Movie Review By Andrea Chase
The natural state of the universe is for perfect order to descend into entropy. Chaos is destiny.
Case in point, producing a Broadway play. In the documentary "Moon Over Broadway," filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker show us the first glow of a press conference announcing the imminent arrival of a new broadway comedy and then quietly, precisely, show us how things go downhill from there. We travel from rehearsals that provoke in everyone the same look of dull resentment to the final advertising strategies to make quotes from mixed reviews sound good.
The play is "Moon Over Buffalo" and the star is Carol Burnett. For Burnett, it represents a return to her roots on the New York stage after an absence of 30 years. For the producers, though, Burnett is a performer known beyond the confines of live theater that can sell tickets, they hope, by the bucketful. The first hint of trouble surfaces after the script's first read through. The reading itself is all smiles, but later, huddled together alone, the producer and the writer dissect Burnett's performance and the dreaded word is uttered. Television. She's a television actress.
With virtuoso editing and a knack for getting just the right moment, the filmmakers blend more storylines than a soap opera for a deliciously loopy picture of what I've always suspected. The story behind putting on a play, the egos, the cross-purposes, the structured insanity is just as entertaining as what happens on stage. Maybe more. And for "Moon Over Buffalo" the usual hysterics include voluminous rewrites and a backstage catastrophe that forces a performance to come to a grinding halt. Burnett saves the day proving that despite the misgivings of some, star quality on TV can sparkle just as brightly on stage.
Burnett emerges from the fray a hero both as an actress and as a human being. But the filmmakers provide a revelation by avoiding the cheap and easy tactic of making everyone else a villain. They're not. What's at work here is much more complex and more interesting - differing but heart felt opinions of what makes a winner.
"Moon Over Broadway" proves that a life in the theater is not for the faint of heart and that it's a freaking miracle any play makes it to opening night.
© 1998 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 4/8/98
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