It Happened on Broadway: An Oral History of the Great White Way

Overview

In this deliciously revealing oral history of Broadway from World War II through the early 1980s, more than one hundred theater veterans—including Carol Channing, Hal Prince, Donna McKechnie, Hal Holbrook, Andrea McArdle, and Al Hirschfeld—deliver the behind-the-scenes story of the hits, the stars, the feuds, and the fiascoes. Along the way there are evocations of the great comedians and dramatic actors who had that indefinable magic that made them stand out above the rest. With verve, love, and passion, this ...
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Overview

In this deliciously revealing oral history of Broadway from World War II through the early 1980s, more than one hundred theater veterans—including Carol Channing, Hal Prince, Donna McKechnie, Hal Holbrook, Andrea McArdle, and Al Hirschfeld—deliver the behind-the-scenes story of the hits, the stars, the feuds, and the fiascoes. Along the way there are evocations of the great comedians and dramatic actors who had that indefinable magic that made them stand out above the rest. With verve, love, and passion, this book gives us the story of more than half a century of great theater—from the inside out.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In a book brimming with wonderful Broadway anecdotes and stories that have over time been transformed into legends, a host of Broadway insiders are allowed to tell their own stories in their own words. The authors, a husband-and-wife team specializing in oral history, have turned on their tape recorders and gotten out of the way; the result is a fascinating look at the action behind all the glitter.
Ingram
An oral history of Broadway by the people who lived it, this volume encompasses the triumphs and glorious failures, fights and betrayals, dedication, and drudgery.
The San Francisco Examiner
There’s no people like show people to take you behind the scenes [of Broadway theater]. The Frommers haven’t written a history of Broadway. They’ve woven one from the recollections of an all-star cast of more than one hundred actors, directors, producers, designers, choreographers, publicists, authors, composers, and even critics.
The Theater Mirror
For those of you who love talkin' Broadway ... you'll find out what everyone, from Billie Allen to Jerry Zaks, has to say about their experiences on Broadway. Actors, dancers, musicians, playwrights, columnists sit around, talking, and telling what "their" Broadway was and is like. From the pages of the New York Post to the little bar at Sardi's to the rehearsal stages and dressing rooms of your favorite theater, you'll get new insights on how it works and what makes Broadway what it is. Wonderfully informative and a truly great read.
Bloomsbury Review
More than one hundred actors, directors, choreographers, producers, composers, lyricists, and playwrights have contributed to this deliciously enjoyable compilation of material. They all bring us some of the most interesting experiences and insights about the Broadway theater of recent years. One wonders how the Frommers managed to persuade so many luminaries to share their tales.
The first chapter "Broadway Calling," should be required reading for every theater student and aspiring actor. To hear Carol Channing, Jerry Herman, Betty Buckley, Manny Azenberg, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Al Hirschfeld and many more tell how they got started in their careers makes for superbly entertaining reading as well. Much of the book is devoted to musicals, but there are also stories of the Theater Guild, from Eugene O'Neill and Bernard Shaw to William Inge and Sean O'Casey and the last week of Clifford Odets, and about the extraordinary talents of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams and Marlon Brando and Tallulah Bankhead. Celeste Holm tells how her Broadway career began in The Time of Your Life.
Gwen Verdon, Marge Champion, Donna McKechnie and others share stories about Agnes DeMille, Jerome Robbins, Gower Champion, Bob Fosse, and the creation of Chorus Line and Chicago.
The Frommers have combined these interviews into a rich, seamless, history that masterfully captures the essence of Broadway's last five decades in a most enjoyable fashion.
New York Magazine
"Though husband and wife team Myrna Katz and Harvey Frommer are professors at Dartmouth, this oral history would be better off passed around backstage than in the classroom. Includes interviews with Kitty Carlisle Hart, Linda Lavin, George C. Wolfe, everyone else you'd expect, and a few you wouldn't."
Playbill Online
It Happened On Broadway is nothing short of living, breathing theatre history. Carol Channing's first appearance on stage at a grammar school in San Francisco; Patricia Neal's subsistence jobs cutting pies and scooping ice cream while waiting for her career to bloom (which really didn't take all that long by today's standards); the advent of the Theatre Guild; Celeste Holm and John Raitt on creating the grand-daddy of musical theatre, Oklahoma; Kim Hunter on Marlon Brando; Donna McKechnie on Michael Bennett;Linda Lavin on Neil Simon and Len Cariou on Stephen Sondheim, it's all in there.

It Happened On Broadway is told by those who have spent the past 50 years in the trenches, the actors, designers, press agents, choreographers, directors, and even their offspring. With vintage photos, drawings, posters and Playbills the Frommer's provide us with a look at theatre history from a time when $1.50 would buy you a movie and six or eight vaudeville acts to the impact of the AIDS crisis on the theatre community to the vast corporate culture now responsible for many of today's Broadway shows. An invaluable and engrossing book for anyone interested in an insiders perspective on the business of the Great White Way.

