have to, you know what I mean, but some up close, but for the most part, you got to see the entire stage entire stage.

Luisa Lyons:

So my understanding - for people that don't know what we're talking about, the New York Public Library has the Theater on Film and Tape Archive, which was started in 1969 or 1970, by Betty Corwin. And she had this vision to capture stage musicals and archive them. And now the TOFT, or Theatre and Film and Tape Archive at the New York Public Library in Lincoln Center in New York City has something like over 4000 archival recordings of stage shows. And the collection now includes not just shows from New York City, it extends further than that. But at the beginning, it was just a camera at the back of the theater. And over time it has become more sophisticated. And with digital cameras, it has become easier to have multiple camera setups. So with that, my idea for today for our first episode was to talk about filmed live musical firsts.

Al Monaco:

Yeah!

Luisa Lyons:

Yeah. So the first the very first musical - so I want to put parameters because when we're talking about musicals on screen, because there's thousands at this point, movie musicals and TV musicals. What we're talking about in film, like musicals, is stage musicals that have been filmed in front of a live audience, and distributed publicly. So again, it doesn't include bootlegs and it doesn't it doesn't really include the recordings from the Theater on Film and Tape Archive because although it's a public library, that archive is only accessible to people with a library card physically at the library. So I wouldn't call that widely distributed.

Al Monaco:

And you have to have a reason. They don't just let anybody see the videos. There's also even further restrictions.

Luisa Lyons:

That's right. Yeah, it's really only available to researchers. So the average person can't come and watch "A Chorus Line" from the original production. Such a shame. There's been talk of the Theater on Film and Tape Archive releasing some productions for schools. That's happened as a result of the pandemic. But again, it will be very restricted. And there'll be lots of, I'm sure, strict rules to stop pirating and it's so exciting, that the idea that that archive could be opened up even for school kids.

Al Monaco:

Absolutely. So the very, very, very first musical to be filmed, live and publicly broadcast was "Magyar Melody" all the way back in 1939. Wow. "Wizard of Oz".

Luisa Lyons:

Yes!

Al Monaco:

And "Gone with the Wind."

Unknown:

What I would love to do more research into is how many people actually watched it because I can't imagine many people had television sets in 1939.

Al Monaco:

Yeah, that and more people, I think going to the theater was probably more like social, like a social event than it is now. So it probably was more popular to physically go and watch theater. Absolutely, yeah, people just didn't have TV sets. So this is pre- World War Two, pre the industrialization of the mass release of televisions, so they had started to exist, but only the very wealthy and very, very few people had that but it would be interesting to look at the numbers. But only excerpts were filmed of "Magyar Melody". It was just song and dance numbers basically, it was just short bits. And then a little while later in May, on May 1, 1939, "Me and My Girl", a compilation of Cole Porter songs was performed. It made the "Lambeth Walk," it was a dance craze in the 30s, it made that very popular, and it was filmed at the Palace in London. So that was the first. Wow.

Luisa Lyons:

And then jumping ahead to the 40s, so the war kind of got in the way.

Al Monaco:

That little pesky thing As it does. Right.

Luisa Lyons:

It's usually disruptive. But in 1944, a new television station Dumont, which no longer exists, but it was one of the early Independent television stations, they aired the first television musical. And so from what I can gather, it wasn't filmed in front of a live audience. But I just think it's an interesting precedent that very from very early on television stations were interested in filming theater.

Al Monaco:

Mm hmm. Absolutely.

Luisa Lyons:

So that first musical by Dumont was "The Boys from Boise". Am I pronouncing that correctly?

Al Monaco:

Yeah, Boise.

Luisa Lyons:

From all accounts, it was quite extravagant. And the musical itself was pretty average. The music was by Sam Madoff. But audiences, the reviewers rather, said that it you know, the musical wasn't much to write home about but the production values were surprisingly high given that it was the first time that anything like this had been tried. But it didn't take off. It wasn't a game changer or anything in the industry. It took a while before full scale musicals were produced on television. So throughout the 50s, we have variety hours, like shows like "Musical Comedy Time," "The Bell Telephone Hour," "Kraft Television Theater, "Ford Theater Hour." And they were usually hour long review spectacle kind of shows and they would feature numbers from Broadway shows, or like standalone numbers, and sketches and skits and things like that. Have you ever watched shows from that period?

Al Monaco:

No, not not television? No, I'm more of a movie buff. But that's so interesting. It's just it's it's all very interesting because I have until very recently, did not think that theater or any type of theater should really be on the film. So this is all very interesting to me. (laughter) Now, you're on a podcast about it! That's right. I did not know this fact about you. Oh, yes, I have a very specific story which we can talk about later.

Luisa Lyons:

Oh, no, please, I want to hear it now.

Al Monaco:

Oh my God, this was this was right before Broadway HD was ever created, thought of. And I was home for Christmas. And my uncle said, "What if theater was streamed? Like what if like Netflix, you streamed theater?" And I told him, "Never in a million years would anybody ever allow people to put..." I said, "You're not even allowed to have your cell phone in a theater, let alone a full on professional camera crew in a theater." I said that's not how theater supposed to be. And then wouldn't you know and then here I am, like eating my words. Because wouldn't you know that Broadway HD does exactly. So, I love that you come from that place because that is, that has been the mindset that theater on film is not theater. Right.

