*Starred Review* One of the two most American contributions to world art, the musical springs (as does the other, jazz) from immigrant stock. Its grand progenitor, Mordden says, is John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera (1728), a socially satirical parody of the Italian operas that then dominated London theater. Gay’s wildly popular “ballad opera,” consisting of popular tunes given new words, inspired imitations that gradually shifted from existing to newly composed music, eventuating in Gilbert and Sullivan’s concoctions in England and Offenbach’s confections in Paris. Late nineteenth-century America enthusiastically imported those shows and started mixing their ingredients with those of native musical entertainment, especially the minstrel show and burlesque (and while the former was performed in blackface, the latter didn’t consist of strippers and blue humor). That’s the musical’s beginnings, and its subsequent life is an evolutionary history of varying forms right down to the present. Mordden brightly differentiates those forms, citing hundreds and analyzing dozens of examples of them in a sweeping narrative that, with plenty of sass and tang, wit and even a little snark, not to mention scholarly precision, is obviously the best-ever history of the musical and likely to remain so for a very long time. Individual shows and even numbers leap to life in Mordden’s colorful prose, both in the main text and the hefty bibliographical and discographical essays that propel the volume to a hilarious final bon mot. --Ray Olson
"[T]he book takes us to present day, Mr. Mordden has a lot of ground to cover, but his high-energy style carries us along amiably, and it soon becomes obvious that he hasn't set out to write a reference work but... a survey of an art form seen through the eyes of a breathless and opinionated host." --The Wall Street Journal
"More journalistic than academic, Anything Goes
has a relaxed spryness. ("Oklahoma!" in Mordden memorable formulation, "is a musical comedy undergoing psychoanalysis.") It's the work of an expert who is also an unabashed fan, an inveterate theatergoer who can deconstruct a score and reel off sparking backstage anecdotes all in the same paragraph." --Los Angeles Times
"Mordden remains an undisputed heavyweight in his field; his output is impressively comprehensive and his enthusiasm inexhaustible." --Washington Independent Review of Books
"[O]bviously the best-ever history of the musical and likely to remain so for a very long time. Individual shows and even numbers leap to life in Mordden's colorful prose, both in the main text and the hefty bibliographical and discographical essays that propel the volume to a hilarious final bon mot." --Booklist
"For four decades he has been entertaining and enlightening readers with mind-boggling regularity and with perspective, perspicacity, and pizzazz. Now with Anything Goes
Mordden miraculously manages to stylishly convey in an indispensable single volume, the uncanny and encyclopedic breadth of his knowledge-and the complexity of this enchanted American art form."--Geoffrey Block, author of Enchanted Evenings: The Broadway Musical from "Show Boat" to Sondheim
and Lloyd Webber,
and Series Editor of Oxford's Broadway Legacies
"Simply the best one-volume cronicle of the art-form."
-Stage Direction Magazine
offers the surest description of the musical, and represents Mordden's own revised conclusions after almost forty years of considering these issues."
--The Gay and Lesbian Review
"[A] treasure trove, enthusiastically recommended for all lovers and serious students of musicals." --Journal of American Culture
"[A] fun and significant contribution to the scholarly literature. Both casual and serious students of musical theater will benefit from Mordden's insightful analysis and criticism, and his unique opinions will surely shape the future of Broadway scholarship for years to come." --Notes