On Broadway (2019) Movie Script

[whimsical music]
I have to say, working on
my first show on Broadway,
I remember so clearly
coming to start rehearsals.
When you're
approaching Manhattan,
and you can see it
from a distance,
you look at it
and you think, you know,
"Am I going to conquer it?"
You know,
"Will I conquer New York?
Will I survive it even?"
The whole concept of Broadway,
it has this very romantic,
very heroic, very legendary
kind of feel to it.
New York is a place that,
when 8:00 at night rolls around,
the curtain is opening on
some of the greatest performers
around the world in one city.
[triumphant music]
It's almost incomprehensible
the amount of talent
that is on display
in that one moment
on Broadway.
As a performer, Broadway
is different than anywhere else
on the planet.
You feel the audience
leaning in.
They're wanting to have
a great time.
They are ready to enjoy it.
It's the most palpable
I've ever felt
that connection
with an audience.
Without the theater,
New York somehow
would not be itself.
Broadway is
a bunch of buildings.
It's a bunch of real estate.
But, periodically,
something incredible
that resonates with people
ends up inhabiting
those buildings,
and it creates
a kind of strange,
wonderful, odd energy,
and all of a sudden
those buildings become
kind of like a church
that attract these devotees,
who find themselves empowered
by what's on that stage.
But, at the same time,
it's a commercial landscape,
and every day
you have to pay your rent.
That's the key to Broadway.
The key to Broadway is every day
you have to pay your rent.
[elegant music]
In our country right now,
we have to celebrate
how Broadway reflects
who we are as Americans.
It's been a long process
of artists taking risks,
and it reflects us
as a United States of America.
You just always gotta keep
an eye on what's new,
what's fresh,
what's this going to inspire.
The next kid who thinks,
"Oh, my God,
I'm gonna write a play."
[pensive music]
[overlapping remarks]
[indistinct remarks]
The Nap is a very unusual play.
Paying the kind of money
you have to pay
to put anything
on a Broadway stage now
is almost foolhardy.
But, the excitement
ain't about the money.
It's all about finding
fascinating new work,
and taking that chance
to put it before the public.
When I first read this script
and saw how funny it was,
that's when I wanted
to help tell the story,
and it just so happened
that it was on Broadway,
so I got lucky.
Opening night,
I tried it as best as I could
to be grateful
for the people
that have paved the way.
[upbeat music]
[brakes squealing]
Because the Broadway journey
has so much history
attached to it,
and we need to
remember our history.
All of it is important,
all of it has to be looked at.
The theater district
in those days,
you just can't believe
how different it was.
I--I mean, it was
so down on its luck.
Times Square was a rat hole.
[siren blaring]
You didn't walk down
42nd Street after dark
for anything.
It was wall to wall
junkies and hustlers.
It was like the Wild West.
When my mother came to visit me
in my first
$55-a-month apartment,
I brought her up
and she stepped in the room,
and she started crying
that her baby boy
was living like that
in Hell's Kitchen.
[jazz music]
It's not the Times Square
of the Lion King.
It's the Times Square
of Midnight Cowboy
and Taxi Driver.
So, Broadway was stuck in a city
and a neighborhood,
Times Square,
that was falling apart.
42nd Street,
you didn't venture down there.
You peeped down from 7th Avenue,
and knew if you needed
sex or drugs,
you could probably find them,
but that was all.
There was no theater to be done.
[mellow music]
But, it was very exciting.
[siren blaring]
It used to be, basically,
sort of brothels,
and, you know, strip clubs,
and I loved it like that,
I have to say.
You know, what can I say?
I work in the theater, you know,
they're my kind of people.
I remember, in the early '70s,
Times Square being scary.
[siren blaring]
[abrasive music]
New York was on a--
on a dark side.
Tourism was down,
shootings were up.
There were five to six
reported crimes a day
on 42nd Street.
There were people
being mugged on the streets.
You heard stories
of people standing in line
to get into a theater
in their finery,
and having a robber
come from behind
and grab their necklace.
The police are out
in Times Square
passing out flyers
to passersby saying,
"Get out of this neighborhood
by 6:00 at night."
That's gonna kill
the theater business.
There were
many, many dark theaters.
But, it wasn't always like that.
[energetic show tune music]
When I was a kid,
we would come into town
on very special occasions,
and I remember it was magic
seeing the bright lights
of all the theaters.
It was incredibly exhilarating.
In the '40s and '50s,
Broadway is front and center
of the popular culture.
All the hits on the radio
are coming from Broadway.
Hollywood wanted movies
based on Broadway shows.
It's the era of great musicals,
but also the most important
American playwrights.
[dramatic music]
It's the golden age of Broadway.
So, you have a robust Broadway
into the '60s.
im Cabaret, au Cabaret,
To Cabaret
[indistinct remarks]
But, from '68 to '72,
attendance plunges from
10 million to 4.8 million.
So, this is a business
that loses half its audience
in four years.
[cars honking]
You would be
in a situation sometimes
where every theater
on 45th Street was dark.
- There wasn't product for them.
- They put up these signs
on the marquees
of all the theaters
that didn't have shows.
Then, it said,
"See a Broadway show!
Just for the fun of it!"
People were running away
from the city.
New York was careening
towards bankruptcy.
Well, how many here would urge
the--the Federal Government
to bail out New York City?
Here's one gentleman...
[rock music]
At the same time,
there's a shift in tastes
in popular culture,
and all of a sudden
Broadway became old fashioned.
It became something
your grandmother listens to.
When popular music shifted,
that opened the door,
almost inadvertently,
for musicals
that were different,
and a new generation
of great artists,
like Stephen Sondheim.
That's--that's the explosion,
that's the flower bursting,
and that's where you can
take rhythmic liberties.
Just what you're doing.
Hal Prince and Steve Sondheim
changed the American
musical theater
with shows like Company,
that were not just
happy people dancing,
but about the problems
of New York City here and now.
About contemporary people.
Company was the first musical
I saw on Broadway,
and I just thought, "Okay,
this is the New York theater."
Listen, everybody, look,
I don't know what
You're waiting for,
a wedding, what's a wedding,
It's a prehistoric ritual
where everybody promises
Fidelity forever, which is
maybe the most horrifying word
I ever heard of, which is
followed by a honeymoon
The whole rhythm of it
was unlike anything
anyone had ever seen.
Go have lunch,
'cause I'm not getting married
The songs served
the material differently,
and defined character,
and moved story along.
Don't just stand there,
I'm not getting married
And don't tell Paul that
I'm not getting married today
Steve was doing something that
no one else had done before.
Creating a whole different view
of what a musical should be.
[pensive music]
Here's to the ladies
Who lunch
Everybody laugh
They were more serious,
they were cutting.
Lounging in their caftans
And planning a brunch
He challenges you.
He doesn't placate you.
He doesn't lick you,
he doesn't rub up against you.
He makes a fist and says,
"Pay attention."
