Dance on Broadway

This Netflix Documentary Takes You Inside the World of Secret Musicals About Toilets, Cars and Dog Food

Screenshot from Bathtubs Over Broadway, via YouTube

"Life can be so rich and wonderful when we step off the logical path and embark on eccentric adventures."

For a sentiment that sounds like it belongs in a fortune cookie, you'd never expect that Steve Young is actually referencing a subset of offbeat, secret musicals: Shows about toilets and tractors and dog food and cars. Shows with big names, like Bob Fosse attached, and even bigger Broadway-style budgets. Shows that were never seen by the public.

These musicals are the subject of Bathtubs Over Broadway, the Tribeca Film Festival–winning documentary that begins streaming on Netflix today.


Welcome to the world of industrial musicals. If you haven't heard of them, that's on purpose. Back in the 1960s, many companies produced elaborate musicals to be presented exclusively at sales meetings to get employees jazzed about their products.

Hundreds of shows were made, and, thankfully, some traces still remain—mostly in the form of LPs given to employees as souvenirs. In the '90s, Young started finding records of these mysterious shows, like The Bathrooms are Coming!, and he was understandably intrigued. Over the years, his interest grew into an obsession, which eventually birthed the Bathtubs Over Broadway documentary.

A still from an industrial musical promoting tractors.

Screenshot of Bathtubs Over Broadway

Via YouTube

Though shows made to pep up employees might sound corny, industrials had high production value and attracted top talent: performers like Chita Rivera and Martin Short, and directors like Fosse and Susan Stroman. (Laugh all you want, but Skittles echoed this strategy with its 2019 Skittles Commercial: The Broadway Musical, starring Michael C. Hall.)

What's more, these musicals were a boon for actors and dancers because corporate behemoths could afford to cut hefty paychecks. An article in The New Yorker even mentions that, according to Stroman, "an actor could make a year's living doing four industrial shows."

Curious yet? Queue up Bathtubs Over Broadway. But don't blame us if you can't stop singing about toilets all weekend long.

The Conversation
Career Advice
Pacific Northwest Ballet principals Rachel Foster and Jonathan Porretta took their final curtain call on June 9, 2019. Photo by Lindsay Thomas, Courtesy PNB

We all know dance careers are temporary. But this season, it feels like we're saying goodbye to more stars than usual.

Many have turned to social media to share their last curtain calls, thoughts on what it feels like to say farewell to performing, and insights into the ways that dancing has made them who they are. After years of dedicating your life to the studio and stage, the decision to stop dancing is always an emotional one. Each dancer handles it in their own way—whether that means cheekily admitting to having an existential crisis, or simply leaving with no regrets about what you did for love.

We will miss these dancers' performances, but can't wait to see what awaits each in their next chapters.

Keep reading... Show less
News
A previous lab cycle. Photo by Evan Zimmerman/MurphyMade, Courtesy RRR Creative

Choreographic incubator Broadway Dance Lab has recently been rechristened Dance Lab New York. "I found the nomenclature of 'Broadway' was actually a type of glass ceiling to the organization," says choreographer Josh Prince, who founded the nonprofit in 2012.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox