Broadway’s Most Wanted
by Tom Shea
Broadway’s Most Wanted is part of a series from Brassey’s collecting “top 10” lists on various subjects: Hollywood, TV, etc. This one features Broadway — loosely defined to include all musical theater and some film and television.
Author Tom Shea’s writing style veers from that of the critic who wants to be quoted (worst kind) —
“The Producers is a laff-a-minute, anything-goes, old-fashioned musical comedy the likes of which hadn’t been seen on Broadway in years.”
— to the hugely enthusiastic prat:
“John Kander and Fred Ebb wrote their next score, Cabaret, with Minnelli in mind. She didn’t do it on stage but had some mild success with the film version (you know, co-starring with a guy named Oscar!).”
Fortunately, no one other than a theater geek is likely to pick up this book, and neither of those qualities is likely to put them out.
What they’ll find is a book that makes, in a few words, fine bathroom reading for any gay couples or “metrosexuals” you know. A consistently engaging showcase of trivia and information, it’s unabashedly light reading that aims to go in one ear and out the other, and succeeds with ease.
Only a thoroughly bitchy theater-geek would find fault.
So, let’s get started with those faults.
Most magnificent missed opportunity for an even greater anecdote: “Abominable Showman” David Merrick pulled a famous publicity prank for his show Subways Are For Sleeping in 1961. He found people whose names matched those of drama critics of the day, took them to see the show, and quoted them in advertisements. The book reports this. But it doesn’t know that afterward, performer/writer Peter Cook decided to go Merrick one better, finding another man named David Merrick, taking him to see hisshow, and…
The greatest rhyme since “Josie & the Pussycats, long tails, and ears for hats.” How do you do a list of musical theater “spoofs” that includes “Oh! Streetcar!” From The Simpsons, without quoting:
“Long before the Superdome/ Where the Saints of football play/ There’s a city where the damned call home/ Hear their hellish rondelet?”
At least this gives me a chance to plug the autobiography of a hero: There’s more to why Milton Berle didn’t do A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum than just him thinking it was “old shtick,” and you can read all about it in Larry Gelbart’s Laughing Matters.
Most Glaring Omission: How do you write about Bob Fosse and not mention that he is, unless I’m very much mistaken, the first and only man to win a Tony, an Oscar and an Emmy for directing all in the same year?
God, I Hate You, Kenny: How do you include Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s musical episode, but not the South Park movie — the best musical of the past five years, according to some bitter old queen named Stephen Sondheim.
Am I being trite, or: Is it okay to wonder how you make a list of “Depictions of Faith in Broadway Musicals” without Jesus Christ Superstar or Godspell?
Statement that most made me want to challenge the writer to a Zell Miller-style duel: What do you mean synthpop is outdated?
Runner-up: What do you mean Tim Rice writes “uninspired” lyrics?
Really snotty nitpicking: The name of the film-within-the-film in Fosse’s All That Jazz is The Stand-Up, not The Comedian.
Most stretched point: Including a musical called Tenderloin in a list of musicals with numbers in their names.
Most Curious Individual Statement: Angela Lansbury was Gwen Verdon’s stage alter ego?