Luisa Lyons:

And it's something I think about a lot and talk about a lot on the website and on Twitter, that, you know, "what is a film of filmed live theater"? It's not theater because theater, you have to be in the room with an audience.

Al Monaco:

Right. And it's different every night. It's very sacred. I use sacred, you know, in a very liberal term, but you know, it's a very sacred, like special experience.

Luisa Lyons:

Mm hmm. It's only in the room where it happens to use...

Al Monaco:

Exactly.

Unknown:

... a contemporary reference! (laughter) And then a film is something, it's a piece of art that exists on screen. Whether it's been on video or tape or whatever, you know, the technical term, the technical history of how you capture film, but it's something that exists on a screen. So what is it that is created when you put, when you film a live theatrical event and put it on screen?

Al Monaco:

Right? I mean, it's a great question. Yeah. You know, some people talk about a hybrid, that it's a hybrid form, but I don't think we have a name for it yet. And I think that's where, that's something I would love to come up with the term. "Filmed live theater" for now. "Theater on screen, "film on screen," uh, "stage on screen, but it doesn't convey what it is. I know, I agree. It doesn't completely. You know, I always just love "proshot", "proshot" is like my go to term. But then you have shows, so a lot of shows in the database are, you know, musicals in a black box theater, that you know, it's one or two, maybe three cameras dotted around the theater. It's not necessarily a professional shoot, like it doesn't have the close ups or cranes coming in or dolly shots where their cameras panning across the stage. And the camera physically moves across the stage. So can that be called a pro shot? I would think if it's like an understanding that this is going to be recorded legally, then yes, I would say it's a proshot. If it's something that's done on your phone, or like in your shirt pocket, then that's, that's when you cross the line. Yes, that's a bootleg. And then and then the other part about legally filming comes into payment for everybody, right? Oh, yes, absolutely.

Luisa Lyons:

Cast and creatives and all the designers. There's a whole team of people that creates that show that should get paid. So that's a whole other episode. How the agreements... So part of the resistance in the US certainly has been the cost of filming a musical. So for example, "Hamilton" cost $10 million to shoot. And on top of the, I forget the cost it was to mount that show on Broadway. It's you know, it's an additional cost because you have to pay everybody for for the shoot and then residuals and how many times can you play it afterwards? So I think that has certainly been a big barrier to filming, and with the with the belief that theater shouldn't be filmed in the first place.

Al Monaco:

Right. And to to think like as you're saying, that I'm like, well "Hamilton" probably can get away with it because they're, they have so, I don't know, they bring in so much revenue. But there are shows that like, were limited runs, that are rare that had special performances, right, that were very near and dear that absolutely, did not bring in the money the way that "Hamilton" did or does. And so what do we do about those that deserve to be seen?

Luisa Lyons:

Yeah. Oh, yeah. It's very complicated.

Al Monaco:

Absolutely.

Luisa Lyons:

And I think part of the resistance to filming theatre comes from these early captures in the 50s, that were very, and I think because they were filmed without an audience. Perhaps some of them had a live studio audience, but from my understanding, most of them were filmed just in a TV studio without an audience present. And I think it changes the performance. It's why I'm so careful to only include musicals that were filmed with an audience because I think captures are able to capture some of that magic that happens between a performer on stage and an audience watching. That cameras are able to some extent, it will never replace the real thing. And that's not what filmed live theater is for. It's not to replace, but to document and archive and make accessible something that is ephemeral.

Al Monaco:

Absolutely. And I think like I remember, I think there are pros and cons to even that, which I can't believe I'm saying that too. But for example in "Masterclass," Zoe Caldwell or Maria Callas, she needs the audience because she, she pretends like they're all of her students in her class. So for that, absolutely. I saw that pro shot and it was beautiful. But then I also saw the pro shot of "Choir Boy" and in an intimate setting, one of the most special plays I've ever read, and I've ever seen, and for people, three times, three different cell phones to go off during these just heartbreaking, heartbreaking moments. And for that to be the only proshot of that show. I think it's unfair to the actors, it's unfair to the playwright, it's unfair to the director. Um, and I grew up, I grew up watching the Lesley Ann Warren "Cinderella" over and over and over and over again. And so I like, I mean, I just remember just loving that, that show. I love "Cinderella". But I love that film of "Cinderella." And that certainly was without an audience and it was so cheesy, but it's something... I don't know. It's like it isn't like its own genre almost. It's something so special. You can't contain it. And so yeah, I think there are negatives and there are positives to the audience as well. I get I can't believe I'm saying that. But in this medium that we're talking about that we have not defined yet. I think the question of audience is still up in the air for me whether it's beneficial or not. Oh, wow. See, I've I have yet to come across a filmed lived musical where cell phones or audience interruptions kind of marred the capture. Wow.

Luisa Lyons:

So I think maybe it was masked by music or they edited it out? How do we mitigate that?

