THE MUSICAL THEATRE: A Celebration by Alan Jay Lerner
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THE MUSICAL THEATRE: A Celebration

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KIRKUS REVIEW

As a work of human genius, a really great musical need not have a single idea in its head and yet the great gushing uplift that fills one's spirit needs no apologies. The late Lerner's celebration of the musical theatre herein is itself carried along on his still richly alive breath but with an added measure of genius. This is the word from within. Few lyricists of this century command the intellectual brilliance, aside from the simple verbal brilliance, that the author of My Fair Lady, Camelot, Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever commands. Lerner was a Harvard graduate bent on the law when he decided to give himself up to the musical theatre. The present study shows full evidence of a scholarly mind tempered with wit and modesty. We are all in his debt not only for this superb survey of the musical theatre from its European beginnings to the present but also for his decision to lay open the riches of his experience. He not only knew many of the most inspired composers and lyricists of our lifetimes, he also knew and worked intimately with the sons and daughters of earlier giants in the tradition from the 19th century onward. He is soaked in his subject. His discussion of his contemporaries is generous and just. Much of his greatest praise is for Irving Berlin (""America's Franz Schubert,"" whose ""Alexander's Ragtime Band"" profoundly influenced popular musical theatre), Jerome Kern (The Master who in Showboat invented the sturdy, emotionally true book that is not simply a series of turns), George Gershwin (""the greatest musical genius America has produced"") and Cole Porter, Oscar Hammerstein, Rodgers and Hart, Vincent Youmans, Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz, Noel Coward, and Frank Loesser, as well for later masters. Earlier chapters cover Offenbach, Johann Strauss, Franz Lehar, Emmerich Kalman and other kings of operetta, as well as Gilbert and Sullivan. ""Ask every person if he's heard the story,/And tell it strong and clear if he has not;/That once there was a fleeting wisp of glory/Called Camelot. . ./Don't let it be forgot/That once there was a spot/For one brief shining moment that was known/As Camelot."" A very moving book.

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1986
Publisher: McGraw-Hill