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It Happened On Broadway

Harcourt Brace & Company hit the bookstores this week with a new theater book by Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer. A collection of more than 100 luminaries - including stars, celebrities, producers, costume designers, and even critics make It Happened on Broadway: An Oral History of the Great White Way the best theater read of the year.

What you will find in this wonderful read is the only history of Broadway told by those who lived it and made it happen. The trials and triumphs, the battles and betrayals, the dedication and drudgery are all here in a collective memoir that is filled with the light, the magic, and the stardust of Broadway. There are accounts of the towering dramatic successes of the post-war years, the great mid-century book musicals, and the spectacular megahits of today.

Carol Channing begins the book with her remembrances of being on stage in grade school. Lee Roy Reams remembers auditioning for The Phantom of the Opera with Harold Prince being surprised that he could sing. John Lahr says his comedian father "could get a laugh on a conjunction."

You'll find out what everyone from Azenberg to Zaks has to say about their experiences on Broadway. From the pages of the New York Post to the little bar at Sardi's, you'll get new insights on how this business we call "show" works. You'll also laugh your ass off!

Charles Durning: One day I was walking down the street when suddenly I was grabbed from behind. "I've seen what you've done to my wife," Zero Mostel shouted at the top of his lungs. "This is a citizen's arrest." He shoved me into a six-seater Checker cab. The driver didn't know what the hell was going on. "Where do you want to go?" he asked. "Drive us to a bigger cab," said Zero.

Howard Kissel: Gower Champion was apparently a control freak. Someone once called him a Presbyterian Hitler. Bob Fosse was also not a piece of cake. But they had this high degree of professionalism.

Philip Langner: Even after Rodgers and Hammerstein had gotten together and agreed to work on the project, it took two years to raise the money. The Theater Guild was a bit slow, and a lot of people they went to turned it down. It had no striptease, no suggestive jokes, none of what was in the successful musicals of the era. Philip Barry had a royalty account with the Guild for his plays, and when they suggested he take ten thousand dollars and put it in, he declined. Later on he pinned two telegrams up on his wall. One was to Barry from the Guild: "Would you like to invest in wonderful new play?" The other was to the Guild from Barry: "Forget it." Oklahoma! would have made him a good eight hundred thousand dollars.

Betty Buckley, Joel Grey, Jerry Herman, Donna McKechnie, Patricia Neal, Mary Rogers, Maureen Stapleton, Elaine Stritch, Leslie Uggams, Gwen Verdon, Robert Whitehead and many, many others tell of their experiences. When you are finished reading this highly entertaining book you'll have a sense of the history of the Great White Way. Interspersed throughout are rare backstage photos. I'll leave you with one of my favorite anecdotes.

John Kander: At that time, I had yet to have a hit show. But every so often, Zero would throw his great beefy arm around my shoulder and say, "Kander, I want you to do me a favor. When you get up in the morning, I want you to look at yourself in the mirror and say, 'My name is John Kander, and I'm a talented man, and fuck 'em all."

It Happened On Broadway: An Oral History of the Great White Way by Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer. Hardcover - 320 pages. List price $35.00. Currently discounted 30% at Amazon.com.

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