Al Monaco:

Yeah. Because for me the filmed live tv specials that came in since Peter Pan, the new edition, not the Mary Martin and Cathy Rigby Right. The Taylor Lowdermilk... versions...

Luisa Lyons:

Yeah. Oh, what's her name from Girls, played Peter Pan?

Al Monaco:

Alison something... Yes. But anyway, for me those productions. I couldn't watch them because they weren't theater. They were advertised as theater but they're just, they're TV shows in a studio. Whereas for me, "Jesus Christ Superstar" live was the first tv live musical that worked, because it had an audience present. Although the screaming crowd made me crazy. I was like, please tell them to stop screaming and please stop cutting to commercial break. Yeah. I agree with you about "Jesus Christ Superstar" and I am not a very big Andrew Lloyd Webber fan. But that show particularly works, just works in that setting. Like there's another I can't, oh so yeah, Andrew Lloyd Webber is doing, he did the you know, The Show Must Go On?

Luisa Lyons:

Yep.

Al Monaco:

And so he released another production of Jesus Christ Superstar

Luisa Lyons:

The O2 Arena.

Al Monaco:

Oh, and I'm like, this is the only show that can do this. This is the only show that can just... So I agree

Luisa Lyons:

"Little Mermaid" was such a shame because they ith you. I think that that is ut like "Little Mermaid" didn' work. "RENT" didn't work. had an audience but they decided, for whatever reason, to do all the book scenes from the cartoon and live musical numbers and it was misjudged. And "RENT" was such a missed opportunity because yes, I haven't looked at it in a while and I forget who played Roger, but he hurt his ankle

Al Monaco:

It wasn't Jordan Fisher? He played Mark. I don't remember.

Luisa Lyons:

But he injured himself in the dress rehearsal which they recorded, and in and then he had to be in a cast, in a wheelchair. And instead of allowing him to go on in that way, which I understand health concerns or safety concerns, they aired the dress rehearsal. And there was a live audience, but they knew it was a dress rehearsal as they were holding back, and it wasn't the real thing. It didn't have the excitement of the actual performance. And I think it's such, it was like a real missed opportunity to to allow theatre to happen, once you know not having an understudy, and could have he, could he have done it in his cast? And would that have changed that performance? And it's you know, it was only happening at that one time. And it was a shame we didn't get to see what it could have been.

Al Monaco:

Yeah, I agree.

Luisa Lyons:

Also stop putting commercials in my theatre! (laughter)

Al Monaco:

Yeah. Oh my goodness gracious,

Luisa Lyons:

So infuriating.

Al Monaco:

Hashtag stop putting commercials in my theater.

Luisa Lyons:

Hashtag please. Hashtag now. (laughter)

Al Monaco:

Right?

Luisa Lyons:

Like, how joyful was it to watch "Hamilton" without ad breaks? Can you imagine any ad breaks in there if that had aired on like NBC or ABC or something?

Al Monaco:

No, there were a couple times where my Disney plus it had to buffer and I was getting upset just at the buffering because I'm like, "Guys, what is going on?" Right? "Reynolds is about to, he's about to... what?" No! (laughter)

Luisa Lyons:

Were you watching it on Friday when it came out?

Al Monaco:

Yeah, you

Luisa Lyons:

Yeah, we watched on Friday night and it was better. We watched after the watch party started.

Al Monaco:

Gotcha.

Luisa Lyons:

Because we were lining up to watch it with my sisters in Sydney.

Al Monaco:

Oh right, right, right.

Luisa Lyons:

#TheLyonsSisters! So! Going back to TV musicals brings us back to "Peter Pan." In 1955, the Mary Martin, production of Peter Pan was performed live or performed on television. So that version was, it was the Broadway production and the Broadway cast. But it was redone and condensed for television. So it was a shorter version. And it was a huge hit. And so they redid it in 1956. That time it was done live. But I think without a studio audience, it was just broadcast live on television, and then they did it again in 1960 which is the version that is currently available and it's the first, from what I can tell, I think it's the first Broadway show on television even though it was a studio version. And then that was followed by "Cinderella" with Julie Andrews. And the version that you...

Al Monaco:

Lesley Ann Warren.

Luisa Lyons:

Yes.

Al Monaco:

But I do love I do have that like disc set of the Julie Andrews, of this, like I have the recording of this performance because I love them so much. It's beautiful.

Luisa Lyons:

I need to I confess I've not watched it.

Al Monaco:

I'm just a sucker for anything Cinderella, so I'll just watch anything with Cinderella

Luisa Lyons:

Did you see when it became a Broadway show?

Al Monaco:

Yes. Oh, yes. I have my thoughts on that as well.

Luisa Lyons:

Not filmed live! (laughter). And then jumping ahead. So there wasn't really anything else, there's no live musicals on TV. The variety hours fell out of favor and were replaced by sitcoms and made for TV content, rather than bringing theater in to fill the airwaves basically. In 1973, we have "Pippin" being the first Broadway show to use actual footage from the show in a commercial on television. There's a great line from the commercial. "You can see the other 119 minutes of Pippin live at the Imperial theater without commercial interruption."

