Cover image for Broadway babies say goodnight : musicals then and now
Broadway babies say goodnight : musicals then and now
Steyn, Mark.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Routledge, 1999.

Physical Description:
346 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
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ML1711.8.N3 S74 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The glorious tradition of the Broadway musical from Irving Berlin to Jerome Kern and Rodgers and Hammerstein to Stephen Sondheim. And then . . . Cats and Les Miz. Mark Steyn's Broadway Babies Say Goodnight is a sharp-eyed view of the whole span of Broadway musical history, seven decades of brilliant achievements the best of which are among the finest works American artists have made. Show Boat, Oklahoma!, Carousel, Gypsy, and more. In an energetic blend of musical history, analysis, and backstage chat, Mark Steyn shows us the genius behind the 'simple' musical, and asks hard questions about the British invasion of Broadway and the future of the form. In this delicious book he gives us geniuses and monsters, hits and atomic bombs, and the wonderful stories that prove show business is a business which -- as the song goes --there's no business like.

Author Notes

Mark Steyn was born in Toronto, Canada on December 8, 1959. He worked as a disc-jockey before becoming musical theatre critic for The Independent in 1986. He became a film critic for The Spectator in 1992. After writing predominantly about the arts, he shifted his focus to political commentary. He has written for numerous publications including the Chicago Sun-Times, National Review, The New York Sun, The Australian, Maclean's, The Atlantic Monthly, Western Standard and New Criterion. He received the Eric Breindel Award for Excellence in Opinion Journalism in 2006 and the Sappho Award from the International Free Press Society in 2010.

Steyn has written several books including; The Undocumented Mark Steyn: Don't Say You Weren't Warned, Broadway Babies Say Goodnight: Musicals Then and Now, America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It, and After America: Get Ready for Armageddon.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Broadway used to be where the top theatrical talent created the shows and songs everyone else wanted to see and sing. Today almost nothing written for Broadway charts in Billboard. The Great White Way seems to be a museum in which classic shows are repeatedly revived and new writers and lyricists get no chance to develop. Steyn incisively traces the rise and fall of the Broadway musical, from the sometimes haphazard spectacles popular at the turn of the century to the great British spectacles that dominated Broadway in the 1980s and early 1990s. More important, he analyzes, with the keen eye of a passionate critic, the many forces that contributed to the musical's decline. The tightly written book is not without flaws. At times Steyn seems more a crabby old fogy than an informed commentator; for instance, when he complains about the shallowness of rock lyrics and then mocks Paul Simon for writing lyrics with deeper meanings that demand more than one hearing. Mostly, however, Steyn on Broadway is a very compelling autopsy report. --Jack Helbig

Publisher's Weekly Review

Is Broadway musical theater in terminal decline, fed intravenously from London, in headlong retreat to operetta certainties, emotional platitudes and vapidly luxuriant tunes? Almost, but not quite, suggests Steyn in this delightful, irreverent romp through seven decades of American musical theater from Show Boat to Miss Saigon. Taking the pulse of the Great White Way as a theater critic, he finds that Broadway shows have become amorphous creatures, products of the shifting interests of agglomerations of co-producers, fund-raisers, theater owners and provincial tour bookers. His breezy yet substantial surveya spontaneous mix of vibrant history, juicy gossip, plot and song analysis and pungent criticismloses its fizz about halfway through, yet it is filled with gimlet insights into the craft and business of musicals and valuable close-ups of old-timers (Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Rodgers and Hart and Hammerstein, novelist/lyricist P.G. Wodehouse, the Gershwins, Damn Yankees creator George Abbott, etc.) as well as more recent figures (such as producer David Merrick and choreographer/directors Bob Fosse and Michael Bennett). Separate in-depth chapters cover the massive creative contributions of Jews and gays to the Broadway musical; other chapters offer a scathing look at British musicals and skewer rock musicals from Hair to Rent. Along the way, Steyn memorably tweaks Andrew Lloyd Weber (a classic example of imperial overstretch), Stephen Sondheim and others. With encyclopedic knowledge and unabashed passion for the best of Broadway, Steyn explains how an art form has embedded itself into our cultural vocabulary. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Steyn, theater critic for the Wall Street Journal, has written a loosely focused set of chapters on various aspects of the musicalÄmusic, lyrics, book, proceduresÄand on the influence Jews, gays, and the British have had on the form. The best musicals (of which Gypsy, 1959, is his pick for all-time greatest) are like three-piece suits, in which book, lyrics, and music blend as an ensemble. The "invasion" of the British shows of Andrew Lloyd-Webber (Cats, etc.), the "age of the technomusical spectacle," and the increasingly self-referential nature of many recent shows have led to the "death of theatrical culture and its metaphorical power." Although his thesis is too simplistic and his argument poorly constructed, Steyn's extensive knowledge of the musical's history and his provocative commentary will be enjoyed by many musical theater buffs. Recommended for public and graduate-level academic libraries with strong performing arts collections.ÄRobert W. Melton, Univ. of Kansas Libs., Lawrence (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

A columnist for British, Canadian, and US publications, Steyn gives an overview of musical theater, with emphasis on the British stage. He arranges chapters by topic, for example, the music, the lyrics, and the book. There are even separate chapters on homosexuals and Jews. He brings an enthusiast's zeal to the subject. Unfortunately, Steyn is incapable of coherent discussions of any length as he flits annoyingly from topic to topic. He enjoys forced jokes, some in questionable taste, and delights in name-dropping. The chapter on "The Star" describes none of the special appeal of such performers as Merman, Martin, or Lawrence, and instead deals with productions of Show Boat and ends with a brief view of Carol Channing in a revival of Hello Dolly. Issued in Britain in 1997, it is now published in the US two years later with no revisions. The fragmentary bibliography appears to list some works he consulted. Photographs are lacking. Readers will encounter a few new anecdotes, principally about British productions (e.g., the British musical Ziegfeld). A better popular current introductory volume is Denny Martin Flinn's Musical! A Grand Tour (CH, Oct'97). For well-funded performing arts collections that must have everything. R. D. Johnson SUNY College at Oneonta

Table of Contents

Overture: The Fixp. 3
Act 1

p. 11

i The Op'nin'p. 13
ii The Showp. 22
iii The Musicp. 29
iv The Lyricsp. 45
v The Bookp. 62
vi The Jewsp. 74
vii The Cuesp. 88
viii The Take-home Tunep. 104
ix The Propertyp. 117
x The Geniusp. 128
Intermission: The Real Worldp. 149
Act 2

p. 161

i The Britsp. 163
ii The Linep. 178
iii The Fagsp. 196
iv The Rockp. 213
v The Jokesp. 228
vi The Starp. 241
vii The Flopsp. 254
viii The Depilatorsp. 262
ix The Maximalistp. 273
x The Futurep. 287
Exit Music: The Survivorp. 307
Acknowledgementsp. 319
Bibliographyp. 324
Indexp. 326