Look into their eyes
and you'll see what they know
Everybody dies
A toast to that invisible bunh
The dinosaurs
surviving the crunch
Let's hear it
for the ladies who lunch
Everybody rise
Rise, rise
Steve and Hal were doing
sophisticated, ambitious,
adult musicals.
But, as brilliant artistically
as these shows were,
very few of them made any money.
Success is a funny thing.
The exhilaration of theater
is challenging
as well as entertaining.
What makes money
and what represents
the craft
at its highest art form
are not always the same thing.
The theaters were still empty,
and at the center
of this business
is the Shubert Organization.
The backbone
of the American theater.
Until the '60s,
they had the monopoly
on theaters in New York
and across the country.
Everybody who worked
in the theater in America
at one time
was on a Shubert payroll,
whether they were an actor,
a director, a designer,
or usher,
because the Shubert Organization
not only owned and operated
104 theaters,
they booked 1,000 theaters.
It was originally
three brothers,
and they built the theaters
that are the foundation
of Times Square.
That still exists today.
[mellow music]
It was in the '70s
that Jimmy Nederlander
came in to New York.
He bought the Palace Theater,
and then Jimmy
began to buy more theaters.
And then, Jujamcyn came in
and they bought a few theaters.
So, Broadway
is basically dominated
by the Shuberts,
the Nederlanders,
and Jujamcyn.
And they have
all of the great theaters.
But, Shubert,
because of its scale,
was the really important
player here.
1972, when they were
going into bankruptcy,
Jerry Schoenfeld
and Bernie Jacobs,
these two lawyers
who'd worked for the Shuberts
are trying to keep
this company together,
and they made
a very important decision
in the history
of the American theater,
indeed, in the history
of New York City.
They staged a boardroom coup,
and they took control
of this crumbling empire.
Jerry and Bernie
became the Shuberts.
They became the Shuberts.
When we took over
the organization,
it was in great distress.
[tense music]
We owned the theaters,
but out of our
17-and-a-half theaters,
12 or 13 were dark.
The Shuberts
and the Nederlanders
had the same problem.
They were all
desperate for product.
It was Jimmy who
first started investing,
and then Bernie and Jerry,
they had to follow.
Jerry and I
came to the conclusion
that the only way
you're gonna get product
is to produce shows.
The first show
we invested in was Pippin.
[peppy music]
We gave 'em $100,000,
which was a lot of money to us
in those days.
Glory, glory
The reason they felt so positive
about Pippin
was Bob Fosse.
I don't look for
applause so much
as something
to move an audience,
to make 'em laugh, or cry,
or feel something,
or even get upset.
Takes such guts to do a show,
and kind of--
I like to do
what's just slightly risky.
Where is Billy?
Give us Billy
Bob brings sex
to Broadway dancing
in a whole new way.
That makes Broadway
more alluring.
He's our...
Bernie Jacobs
understood one thing.
Let's back the people
who are gonna do the shows.
We may not be able
to pick the show,
but if we pick the people
who are gonna create the show,
might be a hit.
Bernie said, "I'm gonna
commit to Sondheim.
I'm gonna commit to Fosse."
Which required
a certain amount of chutzpah.
There are these certain people
that have talent.
You want them to be the jockey
to ride your show.
You're not betting on the horse,
you're betting on the jockey.
And Bernie was an immediate
early champion
of Michael Bennett.
Michael Bennett was
the choreographer on Company.
People were looking to Michael
as a sort of wunderkind.
Michael Bennett
had the idea that,
"Let's just get dancers together
and talk about what it is
to be a Broadway dancer."
The gypsy life.
They recorded it all.
I just remember
always jumping around.
I used to dance around
in the living room.
I knew I was gay,
and that didn't bother me.
And at the end of that,
Michael had all these hours
of tapes, but he had no idea
what he was gonna do
with this stuff.
As I was watching dancers
just talk about Broadway
and their lives,
I began to hear musical numbers,
and we spent a summer
in my apartment writing.
Every other show that
ever happened on Broadway,
you had six weeks of rehearsal,
and you were stuck with it.
Michael changed
the face of Broadway
because he wanted
to do a workshop.
No one has ever done
a workshop of a show.
He went to Joe Papp
of the Public Theater.
He goes, "I have some tapes here
I'd like you to hear."
And I sat there,
began to listen to this
over a period of days.
I just was absolutely thrown.
It was so moving.
Joe Papp said to Michael,
"Go with it.
I'll give you space
at the Public Theater.
Have your workshop."
A 5, 6, 7, 8.
The Public Theater
basically funded the workshops
for about $100,000.
The reason
the not-for-profit theaters
have subsidies was to give them
a safe protected space
where they can do work
that's bold, that's innovative,
that is not commercial,
where they can take chances.
I really need this job!
It opened Downtown off Broadway
at the Public Theater.
But, of course,
people were still questioning
whether this was
a Broadway show.
One singular sensation
Every little step she takes
One thrilling combination
Every move that she makes
When it moved to Broadway,
it opened to rave reviews.
It was the show to see.
It was this smash,
Pulitzer Prize,
it won every award possible,
and that kicked up
the excitement.
5, 6, 7, 8!
[upbeat music]
I don't think you can
overestimate the impact
that A Chorus Line
had on Broadway
and on the American theater.
Who am I anyway?
It also brought in stories
of gay men and women.
Stories of Black and Latino
men and women.
This was new
to the Broadway experience.
I need this job
Oh, God, I need
This show
[energetic music]
You couldn't get in
to see A Chorus Line.
You had to wait, wait to get in.
Don't push me, don't push!
And the success of A Chorus Line
leaked into
the rest of the street.
It was a sea change
about how shows were developed,
to how they were rehearsed,
how they went on to make
millions and millions
of dollars.
A Chorus Line,
it was the first major musical.
It was entirely the property
of a non-profit theater
that moved to Broadway,
and of course
it ran for 16 years,
and created
an enormous amount of revenue
for the Public Theater.
Joe referred to it once as
like having the GDP
of a small country
flowing into the Public Theater.
Joe's success
had everyone look again at,
"What was the role
of a not-for-profit theater?"
Commercial producers
started searching
for their Chorus Line.
Jimmy Nederlander, he's gonna be
looking for his musical
that's going to
save his company,
and he hears that
up in Connecticut
at a non-profit theater,
there's a show
based on little orphan Annie
comic strip,
and it didn't get great reviews,
but Mike Nichols went to see it,
and he says, "I think you're
sitting on a million dollars."
He saw the show had potential.
To Jimmy's credit,
he said, "You know,
if Mike Nichols is saying
it's gonna be great,
I'm sure it's gonna be great."
Jimmy bought it sight unseen,
and of course Annie became
one of the most successful shows
of all time.
Tomorrow, tomorrow
I love you, tomorrow
You're always a day
All of a sudden
not-for-profit theater
became a nurturing
breeding ground
for innovative work,
and then producers would
go out and find these shows,
and they would find
their way to Broadway.
