Great Performances 20th Anniversary Special

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Release date: October 09, 1992
Directed by: Gerald Gutierrez
Produced by: PBS Television
Running time: 90 minutes

Hosted by Meryl Streep, "Great Performances" gives itself a classy 20th birthday party with a 90-minute package of commissioned works subtitled "Celebrating Creativity, American Style." Aimed in various ways at showing how the arts enrich us all, the assortment of pieces is generally ingratiating and inevitably uneven as it tries to include something for everyone, with performances from Blythe Danner, Cynthia Nixon, Bernadette Peters and Paul Sorvino.

Meryl Streep (Host), Mikhail Baryshnikov, Matthew Broderick , Blythe Danner, Leon Fleisher, Tony Goldwyn , Bill Irwin, Gladys Knight, Jane Krakowski, Robert LaFosse, Nathan Lane, Nancy Marchand, Kyra Nichols, Johnny Mathis, Cynthia Nixon, Seiji Ozawa, Jorge Pabon, Bernadette Peters, Charlie Rose, Twyla Tharp, Paul Sorvino

Wendy Wasserstein’s ode to the theater, “Kiss, Kiss Dahlings,” directed by Gerald Gutierrez, is slight and obvious, but Blythe Danner, Nancy Marchand and Cynthia Nixon are lovely as three mother-daughter generations seen in three different eras. Terrence McNally’s “Last Mile” is an audacious fillip from an opera buff. It takes place backstage at the Metropolitan Opera as a soprano (Bernadette Peters) prepares to make her Met debut and, while warming up for “Tosca,” confronts jitters, ghosts and the specter of AIDS.

Directed by the television veteran Paul Bogart, Ms. Peters, Nathan Lane, Paul Sorvino, Tony Goldwyn and Bill Irwin serve the playwright splendidly. Alan Zweibel’s “Simple Melody” is a clever mini-musical, with Cy Coleman as composer, about a boy pianist who, plugging away on a little tune, grows up to be not just Matthew Broderick married to Jane Krakowski, but also rich and famous. Moving away from theater pieces, there is “Not My Girl,” a Fred Astaire fantasy choreographed by Peter Martins of the New York City Ballet and danced by Kyra Nichols outside the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. In “Zoetrope,” the photographer Annie Leibovitz uses Mikhail Baryshnikov and Twyla Tharp to illustrate a complex movement study.