The 10 Best Filmed-On-Stage Broadway Musicals

Best Filmed-On-Stage Broadway Musicals

A ticket to a Broadway theatre can drain the wallet. But the 73rd Tony Awards, which aired over the weekend, allowed viewers to experience Broadway musicals from home. For those unable to fly to New York City, let alone can get hands on a Broadway ticket, the Tony Awards offer fleeting glimpses of (usually) currently-running productions.

While they can’t capture live magic, filmed-on-stage productions have an advantage: they have a re-watch button if you can access them on streaming, the DVD, or Blu-ray. Not only that, they tend to be less costly than the average Broadway ticket (even less than a student discounted one, speaking from personal experience). They’re not to be confused with the televised Rent: Live, A Christmas Story Live!, or Peter Pan Live!,where sets are formatted for the television screen. I’m talking about Broadway productions filmed on the theatre stage, with fancy cuts and angles, but still performed on a traditional stage.

Some spellbinding productions, whether they had short or extended longevity on Broadway, are preserved through the filmed-on-stage treatment. Unfortunately, accessibility and availability can vary. Much of what you see on this list has been scattered across various streaming platforms, but with a little bit of effort (and a little bit of luck), you can track them all down.

George Takei’s Allegiance

The bigotry and prejudice that drives the backdrop of Allegiance has a tragic resonance with the Trump administration containing migrants in camps. Loosely based on George Takei’s memoir They Called Us Enemy and starring George Takei, the filmed Broadway production of Allegiance delves into a dark chapter in American history that Takei survived as a child. The musical is a rare portrait of the World War II internment of Japanese Americans after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Herded into dehumanizing internment camps simply because the government feared they could become traitors, the Kimura family and other internees cope with the national betrayal, shoddy healthcare, and intergenerational tension with how—or not—to fight back.

Highlights: “Ishi Kara Ishi,” “Higher.”

Where to find it: Fathom Events hosts occasional screenings.

Bandstand: The Broadway Musical on Screen

Wracked with survivor’s guilt, veteran Donny Novitsk is coping miserably with post-WWII life. Hoping for fame and overdue appreciation, he assembles group of veterans and a lead choir girl, a widow of his late friend, to win a radio contest. Along the way, he grapples with delivering a terrible truth to the latter. It had a short-lived 2017 run on Broadway with two Tony nominations, including Andy Blankenbuehler for Best Choreography.

Highlights: “Just Like It Was Before,” “Welcome Home,” “This is Life,” “Love Will Come Find Me Again.”

Where to find it: So far, Fathom Events screened it in 2018. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be an accessible distributable copy announced as of now and time will tell when that will arrive.

Into the Woods

The familiar Grimm tales of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Rapunzel,” “Cinderella,” orbit around a childless couple’s journey to bring the special ingredients to a witch who could give them the child they wished for. With the lyrical dexterity of Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods was deconstructing and subverting fairy tale tropes before Disney engaged in the trend (Disney did do a decent, though filtered, movie adaptation too by Rob Marshall). What can happen after happily ever after? Find out. The original Broadway production, starring Bernadette Peters as the Witch, was taped in 1989 for PBS.

Highlights: “Giants in the Sky,” “Moments in the Woods,” “No One Is Alone.”

Where to find it: Amazon Prime Video streaming, Blu-ray, and DVD.

Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway

Yup, forget the 2019 RENT: Live (or “Liveish”) on Fox. I’m talking about when Jonathan Larson’s 1996 Rent was filmed during its final Broadway days in 2008. I do have my problems with its portrayal of the AIDS crisis and ambivalent activism and the (mostly) unchallenged selfishness of the characters. But I find positivity in the experience of Rent as it follows the tribulations of starving artists and lovers.

Highlights: “Rent,” “One Song Glory,” “Without You.”

Where to find it: Amazon Prime Video, DVD, Blu-Ray.

Passing Strange

With the bombastic Stew narrating, Passing Strange follows the odyssey of the disillusioned Youth, leaving the nest of his overbearing mother for Europe in search of “The Real.” But from the Bohemian paradise of Amsterdam to the revolution-fired Berlin, he can’t seem to find satisfaction as he comes to terms with his identity and blackness. Following the kinetic choreography by Karole Armitage, Spike Lee filmed the last three performances at the Belasco Theatre in 2008.

Highlights: “Everything’s All Right,” “Amsterdam.”

Where to find it: Amazon Prime Video streaming, DVD.

An American in Paris

An American in Paris loosely lifts the story from the 1951 musical film starring Gene Kelly, playing to the music of George and Ira Gershwin. On the grandiose stage of the Palace Theatre, the scope is unbelievable to drink in. The ballet to the tunes of George Gershwin are as intoxicating as ever.

Highlights: The opening numbers, some of the best visuals projections used in a production, “Concerto in F,” “An American in Paris.”

Where to find it: I caught this on an Air France flight to, you guessed it, Paris. But obviously many of us can’t afford to fly to France so it’s on Broadway HD streaming.

Company: A Musical Comedy

Ah, a musical written about middle-class angsts. A bachelor, Bobby ruminates on the meaning of relationships and married life as he observes the antics between his crazy married friends. Mileage may vary with how well the instruments are well integrated in this 2006 revival starring Raúl Esparza, but they add a quirk to the production.

Highlights: “Company,” “The Little Things You Do Together,” a chilling venomous interpretation of “The Ladies Who Lunch” by Barbara Walsh.

Where to Find it: DVD, Blu-Ray.

Sunday in the Park with George

Art geeks may relate to this one. The painter George Surat is completing his masterpiece, what will be known as A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. His mistress and muse, Dot, frustratingly contemplates his emotional distance from her. If you yourself haven’t finished a project or experienced writer’s block, you’ll relate to this one. With Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters at the lead, PBS filmed it at the Booth Theatre on Broadway in 1984.

Highlights: “Finishing the Hat,” “Move On.”

Where to find it: DVD.

Newsies: The Broadway Musical

Lifting from the Disney 1992 cult classic film directed by Kenny Ortega, the energy and tale of Newsies feels more comfortable on the large stage than it did in the film. As a Disney property, Newsies has this chipper, filtered view of the New York City Newsboys’ Strike of 1899, with attractive starving boys doing acrobatic choreography, but executes its fictionalization in an endearing way that is enlightening about what it means to fight for justice. With Jeremy Jordan at the lead, the Alan Menken’s tunes and the choreography uplift the soul.

Highlight: “Carrying the Banner,” “King of New York,” “Seize the Day.”

Where to find it: Fathom Events screenings, Prime Video streaming, DVD, Blu-ray.

Falsettos

Welcome to Falsetto Land. Family dysfunction has never been so crazy in this book by William Finn and James Lapine. Suburban husband Marvin has left his wife and son to be with the flamboyant Whizzer, and they’re all left with the emotional ramifications. Falsettos had a limited, three-month Broadway engagement in 2016 and was filmed by PBS for broadcast on Live from Lincoln Center.

Highlights: I’m Breaking Down,” “March of the Falsettos.”

Where to find it: Fathom Event screenings, Broadway HD streaming.

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