Al Monaco:

Wow.

Luisa Lyons:

A lot of sources say that it was the first use footage from the show. From what I have read Fosse recreated the number for the screen and he also directed how the camera angles would be.

Al Monaco:

Of course he did.

Luisa Lyons:

Yes, that's right. Of course he did. The commercial is available on YouTube.

Al Monaco:

Oooh!

Luisa Lyons:

Yeah, it's fascinating to see it with, you know, Ben Vereen in front and center. And but Pippin wasn't filmed live itself as a show until much, much later, till 1981. And it was filmed in Canada, not the Broadway production, so the filmed production was filmed in Canada.

Al Monaco:

Wow.

Unknown:

And then we get to 1976 which is, I think it's quite an important year for filmed live musicals. "Pacific Overtures", Sondheim, was filmed in its entirety, the original Broadway cast for distribution on Japanese television. And I think it's interesting that it was not released in the American market. And I would love to do more research about why Japanese television, why there was a market for American musicals. And how how that all came about?

Al Monaco:

Mm hmm. Absolutely. Wow. That's very interesting.

Luisa Lyons:

Yeah. It was produced by Hal Prince, who also directed the production, in conjunction with a Japanese producer, McCannEricksonHakuhodo, and I apologize. I'm probably definitely mispronouncing that. But it was the first of three productions to be filmed for Japanese television. There was "Will Rogers Follies" in 91, which was filmed at the Palace, and "Victor/Victoria" with Queen Julie Andrews, was filmed at the Marriott Marquis in '95. So there's definitely, there was a market for, or a tiny market, because those musicals are quite far apart. But I'm curious to know more about, there is more research to be done there.

Al Monaco:

Absolutely.

Luisa Lyons:

And then we go into the 80s. And we have the rise of pay TV and producers realized that there was a niche market for, or they sensed that there was a niche market for musicals on television. And "Sophisticated Ladies", which was a review of Duke Ellington music was the first musical to air live on television while still being performed on Broadway. And back to these contract negotiations, most of the original Broadway cast refused to appear in the broadcast because they were scared about what that broadcast would do to ticket sales. And, like you said, they didn't believe that filming theater was was a good thing. So I'm curious if any of those original actors regret that decision now.

Al Monaco:

Hmm, that's very interesting. That to me like signifies just a true passion and love for your craft, which I I respect very much. Wow, that's very interesting.

Luisa Lyons:

Yeah, I, the sources that I've read about "Sophisticated Ladies", the the newspaper reports say that contract negotiations were "sour". And so I'm curious if it was maybe part of their reluctance to film the show, but also they wanted to be paid more.

Al Monaco:

Yeah.

Luisa Lyons:

Which, probably!

Al Monaco:

Yeah, right?!

Luisa Lyons:

Given how new and and rare this was. And their demands were probably not met. And so they bought in people from the tour, I believe were the folks that were filmed. But that is now available on DVD, it was released by Kultur in 2005. And it is also on YouTube. Don't condone it, but it's there. (laughter) Because who's getting residuals from that YouTube Video? Nobody. And then in 1986, we have Live from Lincoln Center, which the TV program it had been airing before that, but it was mostly opera. It had started 10 years earlier in 1976. But it had only broadcast opera and ballet and classical music to that point. And the first musical that they broadcast was "Candide" at the Met. And you can debate whether "Candide" is an operetta or musical but it was advertised as the first Bernstein musical to be aired on national live TV.

Al Monaco:

Okay, that's interesting. I always considered it an operetta. But we can call it a musical.

Luisa Lyons:

They called it a musical. And Bernstein was still alive at this point. So... (laughter). Have you seen "Candide"?

Al Monaco:

No, I've never seen it. I've only listened to it.

Luisa Lyons:

Yeah, me too. I love the music, it's some of my favorite. "Make our garden grow" is... I want that played at my funeral.

Al Monaco:

Oh it's beautiful.

Luisa Lyons:

Not to get morbid (laughter). It's such a beautiful song. And of course "Candide" was filmed later again, Live from Lincoln Center with Patti LuPone, Kristin Chenoweth, and I forget who else is in the cast, because you only care about the musical theater people! Not true.

Al Monaco:

Yeah, I was going to say (laughter)!

Luisa Lyons:

But Kristin Chenoweth singing 'Glitter and Be Gay'... Glorious! So into the 80s, 'Sunday in the Park with George' was filmed and it was produced by Michael Brandman and Ellen M Krass. And I got to interview Michael Brandman when I wrote my thesis, and he talked about how Sondheim was very dedicated to ensuring his legacy and was really keen on using new technology to distribute his work. So it was a very conscious decision to film 'Sunday in the Park with' and 'Into the George' (laughter). (singing) into the George it's time to go.... (laughter)

Al Monaco:

(singing) Sunday in the park with woods...

