|Most Valuable Players|
|Directed by||Matthew D. Kallis|
|Written by||Christopher Lockhart|
|Produced by||Matthew D. Kallis|
|Edited by||Zack Braff|
|Music by||Randy Miller|
Most Valuable Players is a 2010 documentary film directed/produced by Matthew D. Kallis and written/produced by Christopher Lockhart, about The Freddy Awards, an annual awards ceremony recognizing outstanding high school musical theatre in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Lockhart was inspired to make the film after watching clips of a Freddy Awards production on YouTube.
In 2010, The Oprah Winfrey Network acquired the broadcast and video rights to the film.
Most Valuable Players, a Canyonback Films production, is directed/produced by Matthew D. Kallis and written/produced by Christopher Lockhart. It was Lockhart's first documentary and, although Kallis had directed documentaries in the past, he had never done one to this scale. The film was conceived when Lockhart found a clip of the 2006 ceremony on YouTube while searching for something unrelated. Lockhart was impressed with the production values and performance caliber, and took the idea to Kallis, who agreed to partner with him for a documentary.
Kallis and Lockhart acquired over 300 hours of source material over four months, starting with 2008 high school rehearsals all the way up to the State Theatre ceremony on May 22, 2008. In addition to the event itself, the footage includes filming behind-the-scenes at production meetings, interviews with students and teachers, rehearsals at participating high schools, and the announcement of Freddy Award nominations. Cinematographer Curt Apduhan, who won an Emmy for the 2003 documentary "Amargosa", served as Director of Photography. Ken King, winner of two Emmy Awards and nominated for a BAFTA for his work on the film Pulp Fiction, served as production sound mixer. 40 minutes of an original score was composed by Randy Miller.
Most Valuable Players runs 95 minutes long. The original working title was Freddy Fever. Lockhart said the new title demonstrates an analogy between sports and arts, adding, "In a way this plays like a sports documentary." The film focuses primarily on three schools: Emmaus High School in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, Parkland High School in Allentown, and Freedom High School in Bethlehem. By coincidence, both Emmaus and Parkland were presenting the musical Les Misérables the year Most Valuable Players was filmed, and the competition that arose made for one of the film's main conflicts.
The documentary originally included a ghosthunting sequence dealing with the urban legend of J. "Fred" Osterstock, for whom the Freddy Awards are named. Osterstock died in 1957, and the legend claims he still haunts the theater.
- Ali Mosser
- Jennifer Wescoe
- Katie Wexler
- Zachary Gibson
- Frank Anonia
- Amanda Kostalis
- John Andreadis
- Jill Kuebler
- Rita Cortez
- Vic Kumma
- Shelley Brown
- Mark Stutz
The first public exhibition of the film was on April 16, 2010, at the State Theatre in Easton. The film made its theatrical debut in New York City at the IFC Center and in Los Angeles at the ArcLight Hollywood, running from August 6, 2010 through August 19, 2010 as part of the DocuWeeks showcase sponsored by the International Documentary Association. Most Valuable Players made its festival debut at the Mill Valley Film Festival in California in October 2010. Other festivals in 2011 included the St. Louis International Film Festival, Chicago International Children's Film Festival, Dallas International Film Festival, Sprockets: Toronto International Film Festival, and the Nashville Film Festival, where it won the "Documentary Channel Audience Award."
In November 2010, the Oprah Winfrey Network announced it had acquired the rights for Most Valuable Players and planned to screen it as part of a monthly "documentary club" on the new cable network helmed by talk show host and billionaire Oprah Winfrey. The network, which is expected to have a viewership of about 80 million viewers, premiered the film on September 8, 2011. The DVD was released by Virgil Films & Entertainment, as part of the OWN Documentary Club collection, and includes extras such as deleted scenes and filmmaker commentary. The movie streamed on Netflix for four years and currently streams on Amazon Prime.
The documentary was met with generally positive reviews. Edge New York called it, "...high-spirited, yet topical and poignant." Variety, the Hollywood trade paper, referred to it as a "happy film." Hollywood Soapbox wrote the film "is an often moving account of talented teenagers striving for excellence." The Los Angeles Times was less enthused, calling the film "relentlessly peppy" and, while noting its "worthwhile intentions," criticized it for stoking "dreams of adulation too often at the expense of showing a creative end pursued for its own good." Upon its premiere on the Oprah Winfrey Network, Matt Roush of TV Guide declared it "the Sleeper of the Week," calling it "charming and disarming." Roush further wrote, "The camaraderie among the theater kids is touching and funny, and the emotion is palpable...I can't remember when I last enjoyed a Tony broadcast this much. A genuine treat." Star Magazine rated it 3.5/4 stars. In a prologue recorded for the OWN broadcast, Rosie O'Donnell called the documentary "amazing," adding "it made me cry...." Screenrant ranked it #1 on its list of 10 Must-See Documentaries For Musical Theater Buffs.
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- "10 Must-See Documentaries For Musical Theater Buffs". ScreenRant. 26 August 2020.