Broadway: The Golden Age

When my girlfriend and I went to see this movie, our audience was neatly divided into two groups: elderly couples and middle-aged gay men. Such should be expected with a fawning documentary about the heyday of the Broadway stage, which according to filmmaker McKay spans the two decades between the mid-1940s and the mid-'60s.

This film consists mostly of talking-head reminiscences of many of the stars from that era (some of whom had already passed away by the time McKay was done editing), wistfully longing for the good ol' days. It's hard to deny that American theatre was at its most vital during that era: from A Streetcar Named Desire to Guys and Dolls to West Side Story to Bus Stop, it was all happening. But although I am familiar with the titles of these plays and most of the actors who starred in them, I have no nostalgia to be rekindled by this movie. All I could think was, gee, it sure would have been swell to have been in New York at that time – especially since the cost of a top show on Broadway was actually less than the cost of a movie down the street. (Imagine being able to see a Broadway play today for just $7 instead of $80, and you'll understand how integral and accessible live theatre was to the average Manhattanite of the day.)

I wish that McKay had included more footage from the actual shows, so we could actually see what all these old farts were talking about. To be fair, he utilizes what he can, but since back then plays weren't all videotaped like they are now, there's little to go on besides the fading memories of the now-aged performers who were part of the scene. Broadway: The Golden Age is agreeable entertainment, but I only recommend it to those few who already have an intimate knowledge of, and love for, mid-20th century American theatre.