Luisa Lyons:

(singing) Sunday in the woods. (laughter). I tried (laughter) to think of a mash up. It's hot up here... Mother cannot guide you... Okay, so "Into the Woods" and "Sunday in the Park with George" and "A Little Night Music" were all filmed part of me in the late 80s, early 90s. And there was a conscious decision to use cinematic filming techniques which in my interview, Michael Brandman claimed that that hadn't been done before. But when I've watched "Pacific Overtures," I'd argue that they were attempting to do that, they just the tech, the capture of "Pacific Overtures" is not super clear.

Al Monaco:

Mm hmm.

Luisa Lyons:

And, I think that's just because of the the cameras that were available at that time and what could fit inside the theater and what could be done, and what could be done with an audience present. I think that's just gotten better and better as time has gone on. And most of those shows up until this point has been were filmed toward the end of their run and released either just before the show was closing or after it had closed.

Al Monaco:

Hmm, that seems smart.

Luisa Lyons:

So they couldn't argue that it was really affecting ticket sales at that point because the shows were done mostly, although "Sophisticated Ladies" when it was released, oh I'm thinking of a different one, nevermind, I am coming to a different show. It's "Memphis" that I want to talk about the ticket sales.

Al Monaco:

Gotcha.

Luisa Lyons:

Yeah. So in 2006, the Met created Met Live in HD. And they were the first theatre company, well opera company to release filmed live productions in cinemas. And it was hugely successful and hugely influential. And lots of companies have tried to replicate it with varying success. But the Met was incredibly successful when it first launched. And then in 2007, so it's it's relatively recently it's within the last 15 years, 13 years. We have "Legally Blonde" was the first musical to be broadcast on TV, while it was playing on Broadway. Well, the second really because "Sophisticated Ladies" was first, but certainly the first of you know of that 21st century. And the producers have talked about how that that capture and the airing on MTV helped boost ticket sales for the tour.

Al Monaco:

Interesting. I always wondered why they did that. Why did they do that MTV show?

Luisa Lyons:

From what I understand the ticket sales weren't great. It didn't get great reviews. It didn't get any Tony love. And it just wasn't selling very well. And so they decided to, the quote I love is "We're bringing an MTV musical to the MTV generation". It was aimed at our age group, millennials and teenagers and tweens, who were bit younger than us at that time, or a bit younger than me certainly. I was not a tween in 2007!

Al Monaco:

I don't even know how old I was. Oh God I was... (laughter)

Luisa Lyons:

You were a teenager right?

Al Monaco:

I was a teenager.

Luisa Lyons:

Yeah. Not a tween.

Al Monaco:

No, what's a tween?

Luisa Lyons:

Like before, like, not a child, not a teenager. So like 8 to twelve.

Al Monaco:

Oh okay. Got it.

Luisa Lyons:

You were a teenager right? In 2007?

Al Monaco:

Yeah. Fifteen or sixteen.

Luisa Lyons:

So yeah, it was aimed at your market, our market. I was a little older. I had just finished college in 2007. But there was so much talk about would it affect the tour, would it affect Broadway, and it gave it a little bit of a bump on Broadway. But what really helped the tour was "The Search for Elle Woods," the reality show the cast the new Elle.

Al Monaco:

Wow.

Luisa Lyons:

Who was it that won? Do you remember?

Al Monaco:

I don't remember.

Luisa Lyons:

She, whoever won, did the tour. And so people wanted to see who they'd seen on television.

Al Monaco:

I see.

Luisa Lyons:

And the producers have directly said that "The Search for Elle Woods" helped boost ticket sales on the road.

Al Monaco:

Wow.

Luisa Lyons:

And I think that speaks to the power of making musicals, Broadway content available to people outside of New York.

Al Monaco:

Absolutely.

Luisa Lyons:

Because not everyone can afford the tickets to come to the city, let alone the Broadway ticket and the cost of coming to the city, pre pandemic. Right, what's it going to be post pandemic?

Al Monaco:

Absolutely, I mean, I just think about being a kid and what I mean and using dial up which took forever to load one YouTube video, which took forever, to watch a clip of a show from the Tonys or a bootleg because that's literally the only access I had to the New York, or the professional theatre scene I should say. Besides the, because I'm in Buffalo, we have a professional roadhouse. So we would get we would get national tours. And I was involved in theater but to see like those actual people on Broadway and never in my life did I ever think I would be able to do that. So I use what I had which was dial up and, and hours to load a YouTube so I can understand and appreciate that.

Luisa Lyons:

Yeah, well, for me growing up even further away in Sydney, Australia, it's probably may as well have been the moon it was so far away.

Al Monaco:

Right. Right. Exactly.

Luisa Lyons:

You know, I, we had access to VHS and DVDs. So I think the first filmed live musical that I got to see, or the first Broadway musical I got to see, was that 1989 recording of "Into the Woods."

Al Monaco:

Yeah.

