Moss Hart's Act One, which Lincoln Center Theater presented in 2014 as a play written and directed by James Lapine, is one of the greatest American memoirs - a glorious memorial to a bygone age filled with all the wonder, drama, and heartbreak that surrounded Broadway in the early 20th century. Hart's story inspired a generation of theatergoers, dramatists, and readers everywhere as he eloquently chronicled his impoverished childhood and his long, determined struggle to reach the opening night of his first Broadway hit. Act One is the quintessential American success story.
©1959 Catharine Carlisle Hart and Joseph M. Hyman, trustees (P)2015 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Jim Meskimen's reading was exceptional. I never wavered a moment from thinking this was Moss Hart telling his story of struggle, perseverance, bitterness, audacity, talent and luck as a young playwright. He captured all of Hart's nuances, sounded like a 20th century New Yorker in tone and attitude, and seemed entirely in sync with Moss Hart's perspective and view of the theater world of the 1920s-1930s.
Much is written about developing "grit" and "perseverance" in young people. This story -- of a young man forced to leave school after 8th grade, making the most of his opportunities, wrestling with his own doubts and fears, reckoning with the soul destroying aspects of poverty, dusting himself off after being knocked down in humiliating ways -- is an inspiring lesson. A bit dated in how PG it all seems -- but the reader has the sense that those more risqué aspects of that world are omitted rather than sugarcoated in this memoir written in the 1950s. And having background understanding of and interest in 20tj century Broadway theater are probably essential in appreciating this book. But Jim Meskimen must get full credit for making this take of another era feel so alive and immediate and the audio book feeling like Moss Hart is right there with you in 2016, telling you what happened in that Broadway producer's crowded gritty Times Square office.
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