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Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical Theater Hardcover – September 6, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


“Starred Review. Not just a catalog or reference book, but a highly astute, integrative cultural history.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Throughout, as Stempel traces the evolution with exhaustive archival research, he offers a penetrating and illuminating analysis of various musical forms and influences. Many of the 105 carefully selected black-and-white illustrations are surprising and revelatory. Theater buffs will be delighted to find that this scholarly, definitive work is also a hugely entertaining read.” (Publishers Weekly)

From the Back Cover

“Stempel has hit the trifecta: for academics, it’s a definitive work of scholarship; for students, it’s the perfect textbook; for ordinary lovers of musical theater, it’s a treat to savor at the end of a long day.”―Rose Rosengard Subotnik, Brown University

Showtime is a sumptuous banquet of a book. This richly researched history allows us to be present at the birth of the musical theater and to be enthralled witnesses as it develops and metamorphoses into the wealth of forms we now enjoy. A century and a half of entertainment is a vast amount of ground to cover, but Stempel is the ideal tour guide. This is a book to treasure.”―Sheldon Harnick

Showtime is a substantial work of American music history. Scrupulous but not fussy, learned but not pedantic, Stempel is a fine storyteller who delights in clarity and knows a good joke when he sees one. The precision of his thinking and writing gives the book an aura of authority keenly attuned to the tradition he critiques and celebrates.” ―Richard Crawford, author of America’s Musical Life: A History

“I cannot put Showtime down―and it’s a heavy book! Showtime is my new favorite companion.” ―John Mauceri, chancellor, University of North Carolina School of the Arts

“This is the book we have been waiting for―thoroughly readable and smart, informative and engaging.” ―Ted Chapin, president, Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization

“This is by far the best book ever written about Broadway, a magisterial critical history, which will be required reading for anyone interested in musical theater.” ―Kim H. Kowalke, Eastman School of Music

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 848 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (September 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393067157
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393067156
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.8 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Stephen on September 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is the most complete, most detailed, and most illuminating book on the history and development of musical theater, from its beginnings to the present day. It is perhaps more than some want to know about this art form, and yet if one is to really understand it, the amount of detail provided is extremely helpful. Another reviewer has pointed out that the author's personality does not come through, but this is clearly meant as a scholarly (in the best sense of the word) work, where personal opinion would be out of place. I love the opinion-laden books of Ethan Mordden, but am always aware that I am reading a very particular viewpoint. Here, I have the feeling that the author is trying to pull together all this is known about musical theater in the U.S., in a way that helps us make sense of the various streams of influence, as they have joined to create a form that itself has shifted and changed over the years. This is not a book I was able to read straight through--I found myself reading a chapter, and then putting down the book to think about what I had read. That's unusual for me. I like the way the book is organized, with 3-4 musicals per chapter used as examples--often in great detail. This heavy volume is clearly a labor of love, and I know of no other recent book that provides so much information on the subject.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Gerard D. Launay on October 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
First let me explain what this book is not. It is not a loveletter to Broadway. Instead it is a deeply researched history on how the Broadway Musical Stage has evolved over 100 years...from humble beginnings in comic the Golden Age of Musical Bob Disney Productions...and beyond. The major themes are the social or stylistic influences which caused new directions in the Broadway Show such as the introduction of ballet style dancing in the 1940's or jazz dancing in the 1950's and later. Important contributions in staging are not ignored the baroque, opulent sets of "Phantom of the Opera" with its 100 candles recreating a haunted world beneath a belle epoque Opera House. The treatise is not so much about the lives of the movers and shakers as about why their influences "worked" in the time of history that the show went on.

I will discuss two examples: Carousel and Gypsy. In Carousel, the author explains that "while Oklahoma developed the moral argument for sending American boys overseas, Carousel offered consolation to those wives and mothers whose boys would only return in spirit." In writing about Gypsy, I learned that it broadened the dramatic scope of musical comedy and turned the conventions of that genre into "the stuff of drama." In other words, "Gypsy says something different and fairly hard to take: that every child eventually has to become responsible for his parents. That you outgrow your parents and then eventually they become your responsibility."

It is the kind of book to sip like a great wine...slowly and carefully to appreciate all the nuances and textures. I think it is a wonderful scholarly treatise that makes the Broadway Musical not only fun, but meaningful in American history.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By W. Smith on June 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At this point, there are a few books covering the history of music theater. Some present it as dry statistics, some take a chronological approach, and some take a very editorialized chronological approach (American Musical Theater: A Chronicle comes immediately to mind). I think the only way to get a grasp on the progress of the musical is to read as many of these as possible and synthesize their thoughts. So, add to that pile this excellent book. It uses a conceptual angle. So there is a chapter on Off-Broadway, a chapter on concept musicals, a chapter on post-modern "antimusicals", etc. This is an effective, entertaining, and interesting way to go about it. The reason there are only four stars instead of five is that the book tends to leave out shows that were more obscure or had short runs. But, going back to the beginning of this review, Strike Up the Band: A New History of Musical Theatre and Off-Broadway Musicals Since 1919: From Greenwich Village Follies to the Toxic Avenger will cover the ground left over and give you a pretty decent comprehensive review.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By mscms on October 1, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Best (actually ONLY) textbook on the musical theatre would make this invaluable, but add that it is delightful and readable makes this part of my permanent bedside reading collection. Mr. Stempel's knowledge and love of the subject is clear throughout the book. The organization and chapter headings make it ideal for teaching and learning the historical development of the genre. I love this book and give it as a gift frequently to fellow lover's of musical theatre. Congratulations and gratitude for writing this wonderful book, Mr
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Format: Hardcover
In short, the book served it's purpose and was exactly what I required from a textbook. I used this book to write about the advancements and progression of musical theater. I enjoyed this book because, like all history books, it was presented chronologically which made writing essays a lot easier. I didn't find the writing too engaging but it was easy to get through the two or three chapters that I needed for that particular essay. The information and the layout were convenient and I would recommend this book to anyone who was interested in learning about musical theater.
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