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Publisher's Summary

For almost a century, Americans have been losing their hearts and losing their minds in an insatiable love affair with the American musical. It often begins in actors and reaches its passionate zenith when it comes time for love, marriage, and children, who will start the cycle all over again. Americans love musicals. Americans invented musicals. Americans perfected musicals. But what, exactly, is a musical?

In The Secret Life of the American Musical, Jack Viertel takes musicals apart, puts them back together, sings their praises, marvels at their unflagging inventiveness, and occasionally despairs over their more embarrassing shortcomings. In the process, he invites us to fall in love all over again by showing us how musicals happen, what makes them work, how they captivate audiences, and how one landmark show leads to the next - by design or by accident, by emulation or by rebellion - from Oklahoma! to Hamilton and onward.

©2016 Jack Viertel (P)2016 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"An enlightening trip for lovers of musicals." (Kirkus)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
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  • Story

so good I need to buy the printed book

Where does The Secret Life of the American Musical rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Viertel has written an informed and informative exploration of classic american musicals.<br/>

What does David Pittu bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Pittu is an an excellent reader.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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In love with the American Musical

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Absolutely! This is one of the most engaging and thoughtful audio books I have ever listened to.

What did you like best about this story?

Viertel is an insider whose love of the American musical is exceeded, perhaps, only by his vibrant insights and encyclopedic knowledge. The book is like a musical itself, with the chapters taking us from the overture to the 11 o'clock number--a perfect synchronization of content and form.

What does David Pittu bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The narrator channels Viertel's love and enthusiasm for the material and he is clearly familiar enough with the numerous song lyrics quoted in each chapter so that his reading maintains the rhythm and integrity of the lyrics. First rate job.

Any additional comments?

If you love the musical theatre, as I do, listen to this book and will come away loving it even more.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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GREAT book for people writing musicals.

This is a wonderful book that will be informative to anyone that is a Broadway fan. But is especially nice for anyone working in the business, and especially writers. It covers classic musicals, to the newest hits of the late 2010s. What is nice, is it tells why some work, why others don't. What is good, what is bad. What makes something work, and why others fail. It covers the mistakes, and the artistry. That is helpful for writers, and also others in the creation process. If you already study Broadway, it will just confirm what you already know, and might not provide new information, since if you already study, you probably already have an extensive theatre geek background. But it's a terrific reference, and confirmation of what you already know, is still a help, anyway, if you're buying this for reference, or even entertainment. And if you're just a fan or student and new to Broadway, it will fill you in completely. It doesn't really contain gossip, which is good for me, it all more technical and helpful information and stories. Some of it repeats or goes back on itself, but to me, that is okay, because it is a study guide to me. I recommend this book mostly to students, and creators who want a good guide and reference material about the process, successes, and failures, and what makes it all tick or not tick.

(AUDIBLE 20 REVIEW SWEEPSTAKES ENTRY)

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  • AR
  • Maryland, USA
  • 08-10-17

A Treat for Lovers of the Broadway Musical

For lovers of the Broadway musical, this is a great big birthday cake of a book. Jack Viertel, a veteran producer who is also director of City Center's celebrated Encores! series, examines each part of a well-constructed musical from the overture to the finale, each in a separate chapter. He gives detailed examples of how these elements were made to work in the most successful musicals (and how they failed to work in a few unsuccessful ones), showing us how very difficult it is to put together a show that really works.

While his heart is with the great classic shows that he grew up with—he was born in 1949—he is open-minded enough to be able to recognize the merits of more modern successes like Hamilton, even when they break the rules. Even if you've heard some of the stories he tells before (I have), the book is still a hugely enjoyable tour of the Broadway musical as a form.

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Just finished this book and plan to go back and order some CDs based on the author's recommendations.

I recommend this book to anyone who sees new or revivals of Broadway musicals. I missed many lines of dialog in some shows and I want to hear them again in the next revival. It has added to my thirst to see and listen classics again.

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Reminded Me of How Much I Love Musicals

Would you consider the audio edition of The Secret Life of the American Musical to be better than the print version?

The reader comes close to actually performing some of the music, which is something I couldn't do reading the lyrics.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Stephen Sondheim -- always brilliant!

What does David Pittu bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

A love of the material that never flags. A wonderful reading.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No -- like a box of chocolates, it should be read slowly, and savored.

Any additional comments?

A sequel would be terrific -- Secrets of the British Musical perhaps...

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  • SydSavvy
  • PARIS, TX, United States
  • 06-28-16

Great Review of the American Musical

I listened to this and now want to own it for the Best Album list at the end! Learned some things and remembered some things. Well done review of the American Musical.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful