A couple of books about the entertainment industry promise to warm the hearts and minds of both gay and straight readers during the Winter doldrums.
by Loren King
Anything Goes: A History of the American Musical Theater
[Illustrated. 346 pages. Oxford University Press]
By Ethan Mordden
I’ve long been a fan of Ethan Mordden’s entertaining and insightful books on Hollywood and Broadway. His latest, Anything Goes: A History of the American Musical Theater traces the American musical rom the 1920s to the ‘70s.
There are terrific passages about the giants of the 1920s and 30s —Gilbert and Sullivan, Victor Herbert — followed by the decades that have come to be known as the Golden Era, with insights into the now-legendary musicals by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, and Comden and Green.
With a readable scholarship, Morden explains why shows like Oklahoma! and South Pacific are timeless. He’s just as fascinating, like the teacher you wish you’d had, when he’s writing about the modern “pop operas” and shows he doesn’t particularly like, such as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera (though he has such respect for what works in theater that his critiques are never dishy or dismissive.)
Sondheim, not surprisingly, gets a lot of ink, as do Broadway stars and the changing role of the star. The author devotes (deservedly so) a chapter to Ethel Merman who singlehandedly turned stardom inside out with her tour-de-force in Gypsy.
There is a lot of ground to cover in this book, but Mordden’s survey is both comprehensive and celebratory. An exhaustive discography closes the book, offering invaluable and listening and viewing opportunities to younger audiences who missed the era when the Great White Way was the epicenter of art and culture.
This is a must for devotees of musical theater.
Jack Be Nimble: The Accidental Education of an Unintentional Director
[Illustrated. 352 pages. Farrar, Straus and Giroux]
By Jack O’Brien
Jack O’Brien may best be known for his Tony-winning direction of the musical Hairspray and Tom Stoppard’s Russian-set Coast of Utopia trilogy.
This memoir serves as a glorious window into a long and distinguished theater career, which began unassumingly in the late 1950s when O’Brien was a lyricist and actor studying at the University of Michigan.
It was there that a young touring company, called APA (Association of Producing Artists), took up residence. APA’s founder, artistic director and leading actor Ellis Raab, with his then-wife, Rosemary Harris, took the regional theater scene by storm and Raab became mentor and father figure to O’Brien and others, while shaking up Broadway with Ibsen and Ionesco; building the careers of actors such as Donald Moffat and Frances Sternhagen; reviving the career of Helen Hayes; and hiring Eva Le Gallienne to direct Uta Hagen in The Cherry Orchard.
O’Brien’s easy to digest memoir is open about his homosexuality but doesn’t deliver much dirt (for that, go back to the great Arthur Laurents’ memoir Original Story By).
Still, O’Brien’s lively work and conversational style captures the excitement of the theater scene at a specific place and time.
His respect for Rabb, with whom he had an eventual and unfortunate falling out, is clear throughout; in many ways, this book is a testament to him. [x]
For all of today's top stories from the LGBT world CLICK HERE check out the Boston Spirit's Fab 5.
The Gateway Men's Chorus of St. Louis has 'paid up' on their World Series bet.
The chorus made a friendly wager with the Boston Gay Men's Chorus prior to the start of the 2013 World Series. If they lost the bet (which, of course, they did!) they would need to produce a video of the group singing Sweet Caroline, in honor of the Red Sox.
From their YouTube Page;
So, the Gateway Men's Chorus of St. Louis had a little wager with the Boston Gay Men's Chorus regarding the outcome of the 2013 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox. Needless to say, we're now fulfilling our obligation with this video. Congratulations, Boston! And much love to our brothers in BGMC!
For today's 5 biggest stories in the LGBT world, check out Boston Spirit magazine's Fab 5
Acrobat, Author ... Addict
Joe Putignano kicked heroin, launched a career as a Cirque du Soleil star and wrote about it all in a new memoir, Acrobaddict, released this week. He will have a book signing on October 16 at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Note: This story originally ran in the May/June 2013 issue of Boston Spirit magazine.
By Tony Giampetruzzi
“I was training to become a contortionist and detoxing from heroin at the same time — I don’t recommend that to anyone. Ever. At all.”
That pretty much sums the dogged, no-nonsense and humorous spirit of 36-year old gymnast/performer/model and now author, Joe Putignano.
Heroin? Contortionist? Model? It’s a dichotomy that’s only likely to play itself out in the most outrageous Lifetime movie specials. So, to hear Putignano’s story — a promising pre-teen gymnast from Raynham, Massachusetts, who went on to endure nearly 15 years of extreme drug use and endless bouts of rehab, only to finally take the stage for a late-career comeback in his 30s as a Cirque du Soleil performer — is quite inspiring if not fantastical.
Putignano recently took a hiatus from the stage and, although six years clean, was forced to face his demons again: in March, he was in Atlanta recuperating from surgery to correct a superior labral tear in his shoulder which, among various other localized injuries, was caused by more than five years and nearly 1,000 performances in Cirque’s Totem. The surgery was successful, but, for someone with Putignano’s relapse rap sheet, rehab would need to be narc-free, a must for someone who has used as much as him.FULL ENTRY
Larry Sousa (photo: courtesy SpeakEasy Stage)
SpeakEasy Stage’s In The Heights features the work of a local choreographer gone big time. New production runs May 10 to June 8
By Loren King
Director/choreographer Larry Sousa remembers the first day of his first Broadway show, My Favorite Year. Sousa, who was part of the chorus, visited the craft services table. Dozens of coffee mugs were set out, each one emblazoned with the show’s logo and the cast member’s name. “I was shocked. I had my own mug!” recalls Sousa. As he stood there in awe of the validating welcome, a voice behind him said, “I know. It’s my first Broadway show, too.” Sousa turned and came face to face with Andrea Martin, one of the stars of the musical.
Now an in-demand choreographer/director on the Boston theater scene, Sousa has had other pinch-me moments over the course of 12 years working in television and theater in Los Angeles and New York. While appearing in the 2009 Broadway musical Busker Alley, composed by the Richard and Robert Sherman of Mary Poppins fame, Sousa recalls a rehearsal when the cast members broke into one of the composers’ signature songs. “We were sitting around a table singing ‘Feed the Birds’ to the guy who wrote it,” he says.