When the pandemic halted New York theater in March 2020, effectively putting an art form on ice, it was a potent sign that the world was not well. Following the timeline of the shutdown and recovery, Amy Rice’s upbeat documentary “Broadway Rising” surveys an impressive array of voices across the industry to track how it survived and regrouped. It’s like an extended backstage chronicle, except that people didn’t know when or how the show would go on.
In a churn of behind-the-scenes vérité and sit-down interviews (plus other to-camera commentary), we see performers, costumers, producers, musicians, playwrights and even a well-liked usher go through the coronavirus pandemic’s stages of grief. The subjects are fearful and anxious, for themselves and others, as figures including the actress Patti LuPone and the usher worry aloud about challenges that are more than a matter of employment. Death hits home: Highlighted here are the playwright Terrence McNally, the husband of the producer Tom Kirdahy (who features prominently in the film), and the actor Nick Cordero.
The movie underlines the solidarity and gumption that are ideally part of theater culture, even as feelings of resilience and unease rub shoulders: The playwright Lynn Nottage wonders about losing opportunities, while Adam Perry, an injured dancer who survived the coronavirus, pursues work in making floral arrangements.
But despite the diligent quantity of viewpoints, the sameness of the tone, sometimes-breezy editing and looping score produce a bland sensation as the movie soldiers on to the September 2021 reopening of theaters. It can’t fail to trigger shudders of recognition as well as feelings of release, but the filmmaking lacks a certain drama.
Rated PG-13 for some language and themes. Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes. Streaming on demand.