An exuberant look at one year on Broadway.
In this chatty, gossipy history, former Newark Daily Ledger theater critic Filichia (Strippers, Showgirls, and Sharks: A Very Opinionated History of the Broadway Musicals that Did Not Win the Tony Award, 2013, etc.) looks back exactly 50 years and insists that the 1963-64 Broadway season—June 1, 1963, to May 31, 1964—was the greatest ever. That season, however, seems no greater than many others. In 1956, to take one example, there were many iconic Broadway openings, including Auntie Mame, starring Rosalind Russell; Bells Are Ringing, with Judy Holliday; Long Day’s Journey Into Night, featuring Fredric March; and My Fair Lady, with Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews. The season Filichia examines in overwhelming, sometimes-hyperbolic, detail had its hits, to be sure: Hello, Dolly!, Barefoot in the Park, 110 in the Shade and Funny Girl, starring one of the author’s favorites, Barbra Streisand. Filichia offers abundant evidence to support his view, summarizing plots, citing actors, directors, producers, playwrights, choreographers, composers and lyricists, critics, ticket sales and losses, and analyzing the contents and covers of every Playbill for, it seems, every show. He knows which directors turned down scripts and why and which actors didn’t get which parts and why. After Nanette Fabray stubbornly refused a chance to audition for the role of Dolly Levi, Carol Channing campaigned aggressively to get the part and made Hello, Dolly! a smash hit. Filichia is especially interested in the politics behind Tony nominations, winners and losers. He deems Carol Burnett’s failure to win a nomination as best actress in a musical for the now-forgotten Fade Out—Fade In “one of the greatest insults a Broadway musical has ever endured.”
To call Filichia a devotee of Broadway is an understatement; this book will interest only die-hard fans like himself.