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A New York Times Bestseller
Putting it together, bit by bit: an insider’s look at the anatomy of the Broadway musical
For almost thirty years, Jack Viertel has been a major figure in the Broadway theater world—he’s helped create shows like Hairspray, Angels in America, and Into the Woods; served as dramaturg of the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles; and is currently senior vice president of Jujamcyn Theaters, which host such shows as The Book of Mormon and Jersey Boys. Not long ago, Viertel noticed that while colleges offer intensive classes on Shakespeare's plays, dissecting them line by line to uncover their structure and meaning, there was nothing that dealt with musical theater in the same in-depth way. And why shouldn’t there be? he asked. If Shakespeare is England’s national theater, aren’t Broadway musicals ours?
In The Secret Life of the American Musical, Viertel gives musicals the Shakespeare treatment. The book draws on a range of examples—from Carousel to Wicked, The Music Man to The Book of Mormon—and personal encounters to paint a picture of how Broadway musicals are made, taking you through all the phases of a typical musical theater story, from opening numbers to finales. It’s a hilarious and compelling look at what Viertel has learned over the course of his career, full of observations about the egotists, geniuses, and workaday professionals who have sustained this unique American art form.