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'ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway'

Idina Menzel — <em>Wicked</em>'s not-so-wicked witch, Elphaba — gets her nightly green on.
Idina Menzel — Wicked's not-so-wicked witch, Elphaba — gets her nightly green on.

Director Dori Berinstein chronicles four musicals (Wicked, Avenue Q, Taboo, and Caroline, Or Change) as they battle for the Tony Award — and she quickly establishes that this business we call show can be a cutthroat thing, especially as practiced on the Great White Way. One misstep can spell disaster, there's always another show waiting in the wings, and when you finally get everything just the way you want it, the critics tell you it's not good enough.

There's loads of talent on display (from puppets to Boy George), plus plenty of dish about them all. The creative folks are mostly empathetic, the critics mostly seem like monsters, and for theater queens of all persuasions, that's probably enough to make this scattered documentary seem a feast. For those less familiar with the musicals, however, Berinstein's habit of jumping from one show to another will likely prove perplexing.

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Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.