Well, there are worse things
than staring at the water
On a Sunday
There are worse things
than staring at the water
As you're posing for a picture
after sleeping on the ferry
After getting up at seven
to come over to an island
In the middle of a river
half an hour from the city
On a Sunday
The not-for-profits
give you the freedom
to try new, untested material.
In the park with--
Don't move the mouth!
There's a lot of money at stake.
People are putting up
a lot of dough
to bring these things
to the Broadway stage.
So, the not-for-profit world
serves a vital function.
Something was in the air
that said, "We want to hear
new voices."
- We're gonna shimmy
- Yeah!
- We're gonna shammy
- Yeah!
We're gonna shim, sham,
jump, and slide
The Manhattan Theater Club
sent a musical
called Ain't Misbehavin'
to Broadway,
which ran for many, many years.
[indistinct singing]
Broadway simply
could not take the risks
that you could take
in not-for-profit theaters
that didn't have to
pay back investors.
[ambient music]
Manhattan Theater Club
was committed to new voices
and we exist to take chances.
White is not a good idea.
Right, so this'll be...
With The Nap,
we were doing a new play
that no one had ever seen.
It was a play set in England.
It was about a sport
called snooker,
which I had never heard of,
and there's not
a single star in the play.
It's very risky,
but it's also very exciting.
We wanna welcome you to
the first rehearsal of The Nap.
[applauding and cheering]
[mellow music]
Lock your shoulder back
and fire.
Only here.
Can it work on Broadway?
Does anybody on Broadway
care what snooker is,
or know what snooker is?
I have no idea,
it's completely bonkers.
Have they changed the sheets?
You don't care, do you?
- What do you mean?
- You're flirting.
Wash your mouth out,
you think I'm flirting?
Yeah, you're a right flirt.
- I've got my coat on.
- And yeah, that's coming
clean through the material.
You don't know when you flirt.
With read-throughs
on the first day,
we'd pretty much want
the play to be perfect,
because if the readings
are all right,
the play will be all right.
You know, and then the readings
are never all right.
Bring him in.
The first day,
ugh, it was awful.
It was terrible, I wish I could
tell you that it was joyous.
I should--
probably should say that.
It was joyous--it wasn't,
it was a nightmare.
[pensive music]
I think the first day
of a rehearsal,
wherever you are,
has a kind of
excitement and dread
in equal portions.
But, if you're having your
first rehearsal on Broadway,
that's really scary.
In the late '70s,
Broadway was
starting to come back.
At that point,
people were really excited
about what was on Broadway.
And in a rare moment of accord,
the city and the state
decided to put some money
into advertising New York City.
[triumphant music]
The very first
I Love New York commercial
begins with a conductor
in the orchestra pit
of a Broadway show,
and the narrator says:
There's only one Broadway.
- It's in New York.
- Cut to A Chorus Line
coming at you
in the famous V formation
that Michael Bennett directed,
and then you show
Annie and The Wiz,
and other Broadway shows.
The final image
was of Frank Langella
- as Dracula.
- I love New York,
especially in the evening.
Grosses for Dracula
went right up,
and went up for
all the shows on Broadway.
People were now
being told across the country,
"Come to New York,
and what you come for
is Broadway."
But, what Bernie Jacobs
and Jerry Schoenfeld understood
running the Shubert Organization
was that, if Times Square
is falling apart, it's gonna
destroy their business.
So, Jerry, who'd been working
in this neighborhood
since the '50s,
begins pushing
to try to clean it up.
[mellow music]
To have obscenity laws
that have to be enforced
with respect to prostitution
that will go a very long way.
Jerry went to Abe Beame,
who was the mayor then,
and Abe Beame appoints
this ex-marine lawyer,
really tough guy named
Sidney Baumgarten
to clean up Times Square.
We are very concerned
about the establishments,
for example, which breed
the street prostitution
or prostitution oriented.
We had the location
of the most notorious
and porno establishments
in and around Midtown.
[tense jazz music]
People used to refer to
the prostitution business
as "victimless crime,"
but the FBI index crimes--
that's murder, rape, robbery--
the crimes emanated
in and around
these sex establishments.
We're using whatever means
we have at our disposal
that are legal and proper
to close the premises down.
But, a lot of the cops
were corrupt.
They were taking money
from the people
who ran the whorehouses
not to close down
the whorehouses.
We had corrupt police.
We had the mafia against us.
We had the real estate guys
who were profiting
from the sex business.
All of them were against us.
But, bit by bit and slowly...
[photos snapping]
...with the support
of Jerry Schoenfeld
and the Shuberts,
things begin to change.
[siren blaring]
[indistinct remarks]
When I left office,
we had closed
200 illegal establishments,
and that dramatically affected
the neighborhood.
All of the theaters
and restaurants reported
an increase in business.
So, everybody's making money.
But, the Shuberts felt that
you needed something on Broadway
that made an artistic statement.
It just wasn't
all gonna be musicals.
[mellow music]
At night, I heard Mozart's music
for the first time.
Amadeus had been
a huge hit in London.
Oh, what is the need
in the sound?
But, Paul Scofield,
who had played
the leading part of Salieri,
didn't want to go to New York,
which gave me my opportunity.
When it transferred to Broadway,
there was a lot
riding on the success
of Amadeus.
Because there were
fewer plays around
than there had been,
it was important to everybody,
the Shuberts
and Broadway itself,
that this should be a hit show.
A play.
It was a very important play
for the Shuberts,
because it was
one of those rare plays
that was a big, big hit.
And then, it became a thing
that we all started
to go to England
to get the good British plays
and the good British stars.
English accents signified class,
and these big stars
coming in from London,
they could draw audiences.
[peppy music]
- London, at last.
- The play Nicholas Nickleby
was based on
Charles Dickens's novel,
and it hit London like a ton--
it was just
an instant success over there.
The play, in two parts,
lasts eight-and-a-half hours.
Tickets cost $100 each.
The price and the length
are records for Broadway.
It was $100.
And people thought that was
outrageous in those days.
We were warned that
American audiences
wouldn't take so kindly
to the idea
of sitting in the theater
for that length of time.
- And paying that kind of price.
- And paying that kind of price,
and that Britons are more stoic,
but it turned out
to be the opposite.
People bought tickets
like crazy.
They bought it in two parts.
They did all sorts of things
that they're not really
supposed to do.
I mean, in the real world,
you find out
what the customer wants,
and then you give it to them.
Broadway isn't like that.
We're gonna give you
what we wanna give you.
It's gonna start at 8:00.
I don't care if that's
not convenient for you.
It's in Times Square.
I don't care that
that's not convenient for you.
It won't get out till 11:00,
and then you'll have
a very hard time getting a taxi.
It will be expensive.
It has so many downsides.
But, it has that one thing,
that gasp-inducing moment.
- No, no.
- Just stop.
Who said that, who said, "Stop"?
