A Decade in the Making: On Broadway

Director Dave McLaughlin and producer Lance Greene's "On Broadway" is the story of Jack O'Toole, a 30-something Boston everyman, despite having no previous theater experience and only his instinct to guide him, decides to writes a play about his dead uncle as a way to reconnect with his bitter, estranged father.  Jack O'Toole was just an average guy from an average family, but the instant he gazed into the eyes of his dying uncle everything changed. Taken by emotion and stirred by an internal voice that encourages him to filter his pain into something creative, Jack quits his job as a carpenter so that he can mount a production of his play called "God Willing." Enlisting his friends and family to help with the play's production, subplots and shenanigans abound.There are hilarious auditions, silly dancing and vocalizing in the play as well as a brilliant comic moment when a funeral director becomes the makeup artist for the play's actors. When the play, "God Willing" is ready, the only stage the hero can afford is in the back room of his neighborhood pub located on a little street called Broadway.

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Directed By: Aryo Danusiri, Dave McLaughlin
Written By: Aryo Danusiri, Dave McLaughlin
In Theaters: Mar 14, 2008 Wide
On DVD: Mar 9, 2010
Runtime: 1 hr. 42 min.
Director: Dave McLaughlin
Writer: Dave McLaughlin
Staring: Joey McIntyre, Jill Flint, Eliza Dushku, Mike O'Malley, Amy Poehler, and Will Arnett

On Broadway premiered at the Independent Film Festival of Boston in April 2007, and later was screened at the Galway Film Festival and the Newport Beach Film Festival.

One review of the film expressed disappointment with the director's inability to dig below the surface of the movie's story or the characters by never offering more than a superficial view of Boston area and the New Englanders who call it home. The reviewer felt that despite the abundance of Boston natives and local stage actors sprinkled throughout the production both on and off screen, most of the location shots, including Copley Square and the view from the Longfellow Bridge, seemed oddly generic. And with a linear structure that plods along to a disappointingly anticlimactic ending, "On Broadway" never soared offering only a superficial view of Boston and the people who call it home. Never the less, a number of the actors did turn in some impressive performances. Joey McIntyre who underplays the crusading Jack, manages to give him a charming sense of humility and sincerity that never felt forced. Eliza Dushku who portrays the over-eager actress with a weak spot for good-looking guy is also compelling. She shined in her scenes with Lucas Caleb Rooney, who portrayed Jack's goofy best friend, Neil.

One can say that the heart of "On Broadway" is in the right place. However, the story behind a film turns out actually to be more interesting than what's on the screen. Dave McLaughlin left school to write fiction when he was in his early 20's. Because he grew up in a house that didn't have a TV for years, the only movies he remembers seeing as a kid were "The Champ" and a free summertime series of silent films he went to with his parents in the courtyard of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. However, his childhood was rich in stories via books, and stories from his Irish neighborhood. McLaughlin started writing "On Broadway" as a direct response to his frustration as a screenwriter in LA. His inspiration was from a time earlier in his career when he had actually directed a play of his called "God Willing" in the back room of a pub in Somerville, MA. At the time he and his wife were living in a sort of ramshackle three story house on a little street nearby called Broadway. He liked the humble environment and remembers how proud they felt regarding their contribution, integrity and value of their act of self-expression. No one was getting rich and nobody was getting famous. But everyone involved in the production felt alive while having fun. The original play, "God Willing," reflected McLaughlin's Irish heritage and celebrated his connection to family through rituals, especially the classic Irish wake. McLaughlin turned his original journey of writing and producing the play into the movie"On Broadway." The Broadway reference has multiply meanings: the street in Somerville, MA where he and his wife once lived early in his career, the fictional address of the pub where the play in the movie is staged, and the dream destination of every playwright.

After McLaughlin finished his script, he and Lance Greene, the film's producer, started looking for investors in NYC in 1999. But it wasn't until late 2005, they finally found two great partners in Henry and Donna Bertolon, who became the film's executive producers. During the ups and downs of the close to ten years in trying to produce the film, Greene continued to believe in Dave's vision. Greene felt that Dave McLaughlin brought a tremendous amount of value to the production as the director and as the story writer.

On Broadway was shown at a number of film festivals, both in the Us and in Europe. Dave McLaughlin mentions incidents from two different festivals that gave him great satifcation in knowing that the film touched people in meaningful ways.

In Michigan, after a screening of On Broadway at the Waterfront Film Festival, a Jamaican man stopped McLaughlin on the street. The man started to talk about how the film reminded him of his relationship with his own father, and how cathartic it was for him. It's moments like this, said McLaughlin, that confirms the reason to make films. It also showed how universal the message is and that a film that is about the Boston Irish is not limited to people whose surnames begin with O' or Mc.

At another screening, this one in Ireland at the Galway Film Fleadh, an Irishman in the audience raised his hand after the screening and said, basically, "This is the best film I've ever seen about Irish culture. Can you tell me how it is that it was made by a bunch of yanks?"

On Broadway is available on Netflix.