Bathtubs Over Broadway is a result of the eccentric obsession of Steve Young. For someone like myself who has always been in love with musical theater, this documentary is a revelation.
Steve Young wrote comedy for David Letterman. One of their running gags was to take some unlikely sounding vinyl LP and crack jokes about it based on the cover. Steve Young was in charge of leafing through the bins of record stores and street vendors selling vinyl in search of funny album covers.
While doing that job, he stumbled on some recordings made by companies that made everything from tractors to toilets. They were full-blown musical theater productions, but about a product. They were only performed for salesmen and company reps at conventions and meetings. The rest of the world knew nothing about it.
As Steve got more and more into collecting these industrial theater albums and films, he realized there were dozens and dozens of them from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. He began to recognize names of performers like Martin Short, Chita Rivera, and Florence Henderson. He noticed well known Broadway writers and composers. He learned the names of many of the singers.
Listen to the beautiful music, singing, and sentiment in this song, “My Bathroom.”
Steve learned the names of prolific writers and producers in this genre. And he went looking for them. First, he just wanted to get whatever recordings they had. Later he became friends with the people he found.
Together, they even wrote and performed a new musical of their own.
The quality of music, singing, dancing and choreography in these industrial musicals was equal to anything on Broadway. Steve found brilliant art, but about decidedly mundane topics. The songs were about cars or silicone or medical supplies or sales techniques.
This oddball interest in Steve Young led him to almost single handedly unearth a lost bit of American history and Americana. He wrote a book about it before making this documentary with director Dava Whisenant.
There’s no mention in Bathtubs Over Broadway what the plans are for all the recordings, films, librettos, scores, CDs, DVDs, flyers, liner notes and etc., etc., etc., Steve Young has found and collected in his passion project. I hope they eventually end up someplace like a museum where they can be preserved and shared.
It’s a deliciously interesting story full of music and dance. I urge you to watch it.
Watch the Trailer for Bathtubs Over Broadway
Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other streamers have this film. Have you seen this gem of a documentary? What did you think of it?