CASTALBUMS.ORG: REVIEW: …and then I wrote THE MUSIC MAN

Originally published on CastAlbums.org.

...and then I wrote THE MUSIC MANEngland’s Stage Door records continues its delightful Collector’s Series with the first CD release of “…and then I wrote THE MUSIC MAN,” the 1959 Capitol album featuring composer Meredith Willson and his wife Rini singing the hit score while Mr. Willson provides piano accompaniment and running narration. If you ever wanted to be a fly in the wall at a golden age backers’ audition, find yourself a small, crowded New York apartment and play this disc; you’ll find it’s a perfect simulation. Continue reading

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The Craptacular: Remedial Queens: The Making Of Chronicles

Originally published on The Craptacular.

The Making-Of Chronicles

I’m not sure when gift cards became a controversial gift (are they lazy? are they thoughtless?) because frankly, I think they’re the actual best. Seriously. The only thing better than money, is money that comes with the explicit designation that it can only be used for a particular kind of frivolity. When I was younger, gift cards meant one thing: cast album binge! But as I’ve matured (and acquired a Spotify Premium account), I find myself more and more drawn to filling my bookshelves (and my Kindle library) with books about our collective favorite obsession: Broadway musicals.

Actually, there is a particular sub-genre of books about Broadway that I love most, and that’s the Making-Of Chronicle. (This should come to no surprise, given that you are currently reading a column I write about the history of Broadway musicals.) Like a good Behind the Music episode, the best of these manage to break through the necessary conventions of the form to bring to life the dramas behind the drama and the personalities that gave birth to the shows we love – or occasionally, the shows we love to hate.

Right now, the Making-Of Chronicle spotted most frequently on the subway is Glen Berger’s Song of Spider-Man. Certainly, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark has all the elements of a great making-of story: huge personalities, high stakes, and a disastrous journey from idea to opening night. I haven’t seen any version of the Spider-Man musical, but I will admit that reading the book makes me want to try to catch it before it closes on January 4th. Berger, the show’s book writer, acknowledges from the start that he can’t really create any sort of distance from the events he documents, and you may find his editorializing and finger-pointing exciting or exasperating, depending on your tolerance for that sort of thing.

But if you’re like me (or aspire to be), you’re probably more interested in Chronicles of shows long gone than documents of disasters still running (however fleetingly) on Broadway. So here’s five suggestions to add to your Amazon Wish List today, so you can order them with your gift cards on Christmas morning. I can’t claim to have read every “Making-Of” book. Hell, I can’t even claim to have read every “Making-Of” book currently sitting on my bookshelves… or even on this list. But these are the five (plus one honorable mention) that spring to mind first when the subject comes up, and you won’t go wrong starting with any one of them. Continue reading