Film series returns with new documentary
The world preem of backstage doc “The Standbys” is among the movies set to screen next month as part of the Tony Awards Film Series, expanding to the Paley Center for Media in its second year.“Carol Channing: Larger Than Life” and a sing-along screening of the Hugh Jackman-toplined staging of “Oklahoma!” also are on the bill for the series, which aims to tubthump for the Tonys and encourage auds to tune in to the annual legit kudocast. This year the film series changes venues from the Times Square Visitor Center, which last year had been temporarily set up to accommodate three weeky screenings, to the higher-profile Paley Center. All three offerings this year will screen over a single weekend in May. Stephanie Riggs’ “Standbys” chronicles the lives of Broadway understudies and standby performers, with a focus on a trio of thesps: Ben Crawford, understudy for the title character in “Shrek the Musical”; Merwin Foard, whose duties in “The Addams Family” included covering for topliner Nathan Lane; and young thesp Alena Watters. Film will screen May 12, followed by a discussion with a panel of Rialto thesps who got their start as standbys or understudies. Remaining two films on the series slate are set to screen the next day. Dori Berinstein’s doc “Carol Channing,” which preemed last year in the Tribeca Film Festival, reps her return to Tony bigscreen programming. She also directed “ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway,” the 2007 pic that screened last year. “Channing” event also will include a Channing look-alike contest. Fest finishes off with the 1999 recorded version of the National Theater’s staging of “Oklahoma!” Jackman’s stint in the London production came just prior to his star-making turn in “X-Men.” Presented by the Broadway League and the American Theater Wing — which also co-produce the Tonys each year — the film series reps one of a handful of Tony marketing ploys in the works this year. In future years the initiative could potentially be spun out to encompass satellite film-series events in other regions of the country. Tonys air June 10 on CBS in a live telecast from Gotham’s Beacon Theater.