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After a biographical introduction to the composer/lyricist of Guys and Dolls, The Most Happy Fella, and How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Riis (Joseph Negler Professor of Music, Univ. of Colorado) examines Frank Loesser's music, devoting single chapters to the composer's great works and covering lesser-known musicals like Greenwillow, Pleasures and Palaces, and Senior Discretion Himself. For Guys and Dolls, Riis includes sections on Damon Runyon (whose stories inspired the musical), other precursors like George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara, the book, the songs, critical reaction, and revivals. The final chapter examines the legacy of Loesser and offers fertile comments on the sources of his aesthetic. With musical examples, excerpts from lyrics, and detailed examinations of individual songs, Riis's book is not primarily a biography, and it does not replace Susan Loesser's A Most Remarkable Fella: Frank Loesser and the Guys and Dolls in His Life; A Portrait by His Daughter. But this discerning and valuable study is recommended for all libraries, particularly in light of the dearth of published sources concerning Loesser.
—Bruce R. Schueneman