Saturday, November 2, 2019

A must-see for legitimate theater lovers: LEONARD SOLOWAY'S BROADWAY

So who the hell is Leonard Soloway? As huge a theater fan as I used to be, I had not heard of him, nor had my spouse. But after viewing the new documentary, LEONARD SOLOWAY'S BROADWAY, we'll certainly remember this guy -- who helped bring somewhere near 70 productions to The Great White Way, beginning in 1954 and continuing to this day (Soloway is now in his 90s and still going strong)!

The funny, informative and relentlessly entertaining doc brings us the man (warts and all), his career, and his lively, acerbic sense of humor -- all wrapped into a delightful 88-minutes of Broadway history and a wealth of interviews with theater VIPs (including plenty of Soloway himself).

As directed by Jeff Wolk (shown at left), who (unless I misread something here) has also been an investor in some of Soloway's productions, and written by Margaret Murphy, the movie bounces along as any smart piece of entertainment should, while gradually building the tale of this son of a Russian immigrant father and an Ohio mother who made his mark early in theater (at the Cleveland Playhouse), went on to study at Carnegie Mellon, and then headed for Broadway when he felt that much-lauded school was actually letting its students down. Always a man of strong ideas and the ability to follow these through, Soloway was also gay and "out" at a time when neither was easy and the latter was practically unheard of.

Soloway's humor, all over the place in this doc, is maybe most redolent in the caption he wrote when his caricature (at right) was framed for the famous wall at Manhattan's Sardi's restaurant. This is surely one of the great double entendres to grace that storied wall.

As Soloway's tale cumulates in size and strength, we hear from everyone from actress Elizabeth Ashley to producer Emanuel  Azenberg and restaurateur Joe Allen -- plus the likes of Olympia Dukakis, Tovah Feldshuh, John Slattery and many more, all of whom have pertinent, funny, sometime moving things to tell us.

Best of all though is Soloway himself, who proves a constant source of information and delight. For his Whoopi Goldberg story alone, I would not have missed this terrific little movie. As it unfurls, the doc also details the move of one of Soloway's latest productions, a tap-dancing review featuring Maurice Hines (onstage below), as it makes its way from out of town toward New York City.

Dyed-in-the-wool theater fans will surely place the doc on their "must" list, but anyone who has loved and/or taken part in theater will probably appreciate it. And once they've met him, they certainly will not forget Leonard.

After pleasing audiences at various GLBT fests around the country, the documentary opens for a four-day run in New York City this coming Monday, November 4, through Thursday, November 7, at the Landmark at 57th Street. From there, via 1091, it will hit digital platforms (iTunes and VOD) and DVD sales on Amazon come next Tuesday, November 12. 

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