Category Archives: Film

Leonard Soloway’s Broadway


Digital Release & DVD

Leonard Soloways Broadway

Leonard Soloway’s Broadway

Digital Download and DVD

Reviewed – October 2019



“‘I hate this fucking business’ Soloway grumbles at one point, but we know that nothing could be further from the truth”


Leonard Soloway has been a Broadway producer and general manager for over 60 years, and has been involved with over 150 productions, garnering a host of Tony Awards, Drama Desk Awards and Pulitzer prizes along the way. He has worked with some of the biggest names in show business – Paul Newman, Lauren Bacall, Jerome Robbins and Marlene Dietrich among them – and, at 90 years of age, is still a force to be reckoned with on The Great White Way.

When Jeff Wolk (documentary director and producer) met Soloway working on his latest production – Maurice Hines’ Tappin’ Through Life – and thought he would make an excellent subject for a behind the scenes look at the business, his instincts were absolutely right. Soloway is extraordinary. He fell in love with the theatre at the Cleveland Playhouse, where he worked as a young man, and simply never looked back. An openly gay Jewish man (‘He was gay and Jewish before anybody was gay and Jewish’ as Tovah Feldshuh, one of the film’s talking heads tells us) Leonard Soloway powered himself to the very top of his game with exceptional passion and drive, honesty, nerves of steel and a great deal of charm. He swears like a trooper – ‘It’s a matinee. Who the fuck’s going to be there?’ he barks at his long-standing and fiercely loyal company manager Judith Drasner – knows EVERYONE, and simply does not stop.

Wolk’s documentary has a double-stranded structure which works extremely well. Intertwined with Soloway’s history, we follow the progress of the show he is currently bringing to Broadway. In this way, as well as giving us Soloway’s own riveting story, the documentary shines a fascinating light on the mechanics of putting on a show, from its beginnings in a regional theatre to a Broadway run, including getting investment, running ads and negotiating budgets. Seeing Soloway interacting in all these situations is theatre in itself, and completely compelling viewing for theatre junkies like this reviewer. It is also striking to see a man so at home in the razzamatazz showbiz world of Sardis (famous NYC theatre restaurant) and opening nights, in his distinctly drab and functional office. It says a lot about the man. He is a pro, and work is work. No need for glitz and glamour when you’ve got business to do.

Wolk has managed to interview a lot of Broadway players – from actors, to producers, to industry bigwigs – and the documentary is liberally sprinkled with wonderful theatrical anecdotes. It would be criminal to give the best ones away, but suffice it to say that the take-away tale from Marlene Dietrich’s last solo appearance in New York is a humdinger! There are also some windows into Soloway’s cheerfully active romantic and sexual life which are revealing without being prurient, and are clearly essential to this portrait. My only criticisms are of the slightly misjudged history lesson on Wilde – shoehorned in in the guise of context for one of Soloway’s hits – and the over-sentimental music underscoring footage of the 1980s AIDS crisis. This sentimentality is entirely at odds with the occasionally salacious but always matter-of-fact way in which Soloway has lived, and continues to live, his life as a gay man. Thankfully, this spirit is perfectly captured in the documentary’s closing moments, in a lovely final flourish, which will stay with the viewer long after the credits have rolled.

The Broadway that has been Leonard Soloway’s life is changing, of course, but perhaps not as much as we might think. And there’s no doubt that it still seduces as much as it ever did. ‘I hate this fucking business’ Soloway grumbles at one point, but we know that nothing could be further from the truth. It, quite literally, keeps him alive.


Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw


Leonard Soloway's Broadway

Leonard Soloway’s Broadway

will be available on digital platforms and DVDs will be available on Amazon.Com beginning November 12th




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The Decorative Potential of Blazing Factories [film]

The Coronet Theatre

The Decorative Potential of Blazing Factories

The Decorative Potential of Blazing Factories

The Coronet Theatre

Reviewed – 18th June 2019



“an absurdist satire on pretty much everything that the media focuses on in modern society”


Last month saw the relaunch of the Coronet Theatre in Notting Hill, with the unique aim to use the whole building for multi-disciplinary programming; spanning theatre, film, dance and visual art. And true to its intention, a short schedule of film, dance and even poetry is lined up before the main auditorium houses its next theatre production in September. Currently running is the first film the Coronet Theatre has commissioned; “The Decorative Potential of Blazing Factories” by film director Gary Chitty and sculptor Bruce McLean. It is delightfully obvious that the theatre is not shying away from the decorative potential of this colourful collaboration. From the start of his career McLean has refused to be told what to do, renouncing convention and rebelling against tradition. He began making sculpture from rubbish before becoming one of Britain’s most influential conceptual artists, pioneering performance art. He met Chitty in the early 1970s when they cofounded ‘Nice Style’ – a rock band. Only this band didn’t play any instruments; they just posed (they even supported The Kinks).

So, it is intriguing to wonder what their brief was for this commission. McLean himself has described the film as a ‘cardboard catastrophe’, and they both use the term ‘expanded cinema’. But basically, it seems that anything goes. The film is at heart an absurdist satire on pretty much everything that the media focuses on in modern society; from politics to art, environmentalism to fashion, industrialism to individualism, ambition and infamy. It tries to paint the world picture with a fine-tooth comb. Which is probably where it stumbles into a self-indulgent swamp in which the inherent humour gets bogged down.

A young woman, an artist, wants to create the greatest landscape painting of all time. To capture the red skyscape, she burns down her father’s factory, much to the dismay of the displaced factory workers. The media focuses more on the artist’s dresses than the art, and on the workers’ breakfast than their plight. Meanwhile a politician wants to create the greatest world summit but concentrates more on getting his handshake right for the cameras than the melting icebergs that herald Armageddon.

Throughout the film, Chitty and Bruce occasionally parade in front of the screen holding blank placards. The symbolism is obvious, but the aesthetic is more interesting, as the placards catch the projection giving the effect of a magnifying glass focusing on certain points of the screen. It is unclear whether this is intentional or whether it is an accidental offshoot of the surrounding chaos. Probably a mix of both. The frenzy of ideas is just about held together by threads of cleverness, not least the animation itself. Again, eschewing convention and modern digital trends, McLean uses puppetry, foam board, oil paints, cardboard, smoke and ingenuity. Pictures and models from the film are on display in an exhibition running alongside in the ‘Print Room’.

This is not to everybody’s taste and despite the short running time it does flirt with tedium. But it is fun, and it pokes fun at modern clichés. And at us. And at themselves too which is its saving grace. It closes with the rhetorical caption “can art change our view of the world?” The glint in their eye as Chitty and McLean take their bow betrays the irony and implores us not to take this all too seriously.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans


The Decorative Potential of Blazing Factories

The Coronet Theatre until 22nd June


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Act & Terminal 3 | ★★★★ | June 2018
The Outsider | ★★★★★ | September 2018
Love Lies Bleeding | ★★★★ | November 2018
A Christmas Carol | ★★★★ | December 2018
The Dead | ★★★ | December 2018
The Lady From The Sea | ★★ | February 2019
The Glass Piano | ★★★★ | April 2019
Remember Me: Homage to Hamlet | ★★ | June 2019
Three Italian Short Stories | ★★★★ | June 2019
Winston Vs Churchill | ★★★★★ | June 2019


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