Talkin’ Broadway: Book Reviews – Nothing Like a Dame

Originally published on TalkinBroadway.com

Nothing Like A DameEddie Shapiro is best known for bringing out the gaiety at the Happiest Place on Earth as the co-author of Queens in the Kingdom: The Ultimate Gay and Lesbian Guide to the Disney Theme Parks and the producer of Gay Days at Disneyland. His latest book, Nothing Like A Dame, focuses on a different kind of royalty: twenty-one of Broadway’s leading ladies, every one of them a Tony Award winner, encompassing over sixty years of Broadway history, from Carol Channing, whose debut was in Let’s Face It in 1941, to those opening in shows this season like Idina Menzel and Sutton Foster. (Twenty interviews appear in the book proper. A bonus chapter about Tonya Pinkins is available as a download from the book’s website.)

Subtitled “Conversations with the Great Women of Musical Theater,” Shapiro’s book delivers exactly what the title promises: interviews with (mostly) above-the-title stars, presented as straightforward Q&As. While there are only a couple of notable omissions (Bernadette Peters being the most obvious), the book makes no attempt to be encyclopedic. In fact, in his introduction, Shapiro acknowledges that many of these women have written their own memoirs (or, in the case of Elaine Stritch and Chita Rivera, performed in autobiographical Broadway shows) and, rather than attempt to retell the same stories, he hoped to complement and expand upon what they’ve already offered about themselves. Given that approach, this book might not be the most accessible to casual theatergoers. If shows like Call Me Madam and Kiss of the Spider Woman or names like Graciela Daniele and Gwen Verdon send you running to Google, you may find the reading experience challenging. Continue reading