When the pandemic brought New York theater to a standstill in March 2020, effectively putting an art form on ice, it was a powerful sign that the world was not well. Amy Rice’s upbeat documentary “Broadway Rising” traces the timeline of the shutdown and recovery, exploring an impressive array of industry voices to track how it survived and regrouped. It’s like an elaborate backstage chronicle, except people didn’t know when or how the show would go on.
In a whirlwind of behind-the-scenes vérité and sit-down interviews (plus other on-camera commentary), we see artists, clients, producers, musicians, playwrights, and even a beloved usher discuss the stages of grief of the coronavirus pandemic run through . The subjects are anxious and concerned, for themselves and others, as figures such as actress Patti LuPone and the usher worry aloud about challenges that are more than a matter of work. Death Strikes: Featured here are playwright Terrence McNally, husband of producer Tom Kirdahy (who plays a prominent role in the film), and actor Nick Cordero.
The film underscores the togetherness and daring that are par excellence in theater culture, even as feelings of resilience and unease overlap: playwright Lynn Nottage wonders if she’s missing out on opportunities, while Adam Perry, an injured dancer who survived the corona virus continues to make flower arrangements.
But despite the zealous amount of points of view, the evenness of tone, sometimes light-hearted editing and repetitive score make for a dull thrill as the film gears up for theaters to reopen in September 2021. It can’t help but send shivers of recognition and arouse feelings of liberation, but the filmmaking lacks a certain drama.
Rated PG-13 for some languages and themes. Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes. Stream on demand.