A brilliant guide to arranging and orchestrating music for the musical theater, written by the orchestrator of Show Boat, Oklahoma!, South Pacific, Th...moreA brilliant guide to arranging and orchestrating music for the musical theater, written by the orchestrator of Show Boat, Oklahoma!, South Pacific, The King and I, Kiss Me Kate, and many other Broadway musicals, as well as the arranger (co-composer, really) and conductor of the soundtrack to Victory at Sea. There are many orchestration and arranging textbooks available, but this is the only one I've found that discusses what it is like to arrange the music for a Broadway show.
The book is written in a chatty but literate style, including both technical information and short anecdotes drawn from the author's long and illustrious career. Sometimes the information seems a little random and miscellaneous, but it is all useful. It is like sitting in on a class taught by an experienced and engaging professor.(less)
The author writes gorgeous, elegant prose and knows how to keep the reader continuously interested. The title made m...moreIt’s Cry to Heaven meets Perfume.
The author writes gorgeous, elegant prose and knows how to keep the reader continuously interested. The title made me think at first of Edgar Allan Poe, and the story indeed includes several events as grotesque and horrifying as anything in Poe, although the style is more sedate and much less baroque, which I suppose is appropriate for a musical tale set during the neoclassical period.
The main character is prodigiously talented and suffers terribly throughout the book, but he does not have a particularly interesting personality and does not really instigate much of the action—most of the time things are done to him or for him by far more interesting characters. Telling the story in first person also makes this character come across as biased, egocentric, and ultimately unreliable, since he spends so much time emphasizing what a misunderstood, put-upon, suffering genius he is and assuring us that anyone who likes him is charming, perceptive, and compassionate, while anyone opposed to his interests is mediocre, uncomprehending, cruel, pompous, or just plain repulsive.
The plot is inspired by Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice, and is justifiably and entertainingly as far-fetched and melodramatic as any typical opera plot or Greek myth. The beginning and ending are particularly hard to swallow—would a child brought up in a church belfry by his deaf-mute, Quasimodo-like mother be more likely to become a musical prodigy or to end up, say, stone-deaf and mentally ill? By the end of the novel I couldn’t help wondering if the sometimes preposterous story is meant to be accepted at face value or whether it is also supposed to be open to interpretation as the fantasies of a self-deluded madman with a vivid imagination and a talent for writing rather than for singing.
This is a very impressive first novel, and I look forward to reading more by this author. (less)
The tone is considerably brighter and more colorful than O'Neill's play, as is appropriate for a musi...moreOkay musical that could be improved in a revival.
The tone is considerably brighter and more colorful than O'Neill's play, as is appropriate for a musical, and little of the original dialogue is retained, but the authors were fairly faithful to the original plot and were not squeamish about retaining such features as a reference to sexual abuse during the heroine's troubled youth. Much is reminiscent of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classics Oklahoma and Carousel, similar adaptations of serious plays. There is even a dream ballet similar to the one depicting Laurie's emotional crisis in Oklahoma.
The authors did a good job of opening up the action and more fully developing the character of Marthy, but there are still a couple of structural problems. I think it was a mistake to interrupt the ball scene with an intermission; putting Marthy's revelation in the second act makes for a much less effective first-act climax. I would also have switched the position of the numbers "If That was Love" and "Chess and Checkers" (with some shifting and rewriting of the dialogue), so that Anna's 11 o'clock number would occur much closer to the denouement and not be upstaged by the ballet dream sequence that immediately follows Anna's song.
Not great, but competent and enjoyable. I would like the opportunity to see it on stage sometime. (less)