I did, I said it will stop,
and stop it will I.
I--I--I've tried to intercede.
I begged forgiveness
for the boy.
Now, leave, sir,
and let me to my work!
[indistinct shouting]
- It was absolutely marvelous.
- But, $100?
Oh, I'd pay $200 to see it.
- Just fantastic.
- Was it worth your $100?
It was worth more.
Nicholas Nickleby just raised
the profile of Broadway.
It told people that
Broadway's a place
where exciting,
important cultural events
are taking place,
so pay attention
to what goes on on Broadway,
'cause we're gonna surprise you.
All the posters that season
had their arms outstretched.
Yeah, that's Broadway.
Come on, come in here,
come here!
I'm gonna give myself to you
and you're gonna
come and love me.
Even though Times Square
and 42nd Street
were beginning to get better,
some of the problems
still existed.
I was there
when it must've been decided
in the smoke-filled rooms.
We gotta do something
about Times Square.
It's too--it's too strange.
It's--it's not welcoming.
It's not glamorous enough.
Times Square hadn't had
any new development
in decades, because people were
afraid to invest money here.
Carl Weisbrod took over
the Midtown Citizens Committee,
and he had this idea
that you have to,
in a bad neighborhood,
put something that's gonna
attract law-abiding citizens.
Among the early steps
that we took
was a commitment to build
the Marriott Marquis Hotel.
A hotel with 3,000 people
a night staying there.
But, there are
buildings in the way
that have to be torn down
to build the hotel.
Three legendary
Broadway theaters,
including the Morosco, where
Death of a Salesman premiered,
and the beautiful
Helen Hayes Theater.
Lauren Bacall, Jason Robards,
Harry Guardino,
Arthur Miller,
Christopher Reeve.
They're all right outside
the theater.
Help save the Morosco Theater.
I'm gonna read one section
of a play of mine.
It's a business, kid,
and everybody's
gotta pull his own weight.
Stars like Jon Voight
and Ellen Burstyn
are part of the big cast
crying to rally public opinion.
Many performers believe
that saving such theaters
is crucial to the future
of serious drama,
usually produced
in smaller houses,
rather than the huge theaters
that book musicals.
At the 11th hour,
street action has intensified,
orchestrated by Joseph Papp.
We're here
to stop the demolition.
Save the theaters!
Those theaters were--
well, they were temples.
They were where
great performers performed,
and they're full of ghosts.
You can't eat the orange
and throw away the peel!
A man isn't a piece of fruit!
Well, I'm taking no chances.
I'd rather stay
on this hot tin roof.
I gotta take revenge
on everyone else,
especially you.
The dead part of me
hopes you won't get well.
Once you tear something down,
you lose something mystical.
[somber music]
Before one matinee
on a Saturday,
I joined other actors
on Broadway,
collecting signatures,
and consequently
arrived a little bit late
for the half hour call,
which is the time
you have to be in the theater,
and there in my dressing room
was Jerry Schoenfeld
of the Shubert Organization.
"Where have you been?"
I said, "Look, I've been
collecting signatures
to save those theaters."
"That's not your responsibility,
you're here to do the play."
"I--no," I said, "I'm here
to be part of Broadway."
People watched
that claw of the bulldozer
tear in to the Morosco Theater
and rip it down brick by brick.
They were holding each other up,
and they were weeping
because the wrecking ball
had just ruined
a Broadway theater.
It was just so tragic.
the Marriott Marquis Hotel
got built,
and it's among my least favorite
buildings in New York.
But, I do think it was
an important building
to get built.
It was the catalyst that
really started development
in Times Square,
and it was very important
to the city's growth.
I love this city,
through all of its
ups and downs,
it's--it's cyclical,
and Broadway's cyclical, too.
[melancholic music]
It's been a lackluster season
for New York theaters,
and the audiences have slumped.
Broadway hasn't really had
a top flight musical,
and theatergoers are starved
for musical excitement.
Musical theater
is an American art form.
But, except for a few shows
like A Chorus Line,
Annie, and 42nd Street,
it lost its way
into the '80s.
Broadway was down for the count.
But, once again,
it was really helped
by the British.
Don't cry for me, Argentina
It was supposed to
have been immortal
Well, I'm in love
with musical theater.
I mean, if you really asked me
what I was in love with.
I'm afraid it's not marriage,
or anything like that,
it's musicals.
I mean, it's--it's musicals.
I--I live for musical theater,
I just--just love it.
In 1979,
Andrew Lloyd Webber
and Cameron Mackintosh
get together,
and Andrew says to Cameron,
"I have this crazy idea
about doing a show
based on T.S. Eliot's
nonsense poems about cats.
Andrew proceeded to ask
everybody he ever knew
in the theater,
all his great collaborators,
um, to get involved with him,
and every single one of them
said, "This is the worst idea
that you've ever had
in your life."
We went for now a legendary
drunken lunch,
which ended up
back in his house.
You see it starts in B flat.
And he played me
8 or 10 of the numbers.
[cheerful piano music]
And there's only
one place it could go.
It could go back to G flat,
and just do as it does
in the--like that,
but of course...
And I went, "You know,
I think you're right, Andrew,
there is something there."
But, she's actually saying,
"Touch me,
- for God's sake, touch me."
- I think he's just
unbelievably brave.
So many people
must've been telling him
he was crazy
when he was doing Cats.
It was a blind leap
into the dark.
None of us knew what we had.
All we knew was that the moment
a cat first came on stage
in the first preview,
it was either going to be
the worst moment
anybody had ever seen
in the history of the theater,
and all our friends
would be laughing all the way,
or it wasn't.
Can you imagine being in Cats
the first time around
and telling your friends
what you were doing?
"What are you up to
at the minute?"
"You know the guy
who wrote Evita?
He's written a show
based on T.S. Eliot's poems,
and we're all playing cats."
Bernie Jacobs
went to see Cats in London.
The next day,
Bernie's grandson asked
if he could go back
to see it again,
and Bernie said,
"Well, if the kids like it,
maybe there's something in it."
Bernie and Jerry
were prepared to do anything
to have it.
They smelled the coffee.
They smelled there was
something new and different
that would bring audiences
flooding back to the theater.
The Shuberts had just restored
the Winter Garden Theatre,
painting everything gold leaf
and it was beautiful.
Trevor Nunn said,
"I want it all black."
Like, "What, we just
restored this theater
for hundreds of thousands
of dollars, and now you wanna
paint it all black?"
It has to be black,
because Cats begins in the dark.
"Can you see in the dark?"
is the opening line.
Can you see in the dark?
Because Jellicles can
and Jellicles do
Jellicles do
and Jellicles can
Jellicles can
and Jellicles do
So much of it was physical.
This was
a complete transformation
of the Broadway theater.
It was environmentally
completely changed.
The walls were covered
and the actors
were all running
up and down the aisles.
So, it had enormous,
enormous impact.
