As we continue to settle into this “new normal’ of staying Safer at Home, you may feel as though you’re running out of entertainment options. If you’ve already watched dozens of movie musicals and live theater and music performances, why not take some time to learn how these incredible art forms came to be? Check out this list of performing arts documentaries to learn more about some of the greatest musicians, musicals, and more!
20 Feet From Stardom
Winner of the 2014 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, this film takes a look at the world of backup vocalists and the legends they support.
A Cappella’s New Note
From the classroom to the stage, “A Cappella’s New Note” takes you behind the scenes and live in concert with three Wisconsin High School vocal groups as they prepare for and perform in an annual show in Port Washington, Wisconsin — called “Acapocalypse” — celebrating the genre of a cappella music.
Rare home videos and interviews with Amy Winehouse’s inner circle offer an intimate look at her journey from charismatic teen to troubled star.
Amazing Grace – Aretha Franklin
A documentary presenting the live recording of Aretha Franklin’s album Amazing Grace at The New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles in January 1972.
Filmmaker Jody Lee Lipes follows emerging choreographer Justin Peck as he undertakes the difficult tasks of creating and dancing in the New York City Ballet’s 422nd original piece.
Bathtubs Over Broadway
A comedy writer for David Letterman unearths a hidden world of hilariously bizarre musicals, which turns into a toe-tapping obsession.
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years
In 1962 four young men John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr came together to form the 20th century musical phenomenon known as, “The Beatles.” The band stormed Europe in 1963, and, in 1964, they conquered America.
Best Worst Thing that Ever Could Have Happened
The cast and crew of the 1981 Broadway musical “Merrily We Roll Along” recall joy and heartbreak during the production of a surefire hit that wasn’t.
A year in the life of a demanding high school choir teacher who pushes his students to become “one big voice” in this inspiring musical documentary.
Broadway or Bust
PBS is bound for Broadway with this three-hour documentary series that tells the real life stories of America’s top high school musical performers, vying in the ultimate competition to find the nations best young theater stars.
Carol Channing: Larger Than Life
If Carol Channing didn’t exist, no one could have made her up. Carol hovered at the pinnacle of the entertainment world from the late 1950s through the 1960s and beyond, living life sensationally large.
Featuring interviews, insights and archival footage, this documentary aims to reveal how historical events shaped the music of John Coltrane.
Echo in the Canyon
An affectionate documentary looks back at the mid-1960s, when Hollywood’s Laurel Canyon was a creative nexus for young, innovative musicians.
Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me
A deeply funny portrait of bold and brassy Broadway legend and Emmy winner Elaine Stritch, with Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, James Gandolfini, John Turturro, and others.
Every Little Step
For over three decades: there’s been one singular sensation: A Chorus Line, the groundbreaking hit musical inspired by the emotional lives of dancers during the audition process. Now the story comes full circle as a new documentary offers a revealing, unprecedented look at the auditions for the Broadway revival of the perennial classic.
Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles
Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles is the first in-depth documentary film that chronicles the story of Fiddler On the Roof, exploring the unexpected richness of its themes as well as its long reach across time and cultures.
Hamilton: One Shot to Broadway
The story of the hit musical that changed Broadway forever and brought the genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda to the attention of legions of fans across the world. Featuring interviews with Miranda, as well as the cast and crew of Hamilton.
Harold Prince: The Director’s Life
Take a peek into the legendary career of the pioneering Broadway producer and director and winner of 21 Tony Awards with this retrospective celebration featuring Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Mandy Patinkin, John Kander, Susan Stroman, and Angela Lansbury.
The Heat Is Back On: The Remaking of Miss Saigon
Follow the amazing journey of how a new production of one of the most successful musicals of all time is done, from casting and rehearsals to opening night.
Jazz: A Film By Ken Burns
Jazz has been called the purest expression of American democracy; a music built on individualism and compromise, independence and cooperation. Ken Burns follows the growth and development of jazz music from the gritty streets of New Orleans to Chicago’s south side, the speakeasies of Kansas city and to Times Square.
Driving a Rolls-Royce once owned by Elvis Presley, with a revolving crew of musicians in the backseat – director Eugene Jarecki embarks on a cross-country road trip to explore how Elvis lost his authenticity as America lost its soul.
Latin Music USA
From Latin jazz and mambo to salsa, Tejano, Chicano rock, Latin pop and reggaeton, LATIN MUSIC USA tells the story of the rise of new American music forged from powerful Latin roots and reveals the often overlooked influence of Latin music on jazz, hip hop, rhythm and blues, and rock ‘n’ roll on all of American culture.
Life After Tomorrow
Life After Tomorrow reunites more than 40 women who played orphans in the Broadway production Annie and reveals the highs and lows of of their experiences as child actresses in a cultural phenomenon.
Making a New American Nutcracker
Join narrator Neve Campbell and the creative team behind The Joffrey Ballet’s new production of Chirstopher Wheeldon’s “The Nutcracker,” a bold re-imagining of the Christmas classic that places Marie in the humble home of a 19th Century immigrant family where she falls asleep and dreams of a journey through the Chicago World’s Fair.
Miles Davis: The Birth of Cool
Unpack the mythology of Miles Davis and learn the true story of a jazz legend with never-before-seen footage and celebrity interviews.
This documentary profiles music and culture icon Quincy Jones, offering unprecedented access to his private life and stories from his unparalleled career.
Remastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke
While Sam Cooke rose to stardom as a soul singer, his outspoken views on civil rights drew attention that may have contributed to his death at age 33.
Rolling Stones: A Trip Across Latin America
Follow the Rolling Stones as the iconic group breaks new ground in Latin America, wrapping a 10-city tour as the first-ever rock band to play in Cuba.
Rolling Thunder Review: A Body Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese
In an alchemic mix of fact and fantasy, Martin Scorsese looks back at Bob Dylan’s 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour and a country ripe for reinvention.
Show Business: The Road to Broadway
Over the course of one Broadway musical season, we follow the four high-profile productions that would eventually become Tony nominees: “Wicked”, “Taboo”, “Caroline, or Change”, and “Avenue Q”.
Six by Sondheim
Explore the life and career of renowned Broadway lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim through six of his best-known songs.
Standing in the Shadows of Motown
In 1959, Berry Gordy Jr. gathered the best musicians from Detroit’s thriving jazz and blues scene to begin cutting songs for his new record company – Motown. This documentary tells the unforgettable story of the Funk Brothers.
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Using never-before-heard recordings, rare archival footage and her best-known songs, this is the story of legendary singer and activist Nina Simone.
Woodstock: Three Days that Defined a Generation
For the 50th anniversary of the legendary Woodstock festival, organizers and attendees reminisce about one of the defining moments of the 1960s.