“Leonard Soloway’s Broadway”


Amos Lassen

Leonard Soloway is 90 years old and bringing a show to Broadway. Leonard Soloway is an authentic Broadway legend whose career includes over 100 shows, 62 Tony nominations, 40 Tony Awards, and 21 Drama Desk Awards. He has worked with some of the greatest stars of the stage along the way and started his career at the Cleveland Play House. After moving to New York, he landed a few acting bits before finding his place as a general manager and producer. He is outspoken, very funny and has been openly gay long before it was acceptable. He became a force in the Broadway world with his dedication and boundless energy. “Leonard Soloway’s Broadway”, the documentary  is a warm and friendly look at him as he tells his story in his own way. Soloway is an elegant raconteur, so there is lots of backstage gossip. 

Soloway was  the producer/general manager of over 100 shows that garnered over 40 Tony Awards and 60 Tony Nominations and this movie about him is delightful. We get a look at one of the old fashioned gentleman producers who is the epitome of a golden age that has long past. He decided to retire at 87 and calls the movers to pack up his apartment and moves to East Hampton.  He got bored quickly (within three months, so sold up and shipped all his belongings back to the city to an apartment lent to him by one of his many friends had lent him.

Even though he had a two year marriage to an actress, Soloway was one of the first openly gay men in Broadway management. 

His story starts when his mother suggested he go and volunteer at the Cleveland Playhouse.  He was 11 years and was totally smitten with the theater,  and by the time he was 18 had moved to Off Broadway .  His passion for his work and the fact he was more than happy to do it 7 days a week, got him climbing the ladder in no time.

Soloway had a wealth of stories about the stars he produced and managed and who all became his friend.  Filmmaker Katy Scroggin interviewed several Broadway legends who were literally tripping over each other declare their love for him.

There are fascinating stories like the one where he had to fire a young Bernadette  Peters out of town when her part was cut from the show. Because of that she got a part  in “Dames At Sea” her first big hit.  She credits Soloway to making her star. When Marlene Dietrich   summoned him to the theater at 8 AM one Monday Morning. It was the day of the Opening of her new Show and she wanted her dressing room painted, but to Soloway’s shock she actually wanted to do it herself.  And she did.  He also shared that this woman who had a reputation for being ‘impossible’ to work with actually brought the whole orchestra dinner,  that she had cooked herself,  after ever matinee performance.

Soloway says that of all of the Broadway people that he had to deal with Jerome Robbins was the worst. He  had been pushing his cast of 62 very hard for six months of rehearsals.  So one day Soloway stepped in and sent them all home for a break, and when Robbins challenged this, Soloway’s refusal to back down was overheard by a stage hand who spread the news subsequently making Soloway a Broadway hero,

Soloway fell  in love with a new show by dancer Maurice Hines when it was playing out of town and committed himself to bring it into the city which  he manages to do. The show opens at the Second Stage Theater to rave reviews but is so under-financed that Soloway cannot keep it open. It is a rude awakening as he realizes that the whole landscape of mounting shows has changed, and that so many of the investors who had supported him for years are now dead.

Through verité documentary footage, humorous storytelling, interviews and archival film material, we see a Broadway few ever see as told through the eyes of a legendary Broadway Producer and General Manager you’ve probably never heard of. He lived an unconventional life on his own terms who, over a 70-year span was involved with over 100 shows (and counting) which generated history making headlines.

“Leonard Soloway’s Broadway” is a journey through seventy years decades of Broadway as lived by a Broadway stalwart and dedicated lover of the theater who relishes the day-to-day drama of producing, the roller coaster of raising money, the struggling to make ends meet, the long hours of tech, the packed house on opening night, the stars, the salacious and secrete love affairs and the anticipation of a New York Times review, which could make or break any show.

An over-achiever and rebel spirit from the start, Leonard Soloway is a marvel of a man.

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