The New York Times
What Would Barbra Do?: How Musicals Can Change Your Lifeby Emma Brockes
Emma Brockes didn't always love musicals. In fact, she hated them. One of her earliest (and most painful) memories is of her mother singing "The Hills Are Alive" while young Emma crossed the street to go to her babysitting gig. According to her mother, the music would keep muggers at bay. According to Emma, it warded off friends, a social life, and any chance of
Emma Brockes didn't always love musicals. In fact, she hated them. One of her earliest (and most painful) memories is of her mother singing "The Hills Are Alive" while young Emma crossed the street to go to her babysitting gig. According to her mother, the music would keep muggers at bay. According to Emma, it warded off friends, a social life, and any chance of being normal. As she grew older, however, these same songs continued to resonate in her head, first like a broken record and then as a fond reminder of her mother's love.
Some people would slice off their arm with a plastic knife before they'd sit through Fiddler on the Roof or The Sound of Music. But musicals are everywhere, and it's about time someone asked why. From An American in Paris to Oklahoma!, Brockes explores the history, art, and politics of musicals, and how they have become an indelible part of our popular culture. Smartly written and incredibly witty, this is a book for people who understand that there are few situations in which the question "What would Barbra do?" doesn't have relevance, in a world much better lived to a soundtrack of show tunes. At the heart of What Would Barbra Do? is a touching story about a daughter, a mother, and how musicals kept them together. Part memoir, part musical history tour, it will keep you laughing and singing all at once.
The New York Times
Londoner Brockes, a 29-year-old playwright who writes for the Guardian, expounds on her love of musicals. When she was younger, she pretended to like the music her friends listened to, but she had inherited a fascination for musicals, both stage and film, from her mother. Off to college in 1994, she and her friend Adi became a "movement of two," listening to such recordings as Hits from the Blitz: The Best of Vera Lynn, periodically holding "Yentl and Lentil" evenings and creating play lists in which "any musical made post-1971 was automatically thrown out as unworthy." Analyzing her Golden Age favorites, she writes with wit and verve about everything from musical-haters, the flops of Rodgers and Hammerstein and the "secret language" of Mary Poppins to Esther Williams ("a sort of Bette Davis of the high diving board") and Funny Face("a man woos a woman by undermining her theories of French existentialism with the rival philosophy 'think pink' "). A chapter on the five musicals "that stand the best chance of converting a hostile male audience to the charms of the genre" is delightful. Her passion is so contagious that this entertaining musical memoir, rambling and clever, might also be capable of creating converts. (May 1)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
- HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author
Emma Brockes is an award-winning writer at the UK Guardian. She studied English at Oxford University, where she edited Cherwell, the student newspaper, and won the Philip Geddes Prize for journalism. In 2001 she was named Young Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards. In 2002 she was voted Feature Writer of the Year, one of the youngest-ever recipients of the award. What Would Barbra Do? is her first book. She lives in London.
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Emma Brockes was raised in England by a mom who would break into show tunes at the drop of a hat. Growing up in the age of DVDs, Emma and her girlfriends were free to to watch their favorite musicals ad infinitum , and boy, did they ever (imagine seeing Mary Poppins 150 times). Now she describes the influence that the shows and songs have had on certain aspects of her life. Wry and witty, Brockes deconstructs the genre, analyzing plots, messages, the good (five of Rodgers and Hammerstein's), the bad (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers), and the worst of all time (Xanadu). The book is sprinkled heavily with comic incidents and observations, a tongue-in-cheek yet authoritative survey of the history of musicals in all their spectacular, impossible glory. And yes, they have influenced the development of the American "character", in both senses of the word.
Quick read and light hearted