It’s Week Three of Nonfiction November—a celebration of all those totally true and fact-filled books out there. This week’s question comes from Katie at Doing Dewey, and it has me playing the expert while writing about a subject I love.
Week 3 (Nov. 11 to 15) – Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).
I love theatre, and there’s no theatrical location more iconic than Broadway. Almost every night of the year, Broadway stages are filled with performers expertly translating the texts of plays and musicals into fully realized productions for sold-out audiences.
Yet not every show that crosses The Great White Way is destined for greatness. Unfortunately, Broadway is both an art form and a business, and there are plenty of shows that close without recouping their initial monetary investment—they’re ‘flops’. And if you’ve ever been interested in learning about these varied and fascinating productions, here are a few titles to start with:
Not Since Carrie: 40 Years of Broadway Musical Flops by Ken Mandelbaum
Often cited as the book about Broadway musical flops. From the actually great Dear World, to the awful Merlin, to the money-grabbing Annie 2, Ken Mandelbaum dishes on them all, giving detailed synopses and brief production histories from shows up to the early 1990s.
With an initial cost of $75 million, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is the most expensive Broadway show ever produced. After a tumultuous preview period, it played over three years before eventually closing at a near-total loss. Co-book-writer Glen Berger explains his experiences working on the show in this memoir.
There’s an assumption that if a show flops, then it must be unpopular, or even ‘bad’. Yet Stephen Sondheim’s Follies seems to break that conclusion. Routinely cited as one of the best musicals ever written, the original 1971 production closed at a loss. Ted Chapin, a college student and production assistant, chronicled the show’s evolution from its out-of-town tryout to its opening in journals he crafted into this memoir.
Once upon a time, The New York Times Chief Theatre Critic’s opinion could make or break a show. And during his thirteen year reign, Frank Rich was one of the most influential in Broadway history. Here, the bulk of his reviews are compiled—the good and the bad—providing unique insight into some of the biggest flops of the time.
Diary of a Mad Playwright by James Kirkwood
Some of the biggest flops never even make it to Broadway. Playwright James Kirkwood thought he had struck gold with Legends!, a play focused on two fading stars. And after signing actual legends Mary Martin and Carol Channing, he knew he had a hit … until egos, infighting, and a disastrous national tour scuttled plans for a Broadway production, as Kirkwood recounts in this diary from the period.