April 17, 2016

The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built

by Jack Viertel

A fascinating and anecdotal account of the structure shared by many successful American musicals. Viertel draws on a vast range of theater but returns, time and again, to an interesting set: Oklahoma!, Guys and Dolls, Gypsy, Carousel, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, The King and I, Fiddler on the Roof, and My Fair Lady. It’s fascinating to see how what seems to be a very rigid and specific form like the Bench Song -- the conditional love song that follows the rollicking number known as The Noise – shows up all over the place. Viertel believes that small changes in the placement or tempo of songs can make all the difference, and provides plenty of anecdotes about good shows and bad and how they came to be structured the way they are.