Razzle dazzle The battle for Broadway

Michael Riedel

Book - 2015

"A revered and provocative theater observer presents a grand history of the producers, directors, actors, and critics battling for creative and financial control of Broadway"--Front jacket flap.

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Subjects
Published
New York : Simon & Schuster 2015.
Edition
First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
Language
English
Physical Description
xiii, 447 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 419-422) and index.
ISBN
9781451672169
1451672160
Main Author
Michael Riedel (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Certainly, there's no business like show business, and it's to the businessmen behind the curtain that theater columnist Riedel turns his ever-critical eye. This extensively researched account examines more than a century of the evolution—and near downfall—of Broadway, and the men who shaped it. He starts with the three Schubert brothers, those titans of the industry who founded their still-titanic New York producing company in 1900, before elaborating on influential players (director David Merrick, director-choreographer Michael Bennett, lawyers-cum-heirs to the Schubert Organization Jerry Schoenfeld and Bernie Jacobs). Simultaneously, he discusses the political and social changes in Manhattan, the corruption that plagued both Times Square and the theater, and the devastating effects of the AIDS crisis. The detail here is exhaustive, and the glance offered into the dynamic, troubled, and glamorous world of theater is a rare one. Riedel may be known, where he is known, for his sharp wit and sharper tongue, but when it comes to Broadway as an institution, as a history, and as a legend, he's very much a man in love. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Booking agents and producers star in Riedel's (PBS Theater Talk) history of the Broadway theater through the prism of the Shubert Organization. Among the issues considered are the gentrification of Times Square, the rise of the spectacle-reliant modern Broadway musical, and the decimation of a generation of artists by the AIDS epidemic. The rocky road from out-of-town production to Times Square smash is depicted with more than a little delightfully black humor. However, firmly taking center stage in this volume are the businesspeople. The resilient Shuberts, who grew their concern from small regional theaters in upstate New York and shepherded it through the advent of talking pictures and the Great Depression, function as the true heroes of the piece. Much space is also given to the bleaker side of the business; the institutional larceny known as "ice," in which the profits from the resale of prime tickets dwarf the profits of producing a show. VERDICT While not functioning as an introduction or a detailed history of the American commercial theater, this book articulates neglected but historically essential point of view.—John Frank, Los Angeles P.L. [Page 79]. (c) Copyright 2015 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

Drawing richly on interviews, reviews, memoirs, and archival materials, New York Post theater columnist Riedel crisply tells the tale of the men whose contentious battle for the Broadway theater district turned 1970s Times Square into today's mecca for theatergoers and tourists. In fast-paced prose, he chronicles the financial intrigues and rapacious feuds that set the stage for Broadway's decline and comeback. After J.J. Schubert died in 1963, he willed his 17 theaters to the Sam S. Schubert Foundation. J.J. Schubert's cousin, Larry, ineffectively tried to resuscitate his father's dying empire, only to be thwarted and challenged by Gerald Schoenfeld, chairman of the Schubert Foundation, who eventually brought the Schubert empire back to its glory days with the production of A Chorus Line in 1975. The battle for Broadway heated up when Schoenfeld and Jacobs's archrival, Jimmy Nederlander, opened Annie in 1977, beginning what the New York Times called "the Great Duel." With the prurient appeal of a gossip column and the rapid-fire and detailed chronicle of the fall and rise of cultural powerhouses, Riedel's fascinating tale gives readers a glimpse of how Broadway grew into the glittering spectacle it is today. (Oct.) [Page ]. Copyright 2015 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Filled with gossip, bitter rivalries and unlikely alliances, a candid account of the people, the money and the power that re-invented Times Square tells the stories of the Shubert Organization and the shows that rebuilt a city in grand style, revealing that the backstage drama often rivaled what transpired onstage.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Traces the development of Broadway from its origins through its decline in the 1970s to its later revival and profiles the Schuberts, Gerald Schoenfeld and Bernie Jacobs--who took control of the Shubert theaters--and Jimmy Nederlander, their rival.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

"A revered and provocative theater observer presents a grand history of the producers, directors, actors, and critics battling for creative and financial control of Broadway"--

Review by Publisher Summary 4

Broadway&;s most respected (and feared) commentator pulls back the curtain on its stars, its producers, and its mega-hits to reveal all the shocking drama, intrigue, and power plays that happened off stage.Razzle Dazzle is a provocative, no-holds-barred narrative account of the people and the money and the power that re-invented an iconic quarter of New York City, turning its gritty back alleys and sex-shops into the glitzy, dazzling Great White Way&;and bringing a crippled New York from the brink of bankruptcy to its glittering glory.In the mid-1970s Times Square was the seedy symbol of New York&;s economic decline. Its once shining star, the renowned Shubert Organization, was losing theaters to make way for parking lots. Bernard Jacobs and Jerry Schoenfeld, two ambitious board members, saw the crumbling company was ripe for takeover and staged a coup amidst corporate intrigue, personal betrayals, and criminal investigations. Once Jacobs and Schoenfeld solidified their power, they turned a collapsed theater-owning holding company into one of the most successful entertainment empires in the world, ultimately backing many of Broadway&;s biggest hits, including A Chorus Line, Cats, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, and Mamma Mia! They also sparked the revitalization of Broadway and the renewal of Times Square.Now Michael Riedel tells the stories of the Shubert Organization and the shows that re-built a city in grand style, revealing the backstage drama that often rivaled what transpired onstage, exposing bitter rivalries, unlikely alliances, and&;of course&;scintillating gossip. This is a great story, told with wit and passion.