This week PBS stations (Channel 13 in the New York area) will be running a not-to-be-missed 90 minute documentary titled Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy. It's the first documentary film to explore the phenomenon that, over the fifty-year period of its development, the songs of the Broadway musical were created almost exclusively by Jewish Americans.
These are the popular songs that our nation took to war, sang to their children at bedtime, and whistled while waiting for the bus – taken in total they comprise the vast majority of what is now commonly referred to as “The American Songbook.”
As Eddy Friedfeld, co-author of Caesar's Hours with Sid Caesar wrote,
In the 1920s, nearly one in four New York residents was Jewish. The film charts how Jewish immigrants and children of immigrants in the melting pot of old New York helped shape the vision of America through musical theater. While shows like Porgy and Bess, Show Boat and Oklahoma are fictions, they represent the artist's vision of how do we take what we know from Jewish culture and tradition and make it into America?The show begins with a funny scene from Spamalot, with David Hyde Pierce singing We Won't Succeed on Broadway if We Don't Have Any Jews." Click on the video clip below to see and hear the song with the lyrics as subtitles.
The film also points out that the music of Porgy and Bess was rooted in Hebrew prayers and then charts the journey of the music into the brilliant hands of Miles Davis as he re-crafts the liturgical themes' roots into his own classic jazz riffs.
Set your DVRs to record the show!
Tuesday, New Years Day at 9:30 pm on Channel 13
Thursday, Jan. 3 at 1 am on Channel 13
Sunday, Jan. 6 at 2 pm on Channel 13 and 5 pm on Channel 21
(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS: THE VIDEO MAY NOT BE VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY ON SOME COMPUTERS AND TABLETS. YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)
(A tip of the kippah to Esther Kustanowitz for bringing this story to our attention.)