Bathtubs Over BroadwayBathtubs Over Broadway
Year: 2018
Rating: PG-13
Length: 87 minutes / 1.45 hours

To some, the idea that there were whole musical productions that were practically enormous advertisements for companies seems absurd. Since I grew up listening to Stan Freberg, I already knew that musicals could sell products (take his “Omaha” musical, for instance, since it was basically a 15-minute radio ad for Butternut coffee). At any rate, Bathtubs Over Broadway (2018) explores these oddities that most people never realize existed up until only a decade or two ago. It’s a little sad to see these ridiculous odes to corporate marketing go by the wayside…but it also makes sense as well.

If there’s anything that Bathtubs Over Broadway gets across, it’s that these musicals were serious business, even if the companies they were selling weren’t. There were songs about bathrooms—repeated throughout its runtime—if that gives you an idea of the content. It is a little awe-inspiring to see famous names tied to these theatrical productions. One wonders how many legendary songwriters, producers, and actors got their start on the “advertising circuit” before breaking through to more significant (and more publically-available) roles.

While this documentary follows one of the most avid collectors of these musicals, it felt a little too long to be a full-length feature (albeit just barely, only clocking in at 87 minutes). Consequently, a number of the sequences felt repetitive as it drove home the point of how ridiculous these musicals were. It probably would have worked better as a documentary short, at least to keep it focused on the main idea (marketing musicals). Instead, it ballooned out of scope to include its own original song and dance number—which itself is a little cringe-worthy as well. In the end, I have a feeling this documentary might remain as obscure as the musicals it uncovered.

A curious look into the quirky world of “marketing musicals” that’s just a bit too long, I give Bathtubs Over Broadway 3.0 stars out of 5.

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