How To Survive a Killer Musical: Agony and Ecstasy on the Road to Broadway

Applause. Sept. 2023. 240p. ISBN 9781493075744. $29.95. THEATER
Award-winning composer/lyricist/librettist Cohen reveals that it took him 10 years to write and secure financing for the musical No Way To Treat a Lady, which is about a frustrated actor–turned–serial killer, based on William Goldman’s 1964 novel by the same name that was adapted into a 1968 film starring George Segal and Rod Steiger. Cohen’s adaptation opened off-Broadway in 1987 but never made the leap to Broadway. Over the ensuing decades, it’s been produced more than 100 times, including in the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and Japan, and a New York revival. But it faced many odd situations and obstacles. For example, before one opening, the lead actress was stabbed. Another time, the bearded composer had to step in to play one of the women’s roles. Through it all, Cohen kept a journal, which now provides a wealth of information about how complicated it is to bring a musical production to fruition. Somehow, even at the worst moments, the author keeps his sense of humor.
VERDICT A fascinating look at the hidden reefs lying below the surface waters of musicals and how to ride over most of them. A treat for anyone interested in theater.
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