Luisa Lyons:

And it opened my eyes to this whole world that existed beyond my bubble. It's why this is so important. So let's press on. In 2008 we have the creation of Digital Theatre in the UK. It's a company that was dedicated to streaming digital theatre content. And their first musical was from a company called Perfect Pitch, and they they do development of new musicals. And they received, Digital Theatere, received a grant, or sorry, the company that filmed "From Up Here," Perfect Pitch, that created that musical. They received a grant in 2012, from the Arts Council in the UK, to look into digital content. And it started because of podcasts, they realized that there was this market online for creating theater content, and they were curious to see if video captures would be part of that market. And so they streamed a new musical "From Up Here". It's still available on Digital Theatre. And I'm curious, I'd love to do more research into what the numbers were at that time. How many people watched it?

Al Monaco:

Yeah, absolutely.

Luisa Lyons:

And then in 2009 we have the formation of National Theatre Live, again inspired by the Met Live in HD. The National Theatre in the UK created a program where they would film plays and stream them in cinemas, cinema broadcasts, and their first musical was "Fela", which was a Broadway production and then it transferred to the National Theatre in 2011. And it was the first National Theatre broadcast of a show that was concurrently playing on Broadway. First and only, I believe right now, still the only. So curious, be interesting to look into ticket sales, how that boosted or negatively affected. I suspect it boosted. And National Theatre have also filmed "The Threepenny Opera", the Brecht musical and "Follies" in 2017 - which I'm so sad they didn't release during the National Theatre at Home, during the pandemic. I wish any of those musicals had been released to watch again, but there were, in the the contracts, were only for cinema broadcasts. So from what I understand they can't do it again. In 2011, we have Memphis. It was the first musical to be released in cinemas while playing on Broadway in 2011, on April 28 2011, at the Shubert, and this is when I have done a little bit of research on the ticket sales. Prior to the release of the film, the capacity at the Shubert was at about 86%. And the week before the release, lots of promotions for the film, the ticket sales at the Shubert went up to almost full houses, to 98%. It's quite a big jump. And then the ticket sales dropped back down after the release to 87%. So slightly higher than they had been but not much. But it certainly didn't take away the audiences, people still kept coming. I think it closed shortly afterwards. And then in 2013, I just think it's interesting to share that Live from Lincoln Center, after having started as sharing mostly ballet and opera and classical musi, most of their content from 2000 onwards has been musical theater content. And there's concerts featuring Broadway stars or composer tributes they did a Sondheim tribute at one point. I think a Stephen Schwartz tribute as well. And they've also done several full length musicals and occasional plays, but it's mostly been musical theater content. I think that shows a shift in audience desires and what the Live from Lincoln Center are willing to produce and to sponsor.

Al Monaco:

Absolutely.

Luisa Lyons:

So five years ago, in 2015, "Daddy Long Legs" became the first off-Broadway musical to be live streamed. It was produced by Ken Davenport and streamed from the Davenport Theatre, an off-Broadway house which sadly no longer exists. Probably going to come up high rise apartment.

Al Monaco:

Oh my God, it's depressing.

Luisa Lyons:

Have you seen "Daddy Long Legs"?

Al Monaco:

Ah, no. I've listened to the soundtrack and I've seen whatever like, like when you go on BroadwayWorld or whatever those YouTube channels are and whatever they release, so like clips and stuff, but never a full production.

Luisa Lyons:

It's such an amazing capture and when it came out I was so excited and I thought this is it. This is going to be the game changer. It was watched by I don't remember the numbers. Potentially millions, but like from all around the world. Ken Davenport released an amazing statistics breakdown of what the numbers had been. And they were just incredible. And they boosted the sales at "Daddy Long Legs", and it was able to run, it ran for another year or so after that live stream. So you know, it certainly helped the sales and Ken Davenport talked a lot about how the number of people that watched the live stream, how many times over that could have filled that little off- Broadway theater. And it was something like the equivalent of it about running for seven years or something.

Al Monaco:

Oh my gosh.

Luisa Lyons:

Yeah. So the reach of the live stream was just unparalleled.

Al Monaco:

Wow.

Luisa Lyons:

And then in 2016, we have the first Broadway musical to stream online and it was Broadway HD. And again, Ellen M Krass, she keeps coming back.

Al Monaco:

She's a smart lady.

Luisa Lyons:

Yes. And that was a Roundabout co-production and filmed... Oh gosh. What is that theater? It's a Roundabout theater.

Al Monaco:

At the American Airlines?

Luisa Lyons:

No, the other one.

Al Monaco:

Not 54?

Luisa Lyons:

Yes! 54!

Al Monaco:

with Laura Benanti?

Luisa Lyons:

That's right! And so that was it was streamed online and it was meant to be a one night only thing but it was so popular that Broadway HD made it available for 10 days afterwards and you can now watch it on Broadway HD.

Al Monaco:

Wow.

Luisa Lyons:

So that's a quick little saunter into the firsts of filmed live musicals. So to finish off and my hope is that we'll be able to do this each each episode we'll do some quick questions. I'm going to ask Al some quick questions. Here we go. Rapid Fire.

Al Monaco:

Aah, I'm scared!

Luisa Lyons:

What is your favorite musical? You can do, this favorite musical.

Al Monaco:

Um, it's it's somewhere between "Guys and Dolls" and "Next to Normal". Somewhere in there.

Luisa Lyons:

That is quite a range! That is also an excellent answer. Do you have a favorite filmed live musical?

