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What Would Barbra Do?: How Musicals Changed My Life Hardcover – May 1, 2007


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From Publishers Weekly

Londoner Brockes, a 29-year-old playwright who writes for the Guardian, expounds on her love of musicals. When she was younger, she pretended to like the music her friends listened to, but she had inherited a fascination for musicals, both stage and film, from her mother. Off to college in 1994, she and her friend Adi became a "movement of two," listening to such recordings as Hits from the Blitz: The Best of Vera Lynn, periodically holding "Yentl and Lentil" evenings and creating play lists in which "any musical made post-1971 was automatically thrown out as unworthy." Analyzing her Golden Age favorites, she writes with wit and verve about everything from musical-haters, the flops of Rodgers and Hammerstein and the "secret language" of Mary Poppins to Esther Williams ("a sort of Bette Davis of the high diving board") and Funny Face ("a man woos a woman by undermining her theories of French existentialism with the rival philosophy 'think pink' "). A chapter on the five musicals "that stand the best chance of converting a hostile male audience to the charms of the genre" is delightful. Her passion is so contagious that this entertaining musical memoir, rambling and clever, might also be capable of creating converts. (May 1)
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Review

A sharply written and wickedly funny guide ... serious, silly and utterly, compellingly humane. Daily Telegraph Entertaining and witty. Independent on Sunday A warm, funny memoir Mail on Sunday An entertaining, heartfelt, light-as-air romp: much like a good musical in fact. Sunday Times Extremely funny. Daily Express --This text refers to the Digital edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (May 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061254614
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061254611
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 5.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,668,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Having just seen the 1957 kinescope of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella starring a 21-year-old Julie Andrews, I knew I would be a prime candidate to read Emma Brockes' sharply written memoir about her love-hate relationship with musicals. In a tone alternately flippant and worshipful, the author, a feature writer for the Guardian, examines the tenuous relationship between musicals and real life, an awkward connection that blurs the line between optimism and fantasy under the guise of nostalgia. Brockes recognizes the key role that a viewer's attitude plays in enjoying a musical because one either has to be of a certain age to appreciate the musical form, or been deigned to carry forth the trivial knowledge that is utterly necessary with speaking fluently about the genre. Regardless of which category in which one falls, it means obsessively collecting original cast albums - on vinyl, of course - and collector's edition DVD box sets.

Only in her early thirties, the author clearly falls into the torch-passing category inheriting her passion from a Mermanesque mother who in the evenings, would sing show tunes at the front gate in order to sing Emma home from babysitting at the neighbors' house. The intent was to thwart the tawdry intentions of potential muggers, but the net effect was more insinuating as the songs would invade the Brockes' memory by osmosis. Lyrics from classic Hollywood musicals land so securely in her subconscious that reciting them from start to finish was a breeze.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Juliette Faraone on August 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
I quote this book...constantly. Not only is Emma Brockes a great and humorous storyteller, she is also quite the philosopher and film theorist. The title is a bit misleading-- Barbra is not the main focus. However, this book is worth the read for Barbra fans and non-fans (foes?) alike. Recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robyn Lee Markow on January 5, 2010
Format: Paperback
In Emma Brockes highly involving book about Musical Theater and the people who love it,Barbra Streisand is actually just a relatively small part of what this book is about so if your'e expecting all Babs,you won't get it here,though she does devote a chapter to her & refers to her enough to satisfy most fans(Her Lentil/Yentl night is a somewhat regular happening at her London flat and might even inspire fans to try it themselves) Mostly,though, this book is about why Musicals affect so many people, and why people tend to either love or hate them. She discusses why some shows work(Mostly ones from Musical Theater's so-called "Golden Age"(that is,shows that premired pre-1971) so don't expect Brockes to wax poetic about most of Sir(or is it Lord)Andrew Lloyd Webber's output. She also writes about how Musicals brought her closer to her mother as she grew up and really began to appreciate them.(something I could relate to) Her writing is sharp,witty & while you might not agree with her at times,you respect her opinion,as she's definitely done her homework. Ironically though,for someone who claims not to like "The Sound Of Music" she does spend quite alot of the book discussing it & even describes a mid-winter tour of Salzburg devoted entirely to the movie version;perhaps it's a love-hate thing for Brockes,as her mother would serenade her with the title song when she crossed the street at night to go babysitting when she was growing up in the London Suburbs. My review; I really enjoyed this book and look forward to her follow-up(or should I say sequel?)
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