[singing indistinctly]
Cats took off
in this extraordinary way.
[mellow music]
Cats, which was
a big hit in England,
is more than a show biz story,
it's a business story,
for big bucks are involved.
We had an advance sale today
of approximately $6 million,
which I'm sure, in dollars,
is the biggest advance ever.
Customers wanted the feeling
that they were getting
from the movies.
They wanted extravaganza,
they wanted spectacle.
Even with all the ballyhoo,
all the expensive costumes
and lighting,
the advance sales,
no one can be sure of a hit
until the opening night
reviews are in.
Bernie Jacobs
hated the critics,
and they weren't
particularly kind to the show.
The show drove a lot
of Broadway people crazy,
particularly Frank Rich
at the New York Times.
The New York Times
had the power,
and if they didn't like a show,
that was it.
Until Cats.
Cats ran 18 years on Broadway
and had countless tours
all over the country,
and made even more money
than A Chorus Line.
Cats instituted changes
on Broadway
like merchandising shows.
They probably sold hundreds
of millions of dollars worth
of Cats T-shirts over the years.
Cats was the new beginning
of theater
as part of popular culture.
And I mean
world popular culture.
Also, Cats was the beginning
of the end, in my opinion,
because Broadway began
to be priced out of existence.
One more day.
One day more.
It was a whole new take
from the British
of what the Broadway musical
could be.
And that carried into
Les Misrables,
Phantom of the Opera...
[dramatic music]
Miss Saigon.
These were massive productions
just for the pure spectacle.
They had rock music
and they were visual.
Tourists didn't need
to really understand
a lot of English
to get those shows.
Come, everyone, come and share
the American Dream!
I did Miss Saigon
in complete innocence.
I had no idea
how high the stakes are,
how intense Broadway is.
The pressures are
exponentially greater.
Come and get more
than your share,
the American Dream!
Some of these shows
I would go see,
and I felt like
they were pageants.
I didn't feel
like I was witnessing
that wonderful, fragile thing
of a human being
standing center stage
opening their heart
and inviting me inside.
I felt like I was watching
something parade past me,
and it required nothing of me.
The era of British spectacle
coincided with a time
on Broadway
when AIDS hit the industry.
When AIDS hit, and you know,
we didn't know what it was,
and people just started dying,
and everyone was terrified
of everybody and everything.
Do you breathe the air
and then you get AIDS?
What is it, what is it?
It was terrible.
And there was
a high concentration
on Broadway.
[mixed shouting]
The ascent of
the British musical
coincided with AIDS,
because all these artists
that should have been
making shows at the time
were dying.
[somber music]
And all of a sudden,
there's a vacuum.
When the AIDS tragedy hit,
the theater community was
particularly hard hit by it.
In the late 1980s,
I was diagnosed with AIDS,
and at that time,
we weren't living very long.
We lost a lot of artists
during that time,
and I was lucky
to have been around
and known them.
It's a tight
little family group,
and you couldn't pick up
The New York Times
without seeing an obituary
for a young man.
The AIDS epidemic was
a devastating moment
in an American theater history.
We lost some of
the greatest talents
that we've ever had,
and we lost other talents
who never had a chance to prove
how great they were gonna be.
Michael Bennett was
just getting started,
he was younger than me.
Imagine what he could've done
had he not succumbed to AIDS.
It was...
It was devastating.
It was writers,
composers, directors,
choreographers, dancers,
actors, designers gone.
I don't know if we've
ever really recovered.
While Broadway was, for lack
of better words, grieving,
this invasion happened.
Quite a lot of the Broadway
theater community
didn't like what we were doing,
and why should they?
Why would they?
They had their own stories
to tell,
and if they resented
the commercial success
of the Andrew Lloyd Webber,
Cameron Mackintosh musicals,
that can only have been healthy.
Resent it and do better,
and they did.
I love it when ya
tell me about the old days.
The old days?
I don't even
remember them anymore,
they were such a long time ago.
American plays
give us back ourselves
and give us back our stories
in a very, very,
very intimate way
and empower us to go forward.
What was your grandmother like?
My grandfather
had to pick her up
to see the Statue of Liberty.
[audience laughing]
That must've been some day.
It was what they dreamed of
all their life
to get to America.
And when they saw that statue,
they started to cry,
the women were wailing,
the men were shaking,
everybody praying,
you know why?
Because they were free.
Because they took one look
at that statue and said,
"This is not a Jewish woman,
we're gonna have problems
People who write
about the fragility
of the human condition
in a way that is meaningful
and moving,
those are the people
who give the theater
its true body and spirit.
They are what makes the theater
different than
an amusement park.
[soft music]
August Wilson had a vision
about what he wanted to say
about African American history,
and he wanted to say it
through the medium
of live theater.
My plays, the ideas
and attitudes of the character,
first of all,
they come out of the Blues.
For me, the music was a way
into the culture.
I said, "This is mine,
this is me."
It was like I was
a part of something
that was larger than myself.
I go, "How can I use this?"
If I could make the plays
out of this material,
then I would be doing something.
In August's work,
I found a sense of poetry.
I found unique characters
who I immediately recognized,
and they jumped off the page
to me.
I knew those characters,
because I had encountered them
All his plays started
at the Yale Repertory Theatre
where he could develop the work
before it opened on Broadway.
Black is beautiful, see?
Yale and Lloyd Richards
created a partnership
with August.
They realized his plays
needed to be nurtured,
because they were rich,
detailed, complex plays
that often ran
three and a half hours.
How come you ain't
never liked me?
Liked you?
Who in the hell ever said
I got to like you?
What law is there to say
I got to like you?
Do you want
to stand up in my face
and ask me some damn
fool-ass question like that?
Talk about liking somebody.
Come here, boy,
when I talk to you.
He wrote the play Fences.
And it won the Pulitzer,
and then it went on
to win the Tony,
it won the Drama Critics' Award.
It still today is one of
the most commercially successful
straight plays, dramatic plays
ever to be on Broadway.
It is my responsibility,
you understand that?
A man got to take care
of his family.
You live in my house,
you sleep your behind
on my bedclothes,
you put my food in your belly,
because you are my son,
you are my flesh and blood,
not because I like you.
It is my duty
to take care of you.
And don't you try
and go through life
worried if somebody
like you or not.
You best make sure that
they are doing right by you.
How unusual was that play
at that time?
A Black play
about a Black family
on Broadway, are you kidding?
And then August Wilson said,
"By the way,
I'm gonna write a cycle
of the African American
Ten plays take place
in all the decades
of the 20th century.
We made it clear
to August Wilson
that we were gonna produce
all his plays on Broadway
no matter what.
We didn't care if it made money,
we had a commitment,
and we did everything he wrote.
And the Black audience
discovered Broadway.
It's important to support
American playwrights
because no one else is going
to give language to our stories.
There is nothing quite like
sitting inside of a theater
and watching your world
be revealed to you.
You're seeing a play
that is about who you are
and that is about your country
and your culture.
