PERFORMING ARTS

A Wonderful Guy: Conversations with the Great Men of Musical Theater

Oxford Univ. Apr. 2021. 368p. ed. by ed. by Eddie Shapiro. ISBN 9780190929893. $39.95. THEATER
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There’s a wide range of personalities on display in this volume devoted to the leading men of Broadway musical theater, but common threads run through every interview: the subjects each point out the hard work behind their success, acknowledge their immense luck, and express gratitude that their hard work and good fortune paid off. Perhaps it’s fitting that these tales of triumph often align so precisely with theatrical mythology, characterized by unlikely stories, million-to-one chances, and saving graces. Theater journalist Shapiro (whose Nothing Like a Dame highlighted the lives of Broadway’s prominent women) has a gift for eliciting his subjects’ stories. When he interviews seasoned performers such as Ben Vereen, Joel Grey, Raúl Esparza, and Norbert Leo Butz, they discuss childhoods spent developing a love of theater, the experience of performing in a hit—or a flop—and the physical skill and discipline required to act and sing and dance, often simultaneously.
VERDICT This funny, charming, and inspiring look into the world behind the footlights will delight fans of musical theater and those hoping to see their own names in lights someday.
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