Thursday, June 24, 2010
EVER AFTER:THE LAST YEARS OF MUSICAL THEATER AND BEYOND
EVER AFTER: THE LAST YEARS OF MUSICAL THEATER AND BEYOND. Barry Singer. Applause Books; 2004. NOTE: Among the subjects this book covers is the trend to take popular motion pictures and turn them into Broadway mega-shows.
This is a highly readable, entertaining, and informative look at Broadway and Off-Broadway musical works from approximately 1978 up until 2003. [Some sections of the book are expanded from pieces Singer originally did for the New York Times.] Singer expertly looks at all the changes in musical theater that have occurred in the 25 years before Ever After’s publication, from the invasion of the British mega-musical such as Phantom of the Opera and Les Miz, to the explosion of film-based musicals, generally from Walt Disney, such as Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and Aida. Singer also examines works by everyone from “old-timers” such as Stephen Sondheim to “young turks” such as the late Jonathan Larson [Rent], Michael John LaChiusa [Marie Christine], Jason Robert Brown [Parade] and Adam Guettel [Floyd Collins].Singer notes that theater fans always talk about and seem to demand new talent but often excoriate said talent when it arrives. People want something different but seem to go crazy for shows like The Producers with its standard, old-fashioned score.
Here’s Singer writing on the success of Weber’s Puccini-inspired and eternally over-rated Phantom of the Opera: “So why the fuss? That answer would seem to reside more within the diminished taste of Broadway audiences than with any intrinsic aesthetic criteria.” Singer notes that Broadway audiences have changed from “theater-going regulars” to tourists whose sensibilities were shaped by “mediocre mass-media entertainment” such as bad sitcoms.
You may not agree with all of Singer’s assessments, but Ever After is a smart, well-written book that examines all the changes, good and bad, to Broadway in the last quarter century or so, and does so in illuminating and page-turning fashion.
Verdict: Compulsive reading for theater and music fans. ***½.