You done went down to the place
to get an abortion
without telling me.
You can't just go get rid of it!
Look at Natasha!
I couldn't give her
what she needed.
Why do I wanna go back
and do it again?
I ain't got
nothing else to give.
I can't give myself,
how I'm gonna give her?
I don't understand what to do,
how to be a mother,
you either love too much
or don't love enough,
don't seem like
there's no middle ground!
August is the keeper
of history for us.
He was a great poet,
but he also had
the uncanny ability
to speak the truth.
You need an August Wilson
to come along
to discuss the majesty
of these men and women
who are trapped
inside of this block
called American racism
and how do they hold on
to their dignity
and their sense of self-worth.
The theater, for some of us,
is where you went
instead of going to church
or the synagogue.
We felt that you had a social,
political responsibility.
Plays had to be about something.
There's another kind
of attraction
to doing something
that you feel is truly new,
truly challenging
to an audience,
and is about something
that's important.
There's just such a feeling
of risk and danger
in giving people something
they have never seen before.
It moves the goal posts
a little bit.
In the '80s and '90s,
you had plays dealing
with important issues.
That opened up a way
for more plays
that had immediacy.
And because of the AIDS crisis,
you have people in the theater
who have to address something
that is of
immediate concern to them,
because they and their friends
are dying.
It afflicts mostly homosexuals
and drug addicts.
Mostly--hemophiliacs are also--
Homosexuals and drug addicts.
Angels in America
began with the AIDS crisis,
because we were in the center
of the hurricane,
and it demanded a response.
So at the Eureka Theater
in San Francisco,
we applied with Tony Kushner
for a commissioning grant
for a new play,
and we began a six-year odyssey
developing that play.
And then someone
called me up and said,
"Tony Kushner wants to come over
and talk to you."
And so, through a series
of wonderful circumstances,
I ended up directing it
on Broadway.
It was unapologetically
and unconditionally human.
It was this expansive,
complicated vision of America.
Greetings, Prophet!
The great works begins.
The messenger has arrived.
[dramatic music]
This was more than a play.
Once you have a big hit
on Broadway,
it becomes something
that people talk about
at dinner parties
and in their living rooms,
and what Tony did was
he brought this discussion
into the mainstream.
People were talking openly
about gay culture,
and there was
a kind of discussion
that you hadn't had before.
You can't say that Angels
caused the openness to gay life
that occurred over the '90s
and through today,
but it was the leading
cultural indicator
of the fact that gay people
were claiming center stage.
- I'm a Mormon.
- I'm a homosexual.
This is what Broadway is about.
Great theater is a mirror
to the human condition,
to us, to people,
and how we're really
all the same
despite our differences,
our perceived differences,
be it if we're from
a different race,
a different gender,
different sexual orientation,
we're really all the same,
and that's what theater
shows us.
[rock music]
Broadway audiences want shows
about the here and now.
In the '90s, Jonathan Larson
was working on Rent,
because he wanted
to write a show
about what was going on
in the city then.
Rent was about 20-somethings
living in New York City
trying to figure out
how to make
their dreams come true
in a world that felt like
it was ripping apart
at the seams.
Rent opened at the New York
Theatre Workshop
down on East 4th Street.
It's this gritty, gritty story
that involves drugs and AIDS
and all of these issues,
managing to strike a chord
in a way
that was bigger than anything
that was going on on Broadway.
All of our advisors
were telling us,
keep that show off Broadway.
Nobody on Broadway
wants to see a musical
about drug addiction,
HIV, and death.
There really hadn't been
a contemporary musical
that was capturing
the spirit of our times
since A Chorus Line.
La vie Bohme,
la vie Bohme.
Rent moved to Broadway,
and it's on the cover
of the news weeklies,
and it's in the windows
of Bloomingdale's.
The impact is felt everywhere
throughout the culture.
We sold the first two rows
in the orchestra section
for 20 bucks.
We would have kids sleeping
overnight on West 41st Street
to get those $20 tickets.
The process of bringing
young people back to Broadway
started with Rent.
525,600 minutes.
How do you measure,
measure a year?
Jonathan was writing Rent
because he wanted
to write a show
that used the musical vernacular
of his generation.
Measure in love.
measure a life in love.
Seasons of love.
Jonathan used to say,
"I want to write a musical
for my people."
[soft singing]
One of the things
that Broadway does at its best
is focus on how
the culture is changing
and work to move it forward.
[soft music]
As a playwright,
you're always looking for
how to make
a character original,
and I thought,
wouldn't it be fun
to have a tough gal gangster?
And then,
when I was writing The Nap,
a friend of mine
had just transitioned.
And that's what
you're looking for
is just that little extra twist.
And that's where
Waxy came from.
I wanted to be
an attractive young woman.
I became a woman just in time
for a hysterectomy.
Of course, you write
a character like that
and then you have to cast them.
So where are you gonna find
a transgender actor
who's transitioned
to become a woman
who has a great
comic sensibility
and you could also believe
could kill someone
with their bare hands.
Are you all right?
I don't know
what's going on, dear.
I wanted to do
this particular show
because Waxy's transgenderism
isn't the crux of who she is,
nor is it the crux of the play.
She's funny
just because she's funny,
not because she's transgender.
The Filipinos
lost five million.
Who are they?
Filipinos are people
who live in the Philippines.
I know that, but who are they?
A betting syndicate.
It was very clear that in 2018,
one was not going
to cast somebody
who was not transgender
to play a transgender role.
From the top, everyone.
Broadway now represents
so many different parts
of who we are
that have never
been put on stage.
[bass music]
It had taken decades
for the city and the state
to finally realize
that eminent domain
is the only way they were
gonna clean 42nd Street up.
Basically, what you do is
you dispossess everybody there
of their rights.
The 42nd Street
Development Project,
we moved 400 businesses,
including the theaters,
which were porn places.
We would be responsible
for eight of the theaters
on 42nd Street,
and the mission was
to get these theaters restored
to help cultivate passion
for the arts in the city.
And then it really took off
when Michael Eisner,
who was running Disney,
noticed how much money
was being made on Broadway.
What happened is
I saw the world changing.
I saw Andrew Lloyd Webber
creating musicals
that were now worldwide events.
They were more
than just Broadway,
and I said, "You know,
this could be a business."
[soft music]
So Michael Eisner came to see
the New Amsterdam Theatre,
which was the most beautiful
theater on Broadway,
even then
in its complete deterioration.
We tried to tidy up
as much as we could,
but the whole theater
was really falling apart.
It was a disaster.
It had mushrooms
growing in the seats
and it had a hole
in the ceiling.
It was like raining inside.
There were birds inside,
there was bird doo
all over the place.
And then we went
up the back stairs
and we got to the top step,
and there was a dead cat.
But you could see the skeletons
of something great.
The only way I could justify it
to our shareholders
and everybody else
is that it really didn't cost
the Disney Company that much.
