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The Voodoo That They Did So Well: The Wizards Who Invented the New York Stage Hardcover – June 6, 2007


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$20.85 FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Temporarily out of stock. Order now and we'll deliver when available. We'll e-mail you with an estimated delivery date as soon as we have more information. Your account will only be charged when we ship the item. Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.


Editorial Reviews

Review

I'm behind anybody 100% who quotes Cole Porter. And by the way, what a writer Kanfer is! I'm thinking seriously of trusting him wth my life. (Elaine Stritch, former Broadway diva)

...celebrates past and present theater notables who made Broadway the heart of showbiz. (Publishers Weekly)

Entertainingly rendered examination....a marvelous writer....Lots of good stuff packed into a tight little book. (Blue Ridge Business Journal)

Mr. Kanfer's essays...are filled with such piquant biographical detail. (Erich Eichman The Wall Street Journal)

An outstanding, lively history, this will appeal to any collection strong in Broadway history and analysis. (Internet Bookwatch)

This book offers an affectionate glance back at several of the major figures whose work has impacted the development of New York's theatre world into an institution of mythic proportions. (New Theatre Quarterly)

The book is a useful and successful effort to inform the present American public about the giants who legitimized vaudeville and the musical on the New York stage and consequently elsewhere. (The Journal of American Culture)

About the Author

Stefan Kanfer's writings and criticism have appeared in most major publications, and his more recent books include Stardust Lost: A History of the Yiddish Theater; Ball of Fire, about the sources of Lucille Ball's comedy; Groucho; and The Last Empire, a social history of the De Beers diamond company. At Time magazine for more than twenty years, he is now a contributing editor of City Journal and a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library. He lives in Hastings on Hudson, New York.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Ivan R. Dee; First Edition edition (June 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156663735X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566637350
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #917,339 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By S. Berner VINE VOICE on June 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Though one would be hard put to discover it from the cover or jacket copy, "Voodoo" is not an history of the N.Y. stage, but a collection of 8 separate articles, mostly for the "City Journal", that are tied to one degree or another with the Broadway theater. Nonetheless, each article is so well done and so entertaining that one is tempted to forgive this minor deceit... and one readily succumbs to the temptation. So, if we realize that it's more than a bit of a stretch tying in reminiscences of Vaudville or the Yiddish theater ( subject of Mr. Kanfer's "Stardust Lost") with mini-bios of Berlin, Porter, Gershwin, Rodgers, Sondheim, etc., we forgive it. Likewise, if we note that Kanfer has confused Betty Grable with Ginger Rogers in "The Shocking Miss Pilgrim", we're tempted to shrug and say: "Oh, well, one blond conservative is pretty much like the next!" And, once again, readily succumb to the temptation. In short, if you take this for what it IS, and not what it's publishers might wish you to THINK it is, you'll have a marvelous time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By arslonga on April 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The witty, sparkling prose, the endlessly fascinating anecdotes, and the lapidary mini-biographies make this book entertainment of the highest order. The separate chapters form a mosaic that, as a totality, conveys a powerful sense of the richness and vitality of a cultural tradition that stretches all the way back to Mozart's librettist. "Voodoo" is as entertaining and inventive as its lively subject.
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Scott Ross on June 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Stefan Kanfer is beginning to get a reputation for appalling errors in his would-be authoritative overviews (see Amazon reviews of his book on Yiddish theatre). With this one, he claims that Cole Porter's grandfather "was one of the richest men in Ohio" (Ohio, Indiana -- ahh, what's the difference?) and that Ginger Rogers starred in the charming movie musical "The Shocking Miss Pilgrim" when, of course, he means Betty Grable.

Worse than these mistakes of scholarship, however, are his judgments. When he cites Ira Gershwin's lyric "I'm a Poached Egg," written for the Billy Wilder-I.A.L. Diamond comedy "Kiss Me, Stupid," Kanfer does a rant against current pop music, ending with "We're all poached eggs now." What he doesn't seem to have recognized, in his hurry to appropriate the phrase, is that Gershwin was writing a deliberately bad number for two characters in the movie, aspirant tunesmiths who write perfectly dreadful songs.

Then there's the matter of Stephen Sondheim. Granted that each of us must perforce have a license to see things in our own fashion and through the prism of personal taste, how is one to take seriously a critic who can write a line like, "[...] it is unlikely that fifty years from now popular entertainers will sing his songs"? Kanfer is, additionally, so high on the vastly overrated Ira Gershwin -- how I loathe that overworked phrase "The Jeweler" -- he can only excoriate Sondheim for his (quite accurate) description of Ira as "self-conscious." Gershwin's rhymes aren't generally as convoluted as Larry Hart's, but they run a close second.

This is a very bad book, and a nearly useless one. It merely re-treads ground that others -- critics, theatre historians, biographers -- have trampled more than abundantly. Aside from a moderately illuminating chapter on Lorenzo Da Ponte, there is nothing here that couldn't be gleaned elsewhere, and in books written with far greater acumen, not to mention accuracy.
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Format: Hardcover
THE VOODOO THAT THEY DID SO WELL: THE WIZARDS WHO INVENTED THE NEW YORK STAGE is a top pick for any serious Broadway or musical theatre collection: it surveys Manhattan's musical theater history, bringing to life the major names of the industry and the stars of New York's Yiddish theater and placing their lives and achievements in context of a broader survey of Manhattan theatre history. An outstanding, lively history, this will appeal to any collection strong in Broadway history and analysis.
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