Al Monaco:

Oh, it's probably, I think I've seen "Sunday the Park with George," I think I've seen that proshot more than I've seen any other one.

Luisa Lyons:

Also currently available on BroadwayHD, just re-released.

Al Monaco:

Love it.

Luisa Lyons:

So you don't need to go hunting for your old VHS.

Al Monaco:

Nope. (laughter)

Luisa Lyons:

What should we call filmed live musicals? Is it theater? Is it film? What is it?

Al Monaco:

It's a filming of theatre? This is a great question. I would say. In all honesty, I would say that it's film, I would say that it's being presented as film. It should be treated as such. That's what I'm gonna, that's my gonna be my answer for now.

Luisa Lyons:

So what's the difference between "Cats", the musical, the movie musical, that came out last year.

Al Monaco:

Oh Lord.

Luisa Lyons:

Not talking about quality, but just like (laughter)

Al Monaco:

So we're just talking about the concepts, the ideas.

Luisa Lyons:

So you've got the movie musical, you've got the production that was filmed in a studio. That was a recreation of the West End show. What's the difference between those two? Why is one a film, is one theater? That 'CATS' was filmed without an audience, but it's kind of the closest thing.

Al Monaco:

Oh, yeah, that I would say they're both film but I think that, I think they're both to be treated as film. I think that they're two different styles like a documentary and you know what I mean, like in a drama, that's kind of what it feels like. It's like documentary style. Yeah. When you want when you follow like these live beings and you don't interrupt them, whereas with a film with for going with the example of 'CATS' from last year with Taylor Swift and all those people that's interrupted that's that's that set up that scripted that's actually adapted to be, that's written in a different way. Like they added things. They took things out. They gave...

Luisa Lyons:

So here, here's a better, how would you, what would you call "Hamilton"? The new one, the film that just got dropped this week? What is it? Is it a film?

Al Monaco:

That's a proshot? Yeah, I would say it's a film I would say. I would say it's meant to be treated as that right? Yeah.

Luisa Lyons:

But it's still the stage show?

Al Monaco:

It is a film of a stage show. (laughter) I love this question. It tortures me and I I'm taking a little bit of glee in watching your brain wrap around it. It's kind of The question to me. What is it? I love it. I mean, okay, I'm still going to go with it. Still edited. It's still Yeah, I'm going to go with film.

Luisa Lyons:

Proshot film. I like it. Where do you stand on bootlegs?

Al Monaco:

Somewhere in the middle. I like completely honestly, I don't watch bootlegs as much as I used to like when I was little, because I have clear, easier access to theater and I can afford it and I can just see it whenever, pre COVID. But I also understand why people do it. I understand why people watch them. I get it. So I don't condemn the people who watch them. I think I condemn the people who do it like the people who actually do it in the first place.

Luisa Lyons:

Yeah. But to me, it's, you know, they show that they people want, they want to see the live theater, and they are willing to watch it on screen. And there's there is money to be made and to be had in that industry and that we need to find a way to make recording -

Al Monaco:

Above board.

Luisa Lyons:

Yeah, exactly. Because bootlegs often are terrible quality. I don't like watching them for that reason. And I know people who love bootlegs and you know, are deep in that world and claim that the quality isn't as terrible as the general assumption is, but why watch a bootleg when you can watch a pro shot?

Al Monaco:

That's fair. The only thing I'll say is that there are some proshot that just don't exist, So many! I mean, such a tiny amount have been recorded. It's so disappointing. Like the first show I ever, ever, ever wanted to see at the New York Public Library they didn't have. So like I was the only thing I wanted.

Luisa Lyons:

What was it?

Al Monaco:

It was "Exit the King with Geoffrey Rush, and Susan Sarandon. And Geoffrey Rush had done his own translation because Ionesco wrote in French, so Geoffrey Rush from French, translated it, did his own. I just really wanted to see it. And so for that, I then start to look for resources. Same thing with "Merrily", like there's original footage of "Merilly", people walking out of the Neil Simon, or the Alvin at the time, people walking out and I, I'll give, I'm so happy that there's a recording of something for that history because that is history. I'm glad that there's something. Yeah, I wish it was professional. But who's gonna record an 11, it only ran for like 11 days. So who's gonna record that? You know?

Luisa Lyons:

Yeah. And now you know how, it comes to this question of what should we film? Who's paying for it? Why do we film it? Should everything be filmed? It's very complicated.

Al Monaco:

I mean, I wish everything was filmed. I think that...

Luisa Lyons:

Our next question. What do you wish had been filmed?

Al Monaco:

Geoffrey Rush in "Exit the King"!

Luisa Lyons:

Not a musical. (laughter) What musical do you wish had been filmed? I care about plays....but I don't care about plays.

Al Monaco:

What about do you have an answer for this question? Do you know what you would have liked to see?

Luisa Lyons:

Everything. Everything. "A Chorus Line." The original production. I don't know if that is at TOFT. Is it that at TOFT? Do we know?

Al Monaco:

I don't know. I never asked.