Peter Lathan
It Happened on Broadway is a collection of interviews with 107 Broadway luminaries, including Carol Channing, Betty Buckley, Joel Grey, John Kander, Fred Ebbs, James Hammerstein (son of Oscar), Mary Rodgers (daughter of Richard) and Kitty Carlisle Hart (widow of Moss). It tells the story of Broadway from the point of view of those who were deeply involved in its development as the centre of American theatre. It takes us behind the public faces and into the private thoughts and feelings of the stars, writers, composers, directors, producers, designers, press agents, playwrights, and even the restauranteurs (Vincent Sardi Jr. is there, too). It tells about the great successes (and some of the spectacular flops). It reveals much about the great writers - Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Moss Hart, Irving Berlin, Cy Coleman - and the performers - the portrait of Carol Channing in her own words is stunning. And we see the great directors and choreographers - my own favourite, Bob Fosse, is talked about at length - through the eyes of those who worked with them.
I thoroughly enjoyed it. It taught me an awful lot - and not just about Broadway, for that wouldn't be difficult: with typical Brit insularity, I've never really had that much of an interest in American theatre. No, what this book shows very clearly is the deep love of theatre, of live performance, which these Broadway luminaries share with the rest of us. In their words I could hear echoes of myself and all of my theatre friends.--britishtheatre.guide/Peter Lathan
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A chorus of more than 100 voices--including stars, celebrities, producers, costume designers, critics, sons and daughters of Broadway greats--lend this oral history of Broadway theater over the past 60 years the heady excitement of a blockbuster show. The editors, whose previous titles include It Happened in Brooklyn and It Happened in the Catskills, understand that what readers want are tales of magic and legend, but here they devote more attention to the drudgery and brute perseverance that go into every Broadway success. Following the lead of Jeff Kisseloff's oral history of television, The Box, the Frommers tell the history of the medium, rather than of individual shows and performances--though there are plenty of those represented here, too. "The first time I ever set foot on-stage was in grammar school," begins Carol Channing, the book's first speaker. The remembrances that follow--of Broadway debuts, of its richest era following WW II, of famous musicals and comedies, stars, hits and unexpected flops and a string of laments over what "Broadway no longer" is today--move so seamlessly you often have to check back to see who's speaking. Charles Durning remembers the first laugh he got on stage. John Raitt describes almost not getting to replace the lead in Oklahoma! because he couldn't fit into Alfred Drake's costume. John Lahr says his comedian father "could get a laugh on a conjunction." Interspersed with stage and backstage photos, caricatures, playbills and posters, the hundreds of magical, informative, sometimes fallacious, never boring stories the Frommers have gathered demonstrate what it took to fill those seats. Nov.
Library Journal
The Frommers, both professors at Dartmouth, specialize in oral histories; their other titles include It Happened in Brooklyn (LJ 11/1/93) and It Happened in the Catskills (Harcourt, 1991). Here they provide a fascinating look at Broadway from different perspectives, including interviews with actors, directors, producers, composers, lyricists, playwrights, stage managers, set designers, and critics. The authors have cast a wide net and drawn in voices from past and present. While some interviewees are noticeably missing (Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber, to name two), this book will be enjoyed by anyone who has ever been captivated by live theater, though the price may keep it off the shelves of smaller libraries.--J. Sara Paulk, Coastal Plain Regional Lib., Tifton, GA
San Francisco Examiner
"There's no people like show people to take you behind the scenes. The Frommers (husband and wife) haven't written a history of Broadway. They've woven one from the recollections of an all-star cast of more than 100 actors (Gwen Verdon, Joel Grey, Carol Channing, Maureen Stapleton), directors (George C. Wolfe, Jerry Zaks), producers, designers, choreographers, publicists, authors, composers and even critics....The Frommers weave a wondrous narrative from an incredibly varied chorus, all handsomely illustrated with sepia-toned photographs." -- The San Francisco Examiner, December 17, 1998
San Jose Mercury News
"It Happened On Broadway is a fine compendium of chat from theater greats who love talking about their careers, their shows, their lives. Written by Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer, Dartmouth University professors who specialize in oral history, the book is one that - placed on a coffee table - can be opened at any page for a bit of nostalgic pleasure. "Anyone with Broadway stars in his or her eyes will love such anecdotal material. Read it at you leisure, and enjoy your coffee." -- San Jose Mercury News, December 6, 1998
Kirkus Reviews
The Frommers (Growing up Jewish in America) have gathered together the recollections (of widely varying frankness and detail) of actors, playwrights, directors, producers, designers, composers, and critics active in the evolution of theater in New York over the past seven decades.

Those who find backstage details about the theater (and more particularly about the musical theater) absorbing will very likely enjoy the often witty chat recorded here, including the widely varying, but generally warm recollections of the producers and actors who worked on many of Rodgers and Hammerstein's landmark musicals, and the musings of a number of figures, from Patricia Neal to Richard Kiley to Louise Lasser, about the manner in which they launched their careers. There are also loving but unsparing portraits of the lives and careers of such major innovators as Bob Fosse and Michael Bennett.

From the Publisher
"An oral history of Broadway by the people who lived it, this volume encompasses the triumphs and glorious failures, fights and betrayals, dedication and drudgery."—Ingram
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781589799165
  • Publisher: Taylor Trade Publishing
  • Publication date: 12/2/2014
  • Edition description: Reprint Edition of the Classic
  • Pages: 290

Meet the Author

Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer met as undergraduates at New York University. The coauthors of five critically acclaimed oral histories, they are cultural historians with a focus on New York City. They are also professors in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program at Dartmouth College. They live in Lyme, New Hampshire.
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Table of Contents

1 Broadway calling 1
2 The waterfall and the camel were still there 33
3 It was an exciting time to be in the theater 49
4 That sense of truth 65
5 Something wonderful 91
6 We were the essence of New York 119
7 Look, look, look who's dancin' now 139
8 You never can tell 173
9 The X factor 211
10 That's the craft 239
11 Epilogue : the perpetual invalid 273
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