Mordden rambles some, as is his habit, but he’s a formidably well-informed and bracingly opinionated guide to a...

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ANYTHING GOES

A HISTORY OF AMERICAN MUSICAL THEATRE

Prolific entertainment historian Mordden (Love Song: The Lives of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya, 2012, etc.) tracks the musical from its European origins to its current offerings on and off Broadway.

The author has written a previous survey of the history of musical theater, but there have been a lot of developments since Better Foot Forward was published in 1976. Here, the author assesses the changes in the final three chapters. “The Sondheim Handbook” covers not just the late-20th-century musical theater’s most influential artist, but also such fellow innovators as Bob Fosse, Michael Bennett and Tommy Tune. “Devolution” critically chronicles Broadway’s increasing reliance on revivals (which “in effect admit that worthy new work has become…hard to find”) and on jukebox musicals that use pre-existing songs. Yet “That Is the State of the Art” is a generally positive wrap-up, with enthusiastic comments on recent shows ranging from commercial hits (Wicked, The Book of Mormon) to more austere works staged in the noncommercial theater (Marie Christine, Parade). All but the most serious students of musical theater will likely be daunted by the book’s opening 100 pages, devoted to the formative history that runs from John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera in 1728 through Victor Herbert and the Ziegfeld Follies of the 1910s. Yet Mordden makes a strong case for the crucial roles these relatively obscure works played in shaping the genre that came to full maturity in the art’s golden age (1920–1980). Chapters covering that period will sound a tad familiar at times to those who have read Mordden’s multivolume, decade-by-decade history, but they are nonetheless informative and enjoyable. An excellent discography and suggestions for further reading complete this stimulating survey.

Mordden rambles some, as is his habit, but he’s a formidably well-informed and bracingly opinionated guide to a quintessentially American art form.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-19-989283-9

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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