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Changed for Good: A Feminist History of the Broadway Musical
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2011
This is essential reading for anyone interested in musical theatre, popular culture, and feminist and queer studies. Stacy Wolf combines a theatre critic's eye with a musicologist's ear to create a book that is at once insightful, provocative, and marvelously entertaining.

There is much to appreciate in this book, beginning with the fresh lens through which Wolf examines familiar and less familiar works of the American musical. The first five chapters explore notable musicals, applying a feminist reading while situating and scrutinizing the musicals within their historical context. There are fascinating connections accompanied by exceedingly smart (and accessible) analysis throughout, and one can almost hear Adelaide of Guys and Dolls, Anita of West Side Story, Charity Hope Valentine of Sweet Charity, and Cassie of A Chorus Line joining together to make a new and beautiful music. Most importantly, these chapters create a compelling case for the importance of the American musical as an essential component in theatre history and cultural studies.

The final two chapters focus almost entirely on Wicked. Even non-fans of the musical will leave with a deeper understanding of the show's impact in the first decade of the 21st Century. In particular, Wolf offers an ethnography of Wicked fansites and online chat boards, and she forcefully shows the effects of the Internet global media on musical marketing and consumption.

On a personal note, this book made me nostalgic for my own discovery of My Fair Lady, a cast recording my parents had long since stopped playing, and the blissful, yet solitary hours I spent listening to the record on our old HiFi. I can only imagine the pleasure of knowing that there were kids as passionate as I about Broadway shows (even if I didn't actually see one until I was well past puberty) and how this online community might share our musical theatre fantasies. I can only guess that I, too, would have been changed for good.

James F. Wilson
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2011
Though I really enjoyed this book, I, too, was disturbed by the errors - not just in spelling but in facts as well. For instance, the book states that none of the performers from "Les Miserables" or "Phantom Of The Opera" were nominated for Tony Awards to support its argument that actors in "megamusicals" are basically interchangeable. However, a simple search on Wikipedia would have revealed that not only were performers from these shows nominated for Tony Awards, but four of these performers (Francess Rufelle and Michael Maguire from "Les Ms" and Michael Crawford and Judy Kaye from "Phantom") actually won Tony's for their performances. For a book so carefully researched, how did such blatant errors make it to publication? Either shoddy copyediting is to blame, or the author is so eager to prove her arguments she ignores facts. She makes another mistake when she states that Oprah Winfrey won the Oscar for her performance in "The Color Purple." This is also wrong but not nearly as egregious since she doesn't use the incorrect information to support one of her questionable arguments. However, even with its factual errors, this book is still an enjoyable read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2011
This is a great brook that's totally accessible to both academic readers and musical fans (and the many people who fit in both of those categories). It's incredibly comprehensive in its reach, detailing a fantastic list of musicals from the forties to the present in terms of their representations of female characters and the complicated, fascinating politics of gender and sexuality in performance. My favorite chapter is on the single female characters in sixties musicals (Sweet Charity, Oliver, Cabaret, etc.) and how, through movement and dance, the women overcome and/or resist narratives that aren't so hopeful about living life as a single woman.
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on January 23, 2015
This book puts up a lot of different glances and angles of the shows. Although difficult to read at points, it really makes you think.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2012
As a fan of musical theatre and a feminist, the premise of this book captured my interest. Luckily, I checked the book out of the library and didn't waste any money on it. I found some of the history of musical theatre chapters to be good reads, but unfortunately, the author was more interested in arguing her point than presenting facts about musicals from the 80s and onward. It is clear that she is not a fan of the megamusicals, and she stretches, changes, or ignores the facts to suit her perspective, as other reviewers have pointed out (most blatantly ignoring the actors who received Tony's for their performances in Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera). Her mistakes continue into the chapters about Wicked, and at points I had to wonder if she truly had done her research - any casual fan could pick out her errors if they've seen the musicals in question only once! For instance, she states that Galinda drops the "Ga" from her name to show Elphaba how much their friendship has changed her (page 98). In fact, Galinda changes her name in an attempt to impress her boy, Fiyero, who seems to be losing interest in her. And it doesn't work - Galinda immediately regrets the decision, calling it a stupid idea only moments after Fiyero exits the scene. This is but one example, and as a result of the author's many mistakes, the book comes across as an emotionally misguided rant, instead of the truly informative feminist insight that it could have been. What a disappointment.
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on May 29, 2014
This is a highly informative and authoritative brilliantly written history of women on Broadway. The best text I have found.
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on January 6, 2015
I love it!!!!!
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2012
Reading this book helped me see the familiar with fresh eyes. Each decade of musical theater mirrors its times with or without that intention, and the role of women has changed dramatically over these last several years. WICKED seems a kind of capstone to that and was my reason for getting the book. It did not disappoint
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4 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 2011
I haven't finished reading this book, yet. I find it a very interesting book, but it does bother me that she manages to misspell a few actor's names. (I.e. Michael Ball is Michael Bell in her book) For a book that is aimed at theater fans, you think the author and editors would want to make sure they spell the names correctly.
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