A consistently intriguing backstage glimpse of Broadway’s brighter past and a must for theater buffs.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2013

Sets, Lights, & Lunacy


Former stage designer Burlingame (Two Seeing Eye Dogs Take Manhattan, 2012) recalls the highs and lows of his time on Broadway.

“Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly and I had to design,” the author confides in the opening chapter of this elegant, amusing memoir. In 1940, when he was 5 years old, his father took him to see a performance of the Gilbert and Sullivan opera The Mikado, after which the author returned home to build his own version of a Japanese garden in a shoe box. His destiny was set, and in his teens, he studied at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now part of Carnegie Mellon University), drawn there by its prestigious drama department. By 19, he’d taken over set design at the acclaimed Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. The author recounts many humorous calamities during this period of developing his skills; for example, during a production of W. Somerset Maugham’s Rain, a beaded curtain made of macaroni fell gradually in pieces to the floor, leaving the actors crunching hard pasta underfoot. In 1956, Burlingame was drafted into the U.S. Army and assigned to the Signal Corps’ Army Pictorial Center in Queens, N.Y., but he received a reprieve from duty in Korea, which allowed him to begin a dazzling career on Broadway. He details his Manhattan beginnings, during which he set up a makeshift scene shop in a Greenwich Village warehouse using tools from the Army. Much of the book reads like a Who’s Who of 1960s and ’70s theater, with appearances by such luminaries as Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli and English theater director Peter Brook. One pull-no-punches chapter is devoted to the author’s work with the “devil of Broadway,” producer David Merrick. These accounts of grand collaborations are skillfully nuanced with moments of devotion and humility; at one point, for example, the author was forced to search the Bowery at night for plans he had lost, and when he kneeled in a snow-filled gutter, he was hit by a car. Overall, Burlingame is a skillful raconteur who transposes his experiences to the page with an understated wit, poise and grace.

A consistently intriguing backstage glimpse of Broadway’s brighter past and a must for theater buffs.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-1489587527

Page Count: 210

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



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

Did you like this book?

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



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

Did you like this book?