Singular Sensation: The Triumph of Broadway

By Michael Riedel

461 ratings - 4.01* vote

The extraordinary story of a transformative decade on Broadway, featuring gripping behind-the-scenes accounts of shows such as Rent, Angels in America, Chicago, The Lion King, and The Producers—shows that changed the history of the American theater. The 1990s was a decade of profound change on Broadway. At the dawn of the nineties, the British invasion of Broadway wa The extraordinary story of a transformative decade on Broadway, featuring gripping behind-the-scenes accounts of shows

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Book details

ebook, 352 pages
November 10th 2020 by Avid Reader Press / Simon Schuster
ISBN
1501166646 (ISBN13: 9781501166648)

Community Reviews

Faith

I preferred the author’s “Razzle Dazzle” because it covered Broadway history and I learned more. This book explores Broadway in the 1990s, up until 9/11, and I was more familiar with the subject. Still, it was a pleasant nostalgia tour and I enjoyed reading about plays I had seen and defunct restaurants. Musicals attract tourists and tourism fuels Broadway. That’s a business model they may need to rethink under the current circumstances. Understandably, there is heavy emphasis on the development of musicals like Sunset Boulevard and Rent and less attention paid to plays, but a few plays are also discussed. I wasn’t all that interested in the financial shenanigans of certain producers, but I guess the author couldn’t really leave that out. If you like theater, this book is definitely worth your time.

Olive Fellows (abookolive)

This is theatre critic Michael Riedel's latest book discussing a handful of well-known 90s Broadway shows. It concludes with a brief conversation about how Broadway brought New York City together following 9/11.

I was really looking forward to reading this because I had heard such great things about his previous book, Razzle Dazzle, and I also really like Broadway. I've never been to a Broadway show myself (too expensive for my blood), but I love watching recordings and movie adaptations. I was also in a few plays and musicals as a teenager. Suffice it to say I have an interest in the topic, but I'm not diehard fan.

That fact established, let's talk about why, even though I like the topic, I found that this book didn't work for me. There are too many shows discussed and the transitions between the sections are essentially nonexistent. You'll be reading about one show, then that part abruptly ends, and you're diving straight into a new show. It read like he was given a page limit and tried to cram in as much as possible.

The most damning attribute, though, was the lack of storytelling or personality given to these stories. I don't know if the author thought these stories and their characters were so larger-than-life that he could just recite the sequence of events without any attempt at making his own voice heard, but Wikipedia has more pizazz than this.

I'm having so much trouble believing that a theatre critic wrote something this stiff. I did enjoy learning more about these shows (particularly Rent, Chicago, The Lion King, and The Producers), but the book made me want to do what so many people did in within the book itself: insist that something's not working and ask for a rewrite.

Kasa Cotugno

Singular Sensation by Michael Riedel will be best appreciated by total theater nerds who can't get enough about the beloved subject. In the preface, he notes the current 2020 situation in which Broadway has been shut down since March and may not reopen until 2021. While theatergoers such as myself bemoan our being deprived of our favorite form of entertainment, that pales in comparison with the loss of livelihood, stalling of careers, enormous economic setbacks. artistic death and actual death of performers to the pandemic.

Still, this book unlike many on the subject extensively covers the roles of the producers, theater owners, behind the scenes dramas. Going deep into the creative process behind Broadway's hits of the 1990's and the personalities involved made for great reading, with admittedly a lot of skimming when the financial shenanigans got too intricate.

Hopefully life will allow us to meet once again in the theater.

Toni

Clever and informational, inside stories of Broadway during the 1990's. If you love Broadway, there's no way you won't like this book, it's fun and entertaining.

Greg

Singular Sensation: the triumph of Broadway by Michael Riedel is a sequel to the 2015 bestseller Razzle Dazzle. Chronicling mainly the 1990s - a time of profound change on Broadway, this title does not have the historical scope of Razzle Dazzle, but is still an entertaining and informative read.

The creation of ground-breaking musicals such as Rent, Sunset Boulevard and The Producers are recounted, as is the comeback of plays on Broadway such as Angels in America and Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? But the mention of unpopular revivals of comedy plays by Neil Simon and musical flops such as Suessical, serves to remind the reader that not all shows performed on Broadway are necessarily huge hits, and public tastes do inevitably change with the passage of time.

Andi

Thank you to Edelweiss and Simon & Schuster for allowing me early access to this sequel!

I love Broadway, I love gossip, I love the 'history' of Broadway. Michael Riedel is one of those names that I am familiar with. He along people like Frank Rich and Ben Brantley are what made Broadway Broadway famous outside of those who don't live in New York.

When I read his first book Razzle Dazzle, I was amazed on how much history was covered! Almost every show had a part in in it, along with the actors and the theaters themselves too! When it ended at the early 90's I thought, 'we have to have a sequel' , since there is so much that happened in the 90's leading up to 9/11.

SIngluar Sensation is a good book, a very good book if you are not internet savvy. I say this because one of the things that he brings up in the later chapters is the birth of internet chatter. He mentions a website called Talking Broadway / All About Chat where people can go and talