Film Review: ‘Bathtubs Over Broadway’ Revives a Forgotten Art Form

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CHICAGO – There are cultural heroes, and then there is comedy writer Steve Young. Through sheer happenstance, he began a journey that ended up with a rediscovery of an art form that without Young’s intervention would have died. The U.S. corporation Broadway-style “industrial musical,” which highlighted products or sales meetings in a song and dance presentation, were at its peak popularity from the 1950s through the ‘70s. “Bathtubs Over Broadway” is Young’s documentary of appreciation for those shows and and his intervention to revive them.

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 4.5/5.0
Rating: 4.5/5.0

To experience “Bathtubs…” is to witness a miracle. What began as a minor comedy bit on “Late Night with David Letterman,” where Steve Young was a writer, morphed into a bit of an obsession for the low-keyed jokester. His delving into the corporate show culture began with the souvenir records from these shows, done in very limited runs (the records were usually given to the insider audience and participants, then thrown in a back closet, if they were kept at all). After seeing the names associated with these shows… like Florence Henderson and Martin Short, plus Broadway stars like Chita Rivera and lyricist Sheldon Harnick, Young’s curiosity was peaked, and soon he began to seek out the people who both wrote and performed in these strange masterpieces. The shows themselves are amazing in their context, and director Dava Whisenant creates a breezy tribute to them, as well as giving proper due to Steve Young himself. Not only is the subject matter fun, but an original tribute to them at the conclusion of the film will make you happy to be alive.

Steve Young is a comedy writer that worked with David Letterman on both his NBC and CBS talk shows. One of his assignments was to populate the Letterman routine called “Dave’s Record Collection,” which consisted of the worst of the record vinyl era. One of the albums that Young found was the recording of a corporate Broadway-style show touting the important of insurance. An obsession was born.

According to Young, there are only five legitimate collectors of corporate show recordings in the whole world, and one of them oddly is Jello Biafra from the band Dead Kennedys. Young’s collection grew, and then he started reading the credits for the shows. There were names like Florence Henderson, Chita Rivera, Martin Short and Sheldon Harnick, the lyricist for “Fiddler on the Roof.” It was time to take a journey to rediscover this truly American art form.

“Bathtubs Over Broadway” has a limited run at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 North Southport Avenue in Chicago. For details and ticket info, click here. See local listings for other theaters and show times. Featuring Steve Young, David Letterman, Martin Short, Chita Rivera, Susan Stroman, Florence Henderson, Sheldon Harnick and Jello Biafra. Directed by Dava Whisenant. Rated “PG-13”

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “Bathtubs Over Broadway”

Bathtubs
The Man and His Mission: Steve Young in “Bathtubs Over Broadway”
Photo credit: Focus Features

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “Bathtubs Over Broadway”

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