The Musical



The first programme in a special season of documentaries celebrating the most popular and successful form of theatrical entertainment in the world: The Musical.

There are eight documentaries, each presented by a leading name from the world of musical theatre.

Today, the musical is a global entertainment form, but even though you can now experience many of the same shows in the theatre districts of the major capitals in the world, for most of us it's still associated with the place where it was born: Broadway - the road that runs the full length of Manhattan and especially that part between 42nd and 53rd Streets that is known as The Great White Way.

Programme One: Stories With Songs (Sian Phillips)

The musical is a genre of theatre, but when you look at individual shows you find that they're a mass of other genres: there are comedies, dramas and histories, and shows that address social, political and even religious ideas.

But whatever the subject matter, one thing is certain, to be a good musical, you need a good story or 'book'.

This opening documentary asks, if the book is so important, why are there so few musicals that have an original story as opposed to being adapted from some other medium?

The 'case studies' for this programme are: 'The Boy Friend', 'A Chorus Line', 'Chess', 'Starlight Express' and 'Sunday In The Park With George'.

Key contributors include: Stephen Sondheim, Patti Lupone, Arlene Phillips, Maury Yeston, John Barrowman, Elaine Stritch, Maria Friedman, Sandy Wilson, Victor Spinetti, Ruthie Henshall, Don Black, Tim Rice,

Donna McKechnie, Gillian Lynne, Elaine Paige, Richard Stilgoe, Marvin Hamlisch, Michael Grandage and Bobby Lopez.

'Stories With Songs' is written by Brian Sibley and produced for Radio 2 by Malcolm Prince.

'Stories With Songs': Sian Phillips asks why so few musicals have an original story?

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Programme Two: Drawn From Life (Daniel Evans)

It's clearly important for the musical theatre audience to understand the characters on stage and their motivation which is why, as we discovered in last week's programme, the story - or, as it is called in the musical, 'the book' is of vital importance.

It also probably explains why so many musical stories are not original but are borrowed from other sources such as novels, plays and increasingly these days, films.

Always popular with composers are the life-stories of real people.

Some of them were already famous before becoming characters in musicals, but many were largely unknown - until becoming the subject of a successful show brought them a unique kind of fame! This documentary considers the musicals that have been 'drawn from life' including: 'Gypsy', 'Evita' and 'The King and I'.

Key contributors include: Hal Prince, Stephen Sondheim, Patti Lupone, Paul Nicholas, Maury Yeston, Elaine Stritch, Maria Friedman, Victor Spinetti, Ruthie Henshall, Tim Rice, Elaine Paige, Richard Stilgoe, Michael Grandage and Liz Robertson.

'Drawn From Life' is written by Brian Sibley and produced for Radio 2 by Malcolm Prince.

Drawn From Life: actor Daniel Evans considers musicals inspired by 'real life' people.

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Bill Kenwright presents 'Pushing The Boundaries', the fourth in Radio 2's season of documentaries telling the story of the most popular and successful global form of theatrical entertainment, The Musical.

The development of musical theatre is an on-going road of discovery and experimentation.

Musicals offer an opportunity to push at the boundaries - something they have repeatedly done: not simply in the way that shows are staged but in the subject matter their stories tackle.

This programme considers shows which deal with subjects considered as 'taboo'.

This week's case studies are: 'Oh, What A Lovely War!', 'Hair', 'La Cage Aux Folles', 'Cabaret', 'Sweeney Todd' and 'Avenue Q', with interviewees including:

Don Black, Stephen Sondheim, Angela Lansbury, Michael Grandage, Richard Stilgoe, Liz Robertson, James Rado, Liza Minnelli, Elaine Paige, Paul Nicholas, Jerry Herman, Cameron Mackintosh, Douglas Hodge, Hal Prince, Joel Grey and John Barrowman.

'Pushing The Boundaries' is written by Brian Sibley and produced by Malcolm Prince.

Bill Kenwright examines shows which deal with subjects considered as 'taboo'.

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Whoopi Goldberg presents 'Something Borrowed', the fifth documentary in Radio 2's season of programmes celebrating The Musical.