Disney received large tax breaks
from the city,
but city officials believe
the economic boost
it'll generate
will more than make up
for the loss in tax revenue.
The Disney Company
pretty much insisted
they would go ahead
if we imagine,
we the City and the State,
would give
the Disney Company money
to restore the New Amsterdam.
We were roundly criticized,
but we needed to get
a real blue chip tenant.
This is gold for us,
getting Disney.
It tells the world that
this is a safe place to come
and the entertainment spot
in New York City.
We couldn't have asked for more.
Now Disney has the biggest
theater on 42nd Street,
so it's totally changed.
It's garish as hell,
but so is Times Square,
and people love that.
Only Disney could turn
your favorite video
into a real live Broadway show.
Before the New Amsterdam
Disney came to town
with Beauty and the Beast,
which, frankly,
theater people didn't like.
Everyone's terrified that Disney
was gonna turn Broadway
and Times Square into Disneyland
with these musicals
based on cartoon movies.
It's on Broadway!
Disney's Beauty and the Beast.
I can't wait to go.
But nobody going to the theater
had ever seen anything
like The Lion King.
Nants ingonyama bagithi baba
Sithi uhm ingonyama
Ingonyama nengw' enamabala
Ingonyama nengw' enamabala
This was family entertainment,
something that you could bring
your children to.
That was a huge change.
The circle of life.
If you're going to get
this huge audience
of young people
seeing this kind of theater
for the first time,
and it's meaningful to them,
they will understand
the power of live theater.
Disney did take a huge risk
by hiring Julie Taymor,
who was an avant-garde
mask maker, director,
and a woman.
There was no reference point
to what Julie Taymor was doing.
Brilliant, but kinda out there.
Things with masks, puppets.
It is purely theatrical.
People want to be surprised,
they want what circus gives you.
Disney knew
betting on Julie Taymor
to come up with something
that you couldn't even
have imagined
was the key to success.
The circle of life.
When you could create a musical
which behaves like a movie
and generate huge profits
into the hundreds of millions,
then Broadway became interesting
to corporations.
You are the dancing queen,
young and sweet...
So that is why
you're seeing the rise
of all these movie adaptations
and these jukebox musicals.
You have to get audiences
to show up.
They want to see
something familiar.
Walk like a man, fast as I ca,
walk like a man from you.
Big Broadway musicals
got so expensive to produce,
they need to run
for a very long time
to make their money back.
And once they're established
as hits,
they're gold mines
for everybody.
As blockbusters began to bloom,
it changed the whole dynamic.
As the prices went up,
the stakes went up.
Did you know that Jesus
lived here in the U.S.A.?
We're like Las Vegas now.
You need a bankable star.
If you do a show without
a big star, mm, don't know.
The producers
are nervous about it.
It's a bit of a gamble.
Tennessee Williams once said
that theater is
the purest form of religion.
But when the checkbooks
came into control,
I began to think,
has Broadway lost
what I would call its soul?
Where are the new
American voices
going to get their chance?
Or is Broadway just going
to become big jukebox musicals,
big revival of play
with movie star,
or play we take from London
that's been a smash?
That's the thing
that I think Broadway
has to keep an eye on.
There is no magic formula.
Every five years, maybe,
a show comes along
that defies all the rules.
It doesn't follow
any particular pattern.
A good storyteller
is the secret.
I'm thrilled the White House
called me tonight,
because I'm actually working
on a hip-hop album.
It's a concept album
about the life of someone
I think embodies hip-hop,
Treasury Secretary
Alexander Hamilton.
You laugh, but it's true!
I saw Lin-Manuel performing
the first song of Hamilton
in front of the First Lady
and President Obama,
and like many other people,
I went nuts for it.
How does a bastard, orphan,
son of a whore
and a Scotsman dropped
in the middle of a forgotten
spot in the Caribbean
by providence,
impoverished, in squalor
grow up to be a hero
and a scholar?
And he wrote his first refrain,
a testament to his pain.
Well, the word got around,
they said,
"This kid is insane, man."
Took up a collection just
to send him to the mainland.
"Get your education,
don't forget
from whence you came,
and the world is gonna
know your name,
what's your name, man?"
Alexander Hamilton.
He continually said to me,
"No, no, no, Oskar,
it's an album,
it's not a musical,"
but just singing that song,
it was clear to me
this was a great musical
in the offering.
We needed to start Hamilton
in a not-for-profit theater,
so we thought, "Let's do this
in the same very place
that A Chorus Line started
in 1975.
Let's do it
at the Public Theater."
This is one of those nights
where you feel the earth
shake a little bit.
You feel the world
start to change.
This is opening night
of Hamilton.
And I am not throwing away
my shot,
I am not throwing away my shot.
We're gonna rise up...
The Public Theater
did its production of Hamilton,
and then it moved to Broadway.
I am not throwing away my,
not throwing away my shot!
His ability to both move
and agitate through his lyrics,
and then with these melodies,
which just--
you don't know how he's done it.
I mean, I'm sitting here now
talking about it
and the music is drumming
in my brain.
I've been reading
Common Sense by Thomas Paine,
so men say that I'm intense
or I'm insane.
He's done for musical theater
what Sondheim has done
for musical theater.
He's changed it forever.
...that all men
are created equal.
And when I meet
Thomas Jefferson,
I'ma compel him
to include women in the sequel!
It makes theater relatable
to the hip-hop generations.
It exposes them to the theater,
the power of theater.
This is stuff I can relate to
and be moved by.
You know,
this is New York City.
In the greatest city,
in the greatest city
in the world.
In the greatest city
in the world.
[mixed chatter]
Hamilton plays once a month
for inner city
public school kids for $10.
I went one time,
and it was breathtaking
how inspired they were.
It brings you back
to what the theater
is supposed to be.
It was one of
the most amazing things
I've ever experienced!
I relate to them, like,
they look like me
and my classmates.
[mellow music]
Hamilton is about
the Founding Fathers,
and yet all
the Founding Fathers are played
by Black and Hispanic actors.
And there is suddenly
this explosion
of Black faces on Broadway
in a way
that was really starting
to reflect America.
Hire the most brilliant people
that you possibly can
and put 'em center stage.
I think that there's
the recognition on Broadway
that things need to change.
Broadway has always been
sort of a shotgun marriage
between art and commerce.
on the commercial side,
there's the sense that
diversity is good business.
But we need to just
tap ourselves on the shoulder
and say, "Are we doing enough?"
With Hamilton
and now Harry Potter,
we have helped develop
a whole new generation
of theatergoers
who would never
have gone before.
Hopefully they fall in love
with the art form,
fall in love with
using their imagination
in that way.
In our first year,
over 60% of our audience
were first-time theatergoers.
Of that 60%, 15% have gone on
to see other pieces of theater.
So what J.K. Rowling
did for reading,
we might be able to do
a little bit of the same
for theater.
[upbeat music]
But in the heyday of Broadway,
it was so much cheaper.
