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The Quest for drama

From Producer Matt Percival



Have cinema, television and computers rendered theater obsolete?
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(CNN) -- "The stage is not merely the meeting place of all the arts, but is also the return of art to life," so said Oscar Wilde.

As the song goes, there's no business like show business and we're about to find out why as CNN's Richard Quest takes to the stage!

Treading the boards between Broadway and the West End, Quest tracks down some of the industry's most influential people.

From creative minds like Andrew Lloyd Webber and Kevin Spacey to legendary performers such as Chita Rivera and the Blue Man Group, all revel in an art form that many regard as the greatest of them all.

In all societies and throughout history, performance has been at the heart of our existence.

The allure of theater comes from the actor's ability to convey what it is to be human, creating a unique intimacy with the audience in each performance.

Richard's Theatrical Quest explores this dynamic but also examines how the theater is adapting in the face of competition from television, movies and video games.

One such adaptation is the emergence of performance art in mainstream theatre. From humble beginnings, acts like the Blue Man Group have brought with them a new 'cool' to the stage and with it, a new, younger audience.

In their studio in the Big Apple the group talks about the new wave of theater that they helped to create and show Richard a few of the crazy paint-sodden tricks that have ensured worldwide success.

Shakespearean tragedy

Despite all the talk of taking theater into the 21st century, the Royal Shakespeare Company is working tirelessly to keep modern audiences in touch with tradition.

Quest travels to Stratford-upon-Avon to meet esteemed director Gregory Doran who shares his undying love for a good old Shakespearean tragedy.

The Blue Man Group bring a new lease of life to the stage.

Of course, Shakespeare will not disappear any time soon, but back in London, modern political playwright David Hare has a few bones to pick with the establishment who keep recycling old material.

Also performing Shakespeare is Kevin Spacey, who's currently posing as Richard II at the Old Vic Theatre in London, where he is now in his second season as artistic director.

As he explains to Richard, a glittering movie career was just a rehearsal for the biggest and most exciting challenge of his life. He has concluded that movies are a director's realm but for an actor the buzz of the theatre is as good as it gets.

Loathe them or hate them, musicals have come to dominate the box office on both sides of the Atlantic.

Iconic performer

On the week that "Phantom of the Opera" replaces "Cats" as the longest running Musical on Broadway, Andrew Lloyd Webber reflects on his career and the unparalleled success of his work.

Currently appearing in her own autobiographical show is the iconic performer Chita Rivera, still dancing and pulling in the crowds in her 70s.

Having appeared in productions of classic shows like West Side Story and Chicago with artists including Sammy Davis Jr and Liza Minnelli, there's no one more qualified to help Quest understand the appeal of a life lived on Broadway's stages.

Then, we move from the old to the new as we hear about the emerging careers of the boys who play Billy Elliott in the hit London musical.

Phantom of the Opera has become the longest-running musical.

There's only so much you can talk about theatre without having an urge to experience the thrill under the spotlight yourself. And so it is for Richard as he takes to the stage at London's prestigious Richmond Theatre.

Playing alongside established actors like Simon Callow, Richard is granted a walk on part in the great British pantomime classic, Aladdin. His 'moment' is brief but unforgettable as he gets a glimpse into what it feels like to perform on the 'big stage'.

Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats, the Quest show is about to begin...

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