PBS charts B’way history

Kantor's 'Musical' set to air in '04

HOLLYWOOD — Gotham pubcaster WNET and Ghost Light Films have begun production on “Broadway: The American Musical,” a six-hour doc tracking the evolution of musical theater over the past 100 years.

Michael Kantor, whose credits include work on Ken Burns’ “The West” and Ric Burns’ “New York,” will direct. Series is slated to bow on PBS in fall 2004.

Taking its cue from the recent success of bigscreen tuners “Chicago” and “Moulin Rouge,” docu will feature first-person accounts from theater luminaries including Carol Channing, John Kander and Fred Ebb, Joel Grey, John Lahr, Arthur Laurents, Harold Prince and Stephen Sondheim, as well as interviews with the late Adolph Green, Al Hirschfeld and Walter Matthau.

Turn-of-the-century beginning

Pic will begin with the turn-of-the-century immigrant experience and culminate with a survey of today’s eclectic Broadway scene — a mix of avant-garde theater and classic revivals.

“A comprehensive documentary on the history of the American musical has never been done,” Kantor said. “And it’s crucial to hear from the men and women who actually had a role in shaping American culture — to document the Broadway stories of these creative legends in their own words — before it is too late.”

Using archival footage, private home movies and autobiographical material, series will highlight historic stage moments, including the creation of the Gershwins-Heyward folk opera “Porgy and Bess,” Ethel Merman’s belting of “I’ve Got Rhythm” and Julie Taymor’s Tony-winning staging of “The Lion King.”

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