Friday, February 26, 2010

A Trip to the Library

Over the past couple of weeks I have been going through the house and sorting out the debris of my life. There are a lot of memories ensconced within my three rooms, and felt the need to organize it. While shuffling through some papers and sheet music, a CD fell out from the pile. It was the second cast album of Kiss of the Spider Woman with Vanessa William, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Howard McGillin. I had borrowed it from the local library about five or six years ago and had lost it. The thing was, I had gone back to college and someone else in the family was going to return it for me. Well, that didn't happen and I ended up paying $20 for it, in spite of the fact it was nowhere to be found.

Anyway, I was so surprised to see this and decided that I should return it. I checked the library system online and they had even removed its listing. In the years since, I had acquired a cheap copy of the recording for myself and felt it would be better served back in their catalog. Suddenly I got excited at the idea of going to the library. I hadn't used it in a long time since I spent so much time working at Barnes and Noble, and really didn't need. I have a lot of books and was able to borrow hardcovers from the store.

I'm an unabashed book nerd; I was legitimately excited by the prospect of using the library again. So here I was back in the building and after filling out the necessary paperwork, I had a brand new library card (my old one was lost somewhere... three days after this trip during more sorting and organization that also fell out of a pile). I felt it most necessary to inaugurate the card while I was there. I went up to the theatre arts section on the second floor, where I made frequent trips during high school and embarked on my musical theatre studies.

I checked out two books: Rodgers and Hammerstein by Ethan Mordden and Mainly on Directing by Arthur Laurents.

The former is one I've read cover to cover several times; I am tempted to pick up my own copy. It's a coffee table sized book which has the added bonus of generous history and criticism of the entire R&H canon. There are copious amounts of photographs, both color and black & white interspersed throughout. Captions abound. I don't necessarily agree with Mordden on some of his theories, but I do find it fun to read what he has to say about every work from Oklahoma! to The Sound of Music, including comments on their film and television projects. For some reason the book is out of print, but there are used copies available on amazon, and it is one to remember.

Laurents' book focuses on his career as a director. The first chapter is devoted to his immense dislike for the 2003 revival of Gypsy starring Bernadette Peters. The star emerges unscathed, but there are very few kind words for director Sam Mendes. The majority of the book is devoted to his direction of the Patti LuPone Gypsy reviewing the course of the show from the City Center to Broadway. The general feeling I get as I read is that Laurents feels he's the only one can direct any of the works he has written. He takes the usual swipes at Merman and Robbins, for whom he had little love in his memoir Original Story By. But this time there are a couple of pointed digs at Sondheim as well. The writer-director also talks La Cage Aux Folles (and again, no love lost on the revival) and his dislike of drag and how he came to rediscover West Side Story He also claims it to be about love; the book came as a tribute to his late partner, Tom Hatcher. However, the only love to be found in the text, which makes for an interesting read, is for Hatcher.

So I'm off to a solid start; there are a lot of theatre books I want to reread and others which I have yet to pick up. Mordden's series on musical theatre decade by decade, William Goldman's The Season, among others. But first? I assuage my ladies of the DLS/HWS with a quartet of Dorothy L. Sayers books.

Any suggestions as to what I should read...?


Sarah B. Roberts said...

Start with Dorothy L. Sayers' quartet Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, Gaudy Night and finally Busman's Honeymoon.

(Does Laurents talk about Lansbury's Gypsy? I find him so vile, I can't see myself picking up his book.)

Kevin Daly said...

Those are the four! Roxie texted me the titles so we could search in the library catalog.

He touches on both Angela and Tyne's productions very briefly. The main focus is on what he did in 2007 & 2008.