Wednesday, July 25, 2018

It Happened on Broadway: An Oral History of the Great White Way by Myrna and Harvey Frommer

It Happened on Broadway: An Oral History of the Great White Way
by Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer [Music 782.14 Fro] 

For anyone who is a fan of classic Broadway history, this is an essential read. In the grand historical tradition of previous “oral histories”, the Frommers gathered the remembrances of dozens of Broadway luminaries — both on stage, and behind the scenes — and in this volume they let those memories flow. Sometimes the effect can be of letting Carol Channing go on a stream-of-consciousness ramble, or Celeste Holm recollect how she got her role in the original cast of Oklahoma, sometimes it’s the children of famous Broadway composers and lyricists, remembering what their noteworthy parents’ creative processes were like — growing up hearing Dad tinkle out future Broadway hit songs on the piano in his home office.

There’s a strong feeling of sitting around a cozy living room, listening to Broadway legends tell their personal little stories in this volume. Originally published in 1998, and re-printed in 2004, It Happened on Broadway captures the history of Broadway from the earliest days of vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley, up through the mid-1980s. This volume is definitely oriented towards readers who have at least a passing knowledge of Broadway’s movers and shakers in the mid-20th century. Fortunately, it also includes a Who’s Who index at the front of the book, giving nutshell biographies of all the folks who are quoted throughout the book. The oral history recollections are then broken into thematic sections, including: “Broadway Calling” (break-in stories), “Look, Look, Look Who’s Dancin’ Now”, “The X Factor” (what makes certain performers unique), “That’s the Craft” (behind-the-scenes lore from the folks whose hard work allows the actors to shine), and so much more.

This is a marvelous historical volume. My only complaint is that it ends with the 1980s — Broadway, in many ways, has re-created itself in the past 3 decades, and it would have been nice, especially in the 2004 reprint edition that I read, to share more recent stories. Otherwise, this is marvelous fun and I highly recommend it. Rather than a dry and studious volume on theatrical trends, this is a collection of memories from the folks who actually put on the shows…and the love they have for the business of the theatre shines through!

[ official It Happened on Broadway web site ] | [ page dedicated to The Frommers at Dartmouth ]
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Have you read this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewers recommendations!

No comments: