Sunday, February 15, 2009

Five best books about musical theater

Ethan Mordden, author of Ziegfeld: The Man Who Invented Show Business, named a five best list of books about musical theater for the Wall Street Journal.

Number One on his list:
Broadway Musicals
by Ken Bloom and Frank Vlastnik
Black Dog & Leventhal, 2004

This lavish coffee-table book can actually be used as a reference work. Its entries on each title provide a lengthy introductory essay, a concise synopsis and sidebars on everything from stars, writers and directors to backstage antics. "You don't give awards to the show," Zero Mostel cries when "Fiddler on the Roof" (1964) wins the Drama Critics Circle prize. "You give the awards to me!" The book's best element is its photographs, most of them never seen before. There is also an amazing amount of color, considering that the first show in the book, Victor Herbert's "Babes in Toyland," takes us back to 1903. The "Babes" entry includes the volume's only uncaptioned photo, presumably because it was mistakenly sitting in the "Babes" folder and the authors couldn't place it. It's from "The Wizard of Oz" (which also premiered in 1903), the first of several musicals based on the children's classic. The man in the 80-pound lion costume is Arthur Hill, beloved by a generation of kids whose first show this was.
Read about all five books on Mordden's list.

--Marshal Zeringue