At 91, Leonard Soloway can wax poetic about more than 70 years’ worth of Broadway history. And thanks to a new documentary, many of Soloway’s theatrical memories have finally been captured for posterity.
“Leonard Soloway’s Broadway,” directed by Jeff Wolk, gets up close and personal with the titular stage producer, who has been instrumental in bringing hits like “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway” to the New York stage. (Watch the trailer for “Leonard Soloway’s Broadway” above.)
Best known as a producer of shorts like 2010’s “Last Glimmer of Day” and 2012’s “Flood,” Wolk told HuffPost via email that he was first introduced to Soloway, whom he called “vital to the Broadway community,” about a decade ago.
Wolk instantly knew he wanted to document an “extraordinary career” encompassing decades of era-defining plays and musicals that have collectively garnered more than 40 Tony Awards and two Pulitzer Prizes.
“I kept thinking someone needs to document this history before it’s too late,” Wolk said of Soloway’s firsthand accounts of Broadway’s past. “Ultimately that’s what we did.”
“Leonard Soloway’s Broadway” traces Soloway’s childhood in Cleveland and his early years in regional theater before his ultimate success on Broadway. It also doesn’t shy away from many aspects of his private life, including his sexuality. His 1950 marriage to actress Betty Gillette lasted two years before he came out as gay.
Many LGBTQ artists in the Broadway community, Wolk said, have cited Soloway as an inspiration in their own efforts to live authentically.
“Young people will be inspired because, as [theater producer] Manny Azenberg says in the film, ‘Leonard was gay and Jewish before anyone was gay and Jewish,’ and that is absolutely true,” Wolk wrote. “He’s no-holds-barred about who he is, and he has [a] wonderful ability to do it in a humorous, non-threatening way.”
Ultimately, Wolk said, he sees the message of Soloway’s life as being about “sheer determination and perseverance.”
“I personally did not expect to come away from the process with more inspiration than I had at the beginning of it,” he said. “I have to give Leonard credit for that.”
“Leonard Soloway’s Broadway” will premiere on Nov. 4 in New York, and will be released on Amazon and other streaming platforms on Nov. 12.