People went to the theater
all the time.
When I first arrived
in New York,
the top price
for a theater ticket,
the best seat in the house,
was $9.90,
9.90, that was the best,
and it went all the way down
to like two bucks.
Now there are tickets
for Broadway shows
being sold at the box office
for $800, $1,000.
It's ultimately
because young people
certainly are not gonna go.
I find gauging people
and I think people
are being gauged.
The amounts of money that people
are being asked to pay
to see things are insane.
But it's not called
show charity,
it's called show business.
[piano music]
In the '70s,
out of every four people
that went to Broadway,
only one was a tourist.
And now, of every four people,
three are tourists.
So we are now evolving
into something
that looks much more
like a theme park
than a cultural center.
There's a bit of me
that regrets
that Broadway has become
so commodified.
There's a bit of me that walks
through Times Square now
and it's so bright
and it's so shiny,
and I think, you know,
where have all the rats
and the hookers gone?
But I know that is
a bad thought,
but a bit of me thinks it.
The thing that I never fail
to absolutely love
is Times Square.
It's always full of people.
Doesn't matter
what time of the day it is,
it doesn't matter
what the weather is,
there's just always
people there.
I love the razzmatazz of it,
I love the circus feel of it.
I love the show biz feel of it.
It always makes me feel
and full of love, actually.
I absolutely love it.
We've got shows on Broadway
like Phantom
and like Hamilton
or Harry Potter
that will probably be running
when I'm dead.
I don't have anything
against that.
As long as we've got
a healthy mix
of different kinds of work.
If we don't have a big tent,
we're not gonna have a theater
that matters to America.
[clearing throat]
Yorkshire, Sheffield,
cuppa tea.
Anybody who says,
"I know what I'm doing,"
is lying to you.
[mixed chatter]
I cannot tell you
the amount of shows I've had
that I've really loved
and believed in
that didn't do very well.
You may have all the confidence
in the world,
and suddenly it opens
and it's terrible.
It takes every bit as much
blood, sweat, tears,
and nerve to get a flop show on
as it is to get a hit show on.
What makes it work?
When the element of risk
is there,
when you can smell it
in the air,
when that's there,
you probably got a good shot
at making something happen.
Thought you'd be out there,
you know, like operating.
You can take your coat off
if you want.
I'll keep it on, thank you,
I've been out.
- You've been out?
- I enjoy doing comedies.
There's something very honest
about the process.
If they're not laughing,
it's not working.
Well, I guess
she's a woman now.
Women can be violent.
Joan of Arc, Medea,
Naomi Campbell.
You have to be able to gamble
with other people's money
with enough force,
with enough confidence
to push that little sucker
over the top.
Opening night,
I was thinking to myself,
"I'm 56 years old,
I'm mixed race and transgender.
I've survived addiction,
homelessness, and sex work,
and here I am,
sitting in a dressing room,
opening a play on Broadway."
I wanted to be
an attractive young woman.
I became a woman just in time
for a hysterectomy.
You don't care, do you?
What do you mean?
Wash your mouth out,
you think I'm flirting?
Oh, yeah, you're a right flirt.
I've got my coat on!
Well, it's coming clean
through the material.
I was nervous opening night.
I'll stop being me
and just do my job.
I'm cool with the flirting.
No, man, you blew it,
that's gone.
But when I heard
the audience laugh,
I breathed
a huge sigh of relief.
Incredible, this is going
to be a challenge.
[soft music]
[mellow music]
We're having
a ridiculous amount of fun.
There is a real
historical significance
to what's going on tonight,
because the transgender
is represented on Broadway
this season
like it's never been
represented before.
We need the voice
of the marginalized.
Right now is the time.
Our responsibility
as human beings
is to find ourselves
in other people's stories.
I want Broadway
to be reflective
of the world that I live in
and the world
that we all live in.
It's no surprise to me
that Broadway is having
record-breaking years,
and I believe
that will only grow
and grow and grow.
'Cause you started it!
Ah, ahhh!
I'm absolutely convinced
that the more time
we as a people and certainly
a younger generation
spend sort of living here,
there will be a greater premium
on a live experience,
an experience
that is happening now.
Where is the devil in Evelyn...
In the theater,
you have to be present.
You have to be present
as an artist
and you have to be present
as an audience member
for the experience
to really happen,
and when you see
a great performance,
it is a spiritual experience.
Broadway is like
some old 42nd Street hooker.
She just keeps plugging,
just keeps plugging.
Sometimes she has new shoes on
and sometimes they're old
broken down shoes,
but I think the things
that I love remain with me.
I have these shows
that I've seen
that I've purposely moved
into the apartments in my mind
so I can go up there
and visit them
from time to time.
Theater is not about
making money,
it's about putting on a show
and entertaining people
and grabbing their attention
and telling them something
that you think is important.
At times I go,
"It's all doomed,
New York, Broadway,"
but then somehow,
things sprout up
that are miraculous
and wonderful
and startling and intimate,
and so one just has
to hope and pray
that that keeps happening,
because that's
what's great about it.
On Broadway,
you can walk out on stage
and there's 1,600 people
you've never met
in your life before,
and by the end of that time,
you feel intimate with them.
I mean, it's ridiculous
when you think about it.
I mean, why are
all these people quiet?
Why do they shut up
and quietly listen?
It's like,
what a weird thing to do,
but they do, and it's something
they've been doing
for thousands of years.
Listening to someone
telling a story,
a story that teaches you
something about you,
about the way life is.
It reverberates with you
and on such a deep level
for a long, long time,
maybe your whole life.
Live theater
can change your life
or your perception,
even if it's only that much.
That'll do.
I just think it'll keep going.
It always takes on
different forms,
and sometimes a play
comes along just in time,
just before
you've given up hope,
but they do come along.
[upbeat music]
Walking down Broadway,
head up high.
Checking out the people, yeah,
as they pass by, y'all.
The lights so bright,
you know, they hurt my eyes.
But I don't mind,
I don't mind,
'cause I'm hypnotized.
'Cause I'm up on Broadway,
Doing the Broadway walk.
I'm up on Broadway, yeah.
I'm doing the Broadway walk.
Walking down Broadway.
You know, I'm just a face
in the crowd.
But I got a groove,
and I'm walking proud.
'Cause I'm up on Broadway,
and I'm doing
the Broadway walk.
I'm up on Broadway, yeah,
doing the Broadway walk.
Hey, man, what you doing
up there on Broadway?
I'm doing the Broadway walk,
Doing the Broadway walk.
Doing the Broadway walk.
Lord have mercy,
doing the Broadway walk.
[indistinct shouting]
I feel good.
Doing the Broadway walk.
I'm up on Broadway, yeah,
doing the Broadway walk.
Listen good, y'all.
I'm up on Broadway, yeah,
doing the Broadway walk.
I'm up on Broadway, yeah,
doing the Broadway walk.
[lively jazz music]