Why Busby Berkeley Is Important To Us

One of my heroes is Busby Berkeley.  42nd Street, the Gold Diggers films, Babes In Arms, Babes On Broadway, Take Me Out To The Ballgame–Berkeley defined “spectacular” in cinematic musicals.  His famous choreography and directing made MGM movie musicals must-see events.

When I’m talking to my team, potential investors, our director or even my co-writers, we get stuck in the “how will this look on stage” rut.  Busby Berkeley could start a number with a curtain opening in a theater. Then a medium shot of the principals singing a number. When the camera panned to the chorus,  there were women diving off cliffs into a huge pool of water or traversing a three story high staircase!  All of his numbers were campy but absolutely breathtaking!

The plots to any of the Berkeley films were quite disposable, save They Made Me A Criminal and a few other more serious works.  Yet despite the paper thin plots, phoned-in acting and often ho-hum music, Busby Berkeley created cinema magic, movie after movie.

It can be argued that his films were simply staples of the 30’s through the mid 1950’s and there’s no market for them today. And I’d argue: “What do you call High School Musical(s)?”  Disposable plots, music not even fit for Top 40 radio and  performances that define mundane.   But the production numbers?  Spectacular!  And between tween girls longing to be kissed by Zack Efron and these caffeinated, large scale productions, the Disney Company made–and continues to make–boatloads of cash.  And they proved that people, especially kids, love musicals.  The Fox show Glee! is the latest testament to this.

TradRad Pictures is not trying to create the next Wicked or Billy Elliot the Musical.  (Not that we wouldn’t be thrilled to have one of our productions catch on like that!)  Our goal is to create fun, easy-to-digest musicals that appeal to a lot of people.  We’d like to think our stories are a little more intricate and intriguing than a Berkeley movie or High School Musical.   And that our characters are a little more three-dimensional.  And maybe we invest a little extra time to give the music a special quality that rises above the ordinary, without leaping into West Side Story territory?

Our prime directive is to create shows that will hold viewers for two hours on cable TV.  And perhaps at some point, if the show does well in the ratings, a number of these viewers will come see a live performance of a touring production.  THAT would be the ultimate compliment to our work!

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