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Alan Jay Lerner: A Lyricist's Letters
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 31, 2014
Mr. McHugh's book accomplishes something necessary - an evocation of Lerner's craft, intelligence, passion and wit. McHugh in a brave and against all odds surprise captures what MIGHT have been, MIGHT have been achieved in disasters of varying degrees in Lerner's final attempts-the last 'how did this happen' shows. McHugh's trenchant comments following Lerner's letters evoke emotion and passion. His strength as a writer is sincerity and intelligence; bravura, but piano. That enables us to fill in the rest without being pummeled by journalistic overkill. Unusual and welcome. For anyone interested in Lerner and the musical theatre in America during the time Lerner functioned, both brilliantly, and then like a comet falling to its death, this is a must read. And probably, re-read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2014
"A Lyricist's Letters" (Dominic McHugh) arrived in the UK a week ahead of schedule in a secure, carefully-boxed, pristine condition as if it had just come from the presses. Well done Amazon.com.

It's a book of letters with a difference; an articulate and beautifully written commentary on the life and times of music-theatre's golden age that adds everything one needs to know in order to get under the skin and into the heart and mind of one of the world's greatest librettists and lyricists and his all-important working relationships with his collaborators, producers and artists. A gem of a book that should be proscribed reading for anyone wanting to write for theatre, musical or otherwise.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2014
Although Lerner destroyed most of his own documents, the book's correspondence retained by others is insightful and important in filling in some of the gaps left in AJL's earlier autobiography and those of others. McHugh's commentary, linking the letters, and the detailed footnoting makes this book an indispensable resource for people who appreciate his work. Readers will find many nuggets to cherish from Lerner's letters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2015
There have been other books on Lerner, including McHugh's previous book "Loverly" and Lerner's own, "On the Street Where I Live , but this book was my favorite because it was a joy to read on so many levels. Less "technical" than "Loverly" and more pure than Lerner's own take on his life, it is filled with the personal correspondence of one of the greatest lyricists in the history of musicals. And what correspondence it is: Although the world has known he could write beautiful lyrics, we did not know how compelling his letters could be.

The focus of the book is not on the private life of Lerner -- as in the eight wives and ugly divorces -- and it is in no way less engaging for being so. There are abundant exchanges between Lerner and Fritz Loewe, Moss Hart and all the leading producers and actors and directors in the golden age of the musical in the theater and on the screen. Additionally, the book includes most, if not all, of Lerner's major musicals, not just "My Fair Lady"; we learn how he had to juggle, almost miraculously, several of them at the same time as they were in different stages of production. The very end of the book does include some poignant letters from Lerner to Andrew Lloyd Webber on "Phantom" as Lerner was trying to fight lung cancer, and one can only imagine what would have resulted from that partnership.

Often I have found books on letters to be difficult to read because of the lack of a good context or explanatory notes that are too cumbersome, chopping up the flow. This is not so with McHugh's book. He made all this material to be very accessible to me, who cannot read music and is not musically savvy. Adding meaningful notes when necessary, he did a great job organizing the material in a very readable way yet all the while allowing Alan Jay Lerner to be the book's true author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2015
Following up on LOVERLY, his masterful and insightful examination of the creative process that went into the making of the most perfect of all musicals, MY FAIR LADY, Dominic McHugh here provides a revealing and deeply moving look at FAIR LADY'S librettist and lyricist, Alan Jay Lerner. Professor McHugh does a great service in giving us this collection of witty, warm, and revealing letters penned by Lerner. Along with THE STREET WHERE I LIVE, Lerner's personal account of the creating of his greatest musical successes, these letters demonstrate that his prose writings are as compelling and delightful as his lyrics.
In one sense, the commentary that Professor McHugh provides functions as a sort of deftly crafted libretto to give context to and link the letters together chronologically in a way that allows the letters to sing, as though they were themselves lyrics. It all comes together to provide a prose musical filled with humor, deep human insight, and occasionally profound pain. The pain comes from the realization that Lerner had so much more to offer than ever came to fruition. It is fascinating to learn more about some of the projects that we could have enjoyed had they come to pass: a Lerner take on LI'L ABNER; a film adaptation of HUCKLEBERRY FINN with music by Kurt Weill; a non-musical screenplay for GREEN MANSIONS; adaptations of FATHER OF THE BRIDE and LIFE WITH FATHER with Fritz Loewe; the DOCTOR DOLITTLE that Leslie Bricusse eventually ended up writing; a collaboration with Michel Legrand; a film adaptation of THE MERRY WIDOW that would have starred Placido Domingo; and the musical he left two-thirds completed at his premature death, MY MAN GODFREY. Though we yearn to have had all of those, what a glorious collection of songs and plays he did provide for us!
Over the years, a number of critics and scholars have distinguished themselves as historians and appreciators of the American musical theatre. With this second book on Alan Lerner and his work, Dominic McHugh joins this distinguished company of musical afficionados whose work will have a lasting impact on our knowledge about and appreciation for the great works of this unique genre. Kudos--nay, a standing ovation to Professor McHugh, and a shout-out to Lerner for helping us to sing with such grace and emotion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2015
Fascinating letters from an articulate and troubled lyrical genius.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2015
It is exactly what it says it is, and nothing more. So if you want other people's opinions on the deeply complex Mr Lerner, which would give the book a kick and make it fun, there's nothing. He was by all accounts a drug addict, and a complete nightmare to be around. He married eight times, so there's a lot of really interesting info about himself that he's obviously not going to include in his letters. In which he generally paints himself in glowing colours. His wives for example would probably offer some juicy opinions of their own. But this is just his letters, so we must stick to that. It's a terrific achievement for the young author, but the problem is that he's much too young to have ever seen these shows. And that is a real disadvantage, because he's unable to venture an opinion. And we are never really told why his failure's failed so spectacularly, which is a shame. He admits to them bravely, but is never quite brave enough to go into detail. If Mr McHugh could have seen 'Carmelina' for example, he would have been able to tell us why it closed so quickly. It was a turkey.
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on April 10, 2015
Thanks!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2015
For this who loves the great 50's American Musicals - YES.
For those who don't. NO
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2014
A good and easy read about the complicated man Mr. A.J. Lerner. "My Fair Lady" 10 pages most interesting and ful of original facts about that original production. Great book for any great American b'way musical fan.
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