COMING UP ROSES

THE BROADWAY MUSICAL IN THE 1950S

The story of a pivotal 10 years in American musical theater, limned by one of its most skillful historians. The second volume in a decade-by-decade history of the Broadway musical by the prolific film historian and novelist Mordden (The Venice Adriana, 1998, etc.), this account makes an excellent companion to its immediate predecessor, Make Believe: The Broadway Musical in the 1920s (not reviewed). Given the general silliness of the ’20s musical, especially when placed alongside the works of a decade dominated by Rodgers and Hammerstein and such other major voices as Bernstein, Loesser, and Sondheim, the juxtaposition may seem odd. Yet it’s precisely because the music has traveled so far in so little time that Mordden’s analysis in the new book compels and satisfies our craving. The 1950s represents “the fourth decade of [the genre’s] golden age,” and also the last. As Mordden ruefully notes in his concluding chapter, rock music would arrive shortly to displace Broadway as the primary source of the common coin of American popular music. But until then, the Broadway musical enjoyed a glorious ascendancy, buoyed by the freedom hurled into the form by Rodgers and Hammerstein, whose pervasive influence runs through both the book and the decade. As a result, the ’50s was a period when “no one knew what the rules were any more” and theatrical creators were able to experiment with darker materials, adapting such unlikely sources as Sean O’Casey (Juno) and Homer (The Golden Apple). The results weren—t always sparkling, but Mordden grasps why the great ones worked and the lesser ones didn—t. His analysis is always intelligent and well put, although the tone of Roses is a bit less flashy than his very best writing. A must for any fan or student of musical theater.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-19-511710-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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