I love musicals. In fact, for many years, I held season tickets to the Dallas Summer Musicals, as well as plays at the Dallas Majestic Theatre. After the children were born, I simply could not go with that kind of regularity.
But, I go because they make me happy. As with many things, you never quite understand what goes on behind the scenes and how the production you watch actually developed.
That is why the new book by Jack Viertel, The Secret Life of the American Musical (Sarah Crichton Press, 2016) is so fascinating. The book explains how the music complements the theme and story, and likewise, how the theme and story complements the music. And, what is more important? Why do you go? Do you judge a musical by its plot, or its tunes?
Remember while every musical has a story, you go because you want to hear singing and see choreography. Recently, I saw “The Bridges of Madison County,” which was never a musical, yet was adapted into one in 2014, and won several Tony awards.
This book examines many musical genres from quite a number of productions, including “Camelot,” “Music Man,” “My Fair Lady,” and “West Side Story.”
Who is Jack Viertel? He was born in Connecticut in 1949. He has been a prolific writer about the stage. He has three previous books: Working in the Theatre (1976), Delusion (1981), and Spotlight on Broadway (2013).
This is not a business book, so you won’t hear it at our First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas. However, if you enjoy musicals, but are not quite sure why, this book will help you understand.