Heart Of Broadway
Most people have probably encountered Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS when attending a Broadway or touring show and being asked by the cast to give to that charitable foundation. The documentary "Heart of Broadway: The Ensemble Behind Broadway Care/Equity Fight AIDS" peeks behind the scenes of the fundraising superpower that has raised $195 million. While it’s a good explainer of the organization’s good works and contains genuinely touching moments, the film settles for being just nice.
From director Josh Rosenzweig, "Heart of Broadway" originally aired on Here! TV. Rosenzweig tells the history and mission of the group mainly through talking heads -- admittedly charming, attractive heads who are Broadway stars like Judth Light, Jerry Mitchell and Lillias White -- but talking heads nonetheless. In the doc’s section that explains the various yearly projects that Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS conducts, such as the Gypsy of the Year ceremony and Easter Bonnet competition, there are a few photos and mostly silent videos of those events and a whole lot of narration. That’s a bit of a disappointment given the theatricality of all involved in the group. Some longer performance clips would have varied the movie’s pace.
Additionally, the documentary suffers from it’s pervading tone of "good". This organization does good work, the people talking are good people, and the many groups across the country to which they given grants to help those with AIDS and other health issues are good as well. There’s a lost opportunity to delve deeper into the origins of Equity Fights AIDS and bring some righteous anger to the emotional mix of the movie. Organization chief Tom Viola recounts a bit of the group’s beginnings, during the dark times of the Reagan administration’s silence on the disease, and at the courage then Equity president actress Colleen Dewhurst showed but doesn’t include any examples of that courage.
There are some good anecdotes though, such as director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell’s story of how he accidentally started Broadway Bares, the fundraising striptease event, by heading out to a local club to raise money by dancing in a skimpy "Will Rogers Follies" costume (now that story has some good B-roll footage). Also lovely moments are Judith Light remembering her moment of consciousness raising and Lillias White dreaming of the day when all the events will be performed for the pure love of performing because a cure has been found for AIDS.
At a speedy one hour, "Heart of Broadway" was probably a sweet television special about a very worthy organization. However, as a film, it needs to mix it up -- in pace, media and tone -- to pack more of an emotional punch.
This article is part of our "Boston LGBT Film Festival" series. Want to read more?
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