Now in its 43rd season on PBS, Great Performances has witnessed its share of change since the series’ debut in 1972. This year, we reflect on the past by welcoming to our broadcast stage some performances that transform the old into the new.
Broadway & Musical Theater
(l to r): Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton, on Broadway. Photo: Joan Marcus Premieres Fri., October 21, at 9/8c. This feature film documentary provides intimate access to Lin-Manuel Miranda and his colleagues during the two years leading up to the Broadway opening of the musical Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s revolutionary musical is based on the life of United States Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton’s America is produced by Academy Award and Emmy-winning producers RadicalMedia (What Happened Miss Simone?, Keith Richards: Under The Influence, In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams for PBS). The documentary combines interviews with experts and prominent personalities, new footage of the production in New York, and cast-led expeditions to DC, Philadelphia and New York.
Billy Elliot the Musical Live
Fri., Oct. 23, 2015, 9pm. Now seen by over 10 million people worldwide, Great Performances presents the US television premiere of the Tony Award-winning blockbuster Billy Elliot the Musical Live. Since its London debut in 2005, Billy Elliot the Musical has captivated audiences with its inspirational story of one young boy’s life-changing journey from boxing ring to ballet barre. Based on the popular 2000 film and featuring a rousing score by Elton John, Billy Elliot the Musical is set against the backdrop of North East England’s divisive miners’ strike of 1984, telling a heartwarming tale of how dreams can change hearts and minds.
Chita Rivera: A Lot of Livin’ To Do
Fri., Nov. 6, 2015. 9 pm. On Broadway, Great Performances celebrates the legendary career of one of the musical theater’s brightest lights in Chita Rivera: A Lot of Livin’ To Do. With a seven-decade career spanning such iconic shows as West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie, Chicago and Kiss of the Spider Woman (to name only a few), Chita Rivera returned to Broadway in April 2015 with a Tony-nominated performance in the final John Kander/Fred Ebb/Terrence McNally musical, The Visit. In addition to archival clips from Rivera’s many shows and TV appearances, also featured are reminiscences from friends and colleagues including choreographer Graciela Daniele, The Visit director John Doyle, John Kander, original West Side Story star Carol Lawrence, Terrence McNally, Bye Bye Birdie co-star Dick Van Dyke, choreographer Dee Dee Wood, Ben Vereen, and Rivera’s daughter Lisa Mordente.
Andrea Bocelli: Cinema
Fri., Nov. 27, 2015, 9 pm. From the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, superstar tenor Andrea Bocelli returns to Great Performances with a rapturous concert of beloved movie themes. Grammy-winning music producer David Foster joins Bocelli as master of ceremonies for a lush repertoire of songs from blockbuster films including The Godfather, Gladiator, Scent of a Woman, Dr. Zhivago, Once Upon a Time in America, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and many more. John Travolta, Andy Garcia, Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw introduce themes from some of their films, and joining Bocelli for romantic duets are former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherziner as well as pop sensation Ariana Grande in a special appearance utilizing the magic of the movies.
Joan Baez 75th Birthday Celebration
Spring/Summer 2016. From the stage of New York’s Beacon Theater, Great Performances celebrates the career of legendary folk artist, songwriter, and political activist Joan Baez in an extraordinary 75th birthday concert featuring a remarkable multi-generational roster of artists whose music has been touched by Baez’s vision.
Drama and Opera
The Hollow Crown – The Wars of the Roses
Sundays, December 11th, 18th and 25th at 9/8c. Following the international critical success of the four-part miniseries The Hollow Crown in 2013, The Wars of the Roses continues the epic cycle of Shakespeare’s History Plays in three new lavish film adaptations of Henry VI, Parts I and II, and Richard III. Together they comprise a tumultuous medieval spectacle, spanning rebellion in France, the rise and fall of Joan of Arc, the terror of England’s Civil War, and the deceitful dynastic murders culminating in the infamous reign of Richard III. As in The Hollow Crown, The Wars of the Roses features a cast of today’s leading actors in a bravura collection of Shakespearean roles, including Hugh Bonneville, Tom Sturridge, Sophie Okonedo, Ben Miles, Sally Hawkins, Keeley Hawes, Judi Dench and Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III.
Classical Concert and Opera
Dudamel Conducts a John Williams Celebration with the LA Phil
Fri., July 24, 2015, 9 pm. In celebration of the peerless career of film composer John Williams, Gustavo Dudamel conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall, where Williams premiered his concert work, “Soundings,” for the Hall’s inaugural gala in 2003. Hosted by Star Wars alumna Natalie Portman, the concert features Williams’ “Olympic Fanfare & Theme” (composed for the 1984 Games), “Cadenza and Variations” from the 1971 film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof, an excerpt from “Soundings,” “Escapades” from Catch Me If You Can, the “Throne Room” and Finale themes from Star Wars, “Dry Your Tears, Afrika” from Amistad, and the “Imperial March” from The Empire Strikes Back. Also featured is master violinist Itzhak Perlman, performing three unforgettable themes from Schindler’s List.
Bel Canto from the Lyric Opera of Chicago
Winter/Spring 2017. This December, the Lyric Opera of Chicago premieres an opera adaptation of Ann Patchett’s best-selling novel Bel Canto, a gripping contemporary story inspired by the 1996 Japanese Embassy hostage crisis in Lima, Peru. Curated by Renée Fleming, Lyric’s creative consultant, the production features a score by the remarkable, young Peruvian composer Jimmy López and a libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz, and dramatizes the tensions and unexpected alliances that form between the terrorists and their hostages. Australian-born American soprano Danielle de Niese portrays the story’s central figure, the fictional soprano Roxanne Coss, under the baton of Lyric music director Sir Andrew Davis, with direction by Kevin Newbury.
From Vienna: The New Year’s Celebration 2016
Fri., Jan. 1, 2016, 2:30 and 7:30 pm.Continuing its holiday tradition, Great Performances returns to Vienna’s magnificent Musikverein to usher in 2016 with the Vienna Philharmonic’s annual New Year’s Day Celebration, hosted by screen and stage legend Julie Andrews. Mariss Jansons guest conducts the world-renowned orchestra in a concert of beloved Strauss Family waltzes and polkas, accompanied by the Vienna State Opera Ballet.
Vienna Philharmonic Summer Night Concert 2016
Fri., Sept. 30 at 9/8c. In summer 2016, the Vienna Philharmonic takes the stage once again in the spectacular gardens of Schönbrunn Palace for yet another enchanted Vienna Summer Night Concert.
Great Performances at the Met – Season Ten
Great Performances at the Met (GP @ The Met) celebrates its tenth season on PBS with 10 more magnificent productions. The 2016 new season productions feature today’s leading opera stars in thrilling interpretations staged by the world’s foremost theater artists. See the GP @ The Met season 10 line-up that runs January 22 through September 18, 2016. Page updated June 23, 2016.