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Broadway - America Center Stage is a companion historical documentary that accompanies Chapter 21:The Scandal of 1920 in The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones. It appears on Disc 8 of Volume 3. It has a run-time of 29 minutes, 58 seconds.
The year was 1927, and the New York theater district called 'Broadway' was entering what would be its greatest season in history. More than 264 shows were going to open that year -- and as many as 11 would open on a single night. Every new production was an overflowing of talent that was expressly American. In the years following World War I, America's identity came into sharp focus, and it did so on the Broadway stage.
This documentary covers the history of Broadway and the uniquely American stage production known as the Broadway musical. The Broadway theater district started in New York City after the construction of the subway system which allowed people from different neighborhoods to cross town. Before the development of the musical, there were multi-act performances similar to the vaudeville style, and the production of operettas, which phased out during World War I, since most operettas were written with German or Austrian settings.
Florenz Ziegfeld was a pioneer in the field, with his "Follies" shows that contained many vaudeville acts, covering song, dance, comedy, talent (including such stars as Will Rogers and W. C. Fields, and beautiful women. Later, one of his dancers, George White would start his own rival theater, making shows that showcased dance, and used musical compositions from a single composer for each show, such as George Gershwin, who wrote for White for 1920 - 1924. Many of the most popular dance styles that developed in the 1920s were either a result of Broadway acts, or strongly influenced and promoted by them. Ziegfeld broke cultural barriers with his act, hiring Fanny Brice, a Jewish comedienne for his Follies, and threatening to fire his cast of white actors for refusing to work with Bert Williams, an African-American singer he had just recruited. Several Broadway theaters introduced all African-American casts and composer/writer teams, which brought out the first serious love song between African-Americans seen on stage, in Shuffle Along in 1921.
The Broadway musical was created as a single story in which the musical segments helped to develop the plot line - one of the first was Show Boat, which was adapted from a serious novel about a bi-racial woman on the Mississippi River. Show Boat was composed by Jerome Kern and produced by Ziegfeld, re-inventing his own image as a showman. Other musicals soon followed Show Boat's 1927 debut.
Broadway's heyday reached an end at the end of the 1920's, with two major changes in American history: the development of talking motion pictures with The Jazz Singer in 1927, which drained both the demand for stage shows and the talent base of Broadway to Hollywood, and the Great Depression, which nixed New York City's demand for lavishly produced entertainment. However, Broadway endured, continuing to this day to be the hub of American theater.
Produced and Written by David O'Dell.