Review by Bob Gutowski
Review by Bob Gutowski
I know it's huge, but I can't put it downoh, ha, ha, yourself! It's so big because it's full of lists of theatre composers' shows and songs, organized in sections. It begins with "Composers of the Early Years"that includes Kern, Berlin, Gershwin, Porter, and Rodgers, of course. Then there's "New Composers of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s"Bernstein, Loewe, Styne, Loesser, and Sondheim, and Herman, and Strouse, and Coleman, among others. Then comes "New Composers of the 1970s and Beyond." That takes us from Steven Schwartz to Stephen Flaherty, and, um, beyond.
Did you just ask me "Isn't that boring?" Steven Suskin, boring? This is the man who writes those terrific theatre books I'm always reading to you from! No, he's not the angry onethat's Ethan Mordden. All right, true, there's nothing very entertaining about lists of songs, but Suskin starts off each composer's entry with a short but punchy work-bio. And he knows what he's talking aboutthis is the fourth edition of the book. Think of that. The first edition was published in 1985, before there was even an Internet. You know, we should be grateful for people who take the time to do research and put the results in something that's convenient, and easy to lay your hands on, something you don't have to plug in or boot up. I am not crying; a sand fly just went up my nose.
Anyway, in these bios, Suskin lays out the composers' careers, but he's never dry or dull. He manages to slip in a comment or observation from time to time, and he's a minimalist when it comes to humor. If you spray sun block on my back I'll find you an example. Here, this is from the section on Richard Rodgers, about Babes in Arms:
"A barn." Don't you love how that just sums up the whole genre? This is what he says about Jerry Herman and Mack and Mabel:
Notice how he uses one of the show's song titles itself towhat's that look on your face? No, he's not particularly down on Jerry Herman at allhere's the end of the bio, after Suskin notes that Herman's had three monster hits:
Finally, we get to "Notable Scores by Other Composers." Suskin tells us:
In this short section, Suskin really lets loose with some of his opinions, both witty and pointed, and doesn't stint on the word-play. This is some of what he has to say about Victor/Victoria:
Now you're interested? Okayyou can certainly read it when I'm finished, but you can't look at it now. Why not? Because you have Coppertone and potato chip crumbs all over your hands, that's why not, and I want to keep this book in good shape, at least until Suskin puts out the fifth edition of Show Tunes.
[Home | All That Chat |On the Rialto |The Two of Clubs |Broadway Reviews ]
[Broadway Bound |Sound Advice |Restaurant Revue |Off Broadway |Broadway 101 ]
[Spotlight On | Talkin' Broadway |The Boards | The Siegel Column |Regional |Talk to Us! ]