American Utopia

Bloomsbury. Sept. 2020. 160p. illus. by Maira Kalman. ISBN 9781635576689. $24. THEATER
You may ask yourself, wasn’t this the title of Talking Heads cofounder Byrne’s 2018 album, his first solo effort in 14 years? It was, and it’s also the title of a show he brought to Broadway last season, described by Rolling Stone as a “concert-theater-dance installation.” The production features a number of songs from that album, some of his earlier hits, choreography by Annie-B Parson, a show curtain created by artist Kalman, and a multinational ensemble of musicians and backup singers led by the composer, songwriter, and singer, all of them barefoot and dressed in identical gray suits. This selection of Byrne’s lyrics accompanied by Kalman’s illustrations captures the spirit of the show. As readers page through the book and savor the words, the pictures fairly leap off the page. Byrne’s afterword sums it up best: “Here is the hope and joy that I believe emanates from the show itself in something you can hold in your hands.”
VERDICT Whether or not readers are fans of Byrne, they’ll enjoy this colorful and playful presentation.

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