Book Reviews 2010-15

by John Kenrick

Copyright 2010-2015

This section provides revues for books written since this website was created. For brief discussions of the books referred to in the creation of Musicals101, see our annotated bibliography.

Broadway Musicals: The Biggest Hit & The Biggest Flop, 1959 to 2009

by Peter Filichia (Applause Books)
This extremely enjoyable volume treats readers to detailed and often surprising accounts of the most and least successful Broadway musical of each year from 1959 to 2009. Filichia is one of the wittiest theatre critics of our time, and his passion, humor and eloquence shine through every page here.  No matter how much you think you already know about these musicals, you are guaranteed to find something new here, and to have a grand time too.

The Godspell Experience

by Carol de Giere (Scene 1 Publishing)
After her wonderful biography of songwriter Stephen Schwartz (Defying Gravity), it is no surprise that Carol De Giere has written such a wonderful history of Schwartz's beloved hit Godspell. With her refreshingly readable prose and loving attention to detail, she brings readers along as the show grows from a college workshop, to an Off-Broadway success -- and finally a worldwide phenomenon. Fans of this show will be delighted, and anyone who loves musicals will enjoy seeing how Godspell came to be. There is also fascinating coverage of how the film version and 2011 Broadway revival evolved. Highly recommended!

The Hammersteins: A Musical Theatre Family

by Oscar Andrew Hammerstein (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers)
Richly illustrated, thoroughly researched and beautifully written this long overdue and utterly delightful history of the Hammerstein theatrical dynasty comes from a grandson of beloved lyricist Oscar II. The text is packed with fascinating details, all related with a refreshing balance of affection and honesty. This handsome volume is a must-have for any serious theatre lover.

Kaufman & Co. - Broadway Comedies

George S. Kaufman (Library of America)
There is a sensual pleasure in encountering such a shamelessly well-published volume. The real bonus is that there's even deeper pleasure within, with nine of George S. Kaufman's finest scripts -- including the long out of print librettos for Animal Crackers and Of Thee I Sing. After seven decades, they are still a delight to read. If for any unthinkable reason you are not already familiar with The Royal Family, Dinner At Eight or that peerless laughfest The Man Who Came to Dinner, they are handsomely presented here in an edition designed to outlast a lifetime. At $35, you're only paying less than four bucks per play -- less than the cost of paperback acting editions that won't last half as long. Well worth the investment!

One More Kiss

The Broadway Musicals of the 1970s
by Ethan Mordden (Palgrave MacMillan)

The latest addition to Mordden's series covering the musical decades of the 20th Century is a theatre lovers delight. Even when you find yourself disagreeing violently with the author's opinions (and, doubt it not -- you will), it is a pleasure to see anyone discuss musicals with such eloquent enthusiasm. The detailed discussions of Follies, Annie and A Chorus Line are fascinating, and Morrden's assessment of more obscure works is even more valuable.

The Rise and Fall of the Broadway Musical

by Mark N. Grant
And lo, an honest voice was heard! Composer-author Mark N. Grant examines the artistic aspects of stage musicals past and present with passionate insight, making this the most important and provocative book on musical theatre in more than a decade. What an eye opener! The effect of sound systems, rock grooves, multiple producers -- so many hot button issues no one else has been willing to tackle in print get detailed, thoroughly researched coverage here. Be forewarned, Grant may tick you off -- and if so, it is high time someone did! Even the sections that get into musicology (a subject that often flies way over my head) held my attention. This is a must-read for anyone who cares about Broadway musicals, a book that will be discussed for years to come.

Screened Out: Playing Gay in Hollywood From Edison to Stonewall

by Richard Barrios (Routledge)
The author of the landmark musical film study A Song in the Dark offers an equally delightful treat in this detailed examination of gay images seen in Hollywood films up to the early 1970s. Film lovers will find fascinating tidbits, illuminating insights, and dozens of rare stills. The author's passion for vintage film fills every page, and his gift for creating clear, enjoyable prose is all too rare today. If you love movies, Screened Out is one pleasure you can't afford to pass on.

We'll Have Manhattan: The Early Work of Rodgers & Hart

Dominic Symonds (Oxford University Press)
There are fine biographies of both Rodgers and Hart, so Symonds offers a new approach by examining the musical comedies this team wrote before the Great Depression sent many songwriters off to Hollywood in 1931. He examines the scores, but also gives detailed assessments of their most important musicals as dramatic works. Along with such celebrated titles as Dearest Enemy, we also get the first-ever serious serious discussion of the bizarre but innovative flop Chee-Chee. A valuable contribution to musical theater scholarship, this book is a godsend to anyone studying the Rodgers and Hart canon.

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