Luisa Lyons:

I wish everything had been filmed. I, know that the thing, that theater is ephemeral, that's part of its magic for people. But there is a way to document and archive and I wish we had access to more historical performances. To understand how, you know, as a history student, as a theatre student, to understand how conventions have changed over time. To understand how performance styles have changed over time. The orchestrations. Like that's so much a capture can give us all of that information in a way that just a list of orchestra members or have, you know, sometimes not all the orchestrations survive? So we don't have that information and if you have a film recording, you have that information, to a degree, you can hear it aurally and see it visually so I, you know, I just I wish everything had been filmed.

Al Monaco:

I mean, I agree with that.

Luisa Lyons:

What would you like to see filmed in the future? What productions would you like to see filmed?

Al Monaco:

Ooooh! I mean it's really hard to think about the future right now isn't it?

Luisa Lyons:

Yes, that is a tricky question in the middle of a global pandemic where Broadway shut down until for the next, seven, what are we July? Five months for the, for now? Potentially longer.

Al Monaco:

I don't know. I'm I honestly I don't know if this exists, but a proshot of Nathan Lane and "Guys and Dolls" that probably I go back and I watch all the rehearsal footage from that particular production. I would not have minded, I just would like to see, I would like to see every yeah iconic musical played by like a legendary actor, right, recorded. So like they've done "Gypsy" how many times. I want to see every Gypsy with every Rose.

Luisa Lyons:

My dream is to have a box set of shows like that exactly. I want "Gypsy ". I want "Hello, Dolly!". I want "Shuffle Along". I want all of it and I want the box set. But can you imagine if you could have "Shuffle Along", like the original 1920s production...

Al Monaco:

That would be a dream.

Luisa Lyons:

And then the contemporary production with a making of about why they re-did, why they did the 20- What was it? 2016? 2017?

Al Monaco:

Before "Evan Hansen."

Luisa Lyons:

Can you imagine like how, what a document of

Al Monaco:

It would be a dream. Like I even say, I've seen history that would be to have the box set of all of those great performers. several different productions of the same play at Lincoln Center because they have it. And I think that if they did that for musicals, I think that that would be a just a dream. Just an absolute theater kids dream. Yeah.

Luisa Lyons:

To have "Hello, Dolly!" with Carol Channing. Bette Midler. Donna Murphy. Betty Buckley, And then Pearl Bailey from the all-Black production in the seventies. I want every one of those women and every one of those casts. I want to see it. Yeah. Like people talking about "Hamilton". You know, they want to see Javier Munoz playing Hamilton. All these dream casts that we could come up with and imagine. But the cost and all of it.

Al Monaco:

Right.

Luisa Lyons:

So that brings us to the end just about.

Al Monaco:

Woohoo!

Luisa Lyons:

Thank you so much for being here on my first Filmed Live Musicals episode!

Al Monaco:

Thank you. I'm so excited. Muah!

Luisa Lyons:

Thank you so much, Al. Tell us where we can find you on social media.

Al Monaco:

Ooooh, on social media? It's usually just Al_Monaco. So l underscore Monaco. That's usually the game.

Luisa Lyons:

Twitter, Facebook, Insta.

Al Monaco:

Yeah, Instagram, Al_Monaco, Twitter the same thing, and then, or you can also find me at AlKnitsThings, because I knit a lot of things. So you could find me there too.

Luisa Lyons:

Fabulous. And you can find Filmed Live Musicals, on Twitter @musicalsonscreen, or on Facebook @FilmedLiveMusicals. And we also have a Patreon, tiers start at $1. For $1 you're just supporting the site, for $5 you get early access to the Filmed Live Musicals newsletter, which comes out each month. And for $10 patrons, you get access to the newsletter and also early access to this podcast. Huzzah! And you can find us @patreon.com/musicalsonscreen.

Al Monaco:

Excellent.

Luisa Lyons:

Fabulous. Well, thank you so much. This was so much fun.

Al Monaco:

Yes, it was.

Luisa Lyons:

I have learned things about you that I did not know before. Like that you did not like film.

Al Monaco:

For shame!

Luisa Lyons:

That has made my day. I think that's hilarious. It's perfect.

Al Monaco:

I'm so sorry.

Luisa Lyons:

I love it.

Al Monaco:

Oh.

Luisa Lyons:

Okay. Thank you so much for listening. And we look forward to catching up next month.

Al Monaco:

Yay!

Luisa Lyons:

Okay, bye! Filmed Live Musicals is a labor of love and wed like to thank everyone who makes it possible. Thank you to our patrons Josh Brandon, Mercedes Esteban, Jesse Rabinowitz and Brenda Goodman, Al Monaco, David and Katherine Rabinowitz, and Bec Twist for your support. If youd like to support Filmed Live Musicals, please like and review on your podcast app, find us on Twitter at musicalsonscreen and on facebook at Filmed Live Musicals. If youd like to support the site financially, you can find us at patreon.com/musicalsonscreen. No matter what level you are able to pledge, you receive early access to written content, and early access to this very podcast. Visit www.filmedlivemusicals.com to learn more. Thanks for listening.