Whatever your taste in musicals - whether it's the latest, most innovative show or tried and tested favourites from an earlier century, they all make their impact by using music to transform the commonplace into the exceptional.

In its early life, the musical was sometimes the product of East Coast Broadway impresarios.

And at other times, it was the work of Hollywood's West Coast movie moguls.

Inevitably, Broadway started looking to successful film stories, along with plays, as sources of inspiration for plots in musical theatre: 'All About Eve' became the musical 'Applause', a musical based on the film 'Ghost' is now in development and there's even a West End show based on a film about a cabaret singer disguised as a nun hiding from the mob in a convent.

In 'Something Borrowed', Whoopi looks at shows inspired by plays and films including 'Sunset Boulevard', 'West Side Story', 'A Little Night Music' and 'Nine'.

With contributions from Stephen Sondheim, Hal Prince, Patti Lupone, Don Black, Michael Grandage, Jerry Herman, Tim Rice, Maury Yeston, Liz Robertson, Gillian Lynne and Richard Stilgoe.

'Something Borrowed' is written by Brian Sibley and produced by Malcolm Prince.

Whoopi Goldberg looks at shows inspired by plays and films, including Sunset Boulevard.

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Sheila Hancock presents 'From Page To Stage', the sixth programme in Radio 2's season of documentaries celebrating 'The Musical'.

The Musical can take many forms and tell many different kinds of story in a variety of styles; but, before there can be any show, there has to be a story.

In searching for that story, composers have repeatedly turned to the world's greatest literary classics; from Cevantes' 'Don Quixote' to Dickens' 'Oliver Twist' which became the basis for Lionel Bart's 'Oliver!'.

Ron Moody, Jodie Prenger, Elaine Paige and Cameron Mackintosh consider Bart's landmark show.

Truly, the musical knows no national boundaries: Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil based 'Les MisÚrables' on the epic nineteenth century novel by Victor Hugo which is also explored in this programme by Patti LuPone and the musical's creative team.

Director Michael Grandage discusses 'Guys and Dolls', inspired by the work of Damon Runyan.

But even when a musical is based on a famous book, they can fail.

This programme also looks at shows that have flopped including 'The Baker's Wife' and 'Margueritte' with contributions from Ruthie Henshall, Tim Rice and Don Black.

And Stephen Sondheim explains that even the most highly regarded writers have experienced musicals that haven't found their audiences.

Other contributors include: Elaine Stritch, Arlene Phillips, Sandy Wilson and Victor Spinetti.

Sheila Hancock looks at shows based on great novels, including Oliver!

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Julia McKenzie examines the business of how Broadway sells The Musical in "We're in the Money".

This programme also considers how theatrical brands like Disney, David Merrick and Andrew Lloyd Webber have been developed.

This week's case studies include 'The Phantom of the Opera', 'The Lion King' and '42nd Street'.

The programme also features alternative performances of classic musicals from the canon of Forbidden Broadway.

With contributors: Alan Menken, Tim Rice, Ruthie Henshall, Richard Stilgoe, Paul Nicholas, Elaine Stritch, New York based critic Mark Riedel and Disney's Thomas Schumacher.

This programme also features leading men John Barrowman and Jonathan Pryce.

'The Musical' is written by Brian Sibley and produced for Radio 2 by Malcolm Prince.

Julia McKenzie examines the business of how Broadway sells musicals such as The Lion King.

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In the final programme of Radio 2's season of documentaries celebrating the art of the musical, actor Ramin Karimloo - who plays The Phantom in 'Love Never Dies' - assesses the present health of Broadway and London's West End.

'Back To The Future' considers the impact of TV talent shows like 'I'd Do Anything' and 'How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria' on the musical and also explores the trend of the 'juke box' show.

Contributors include producer Judy Craymer, Queen guitarist Brian May, theatrical producer David Ian, and composer Benny Andersson.

The programme also features new interviews with Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

This week's case studies include 'Mamma Mia!' and 'We Will Rock You'.

'The Musical' is written by Brian Sibley and produced by Malcolm Prince.

Ramin Karimloo assesses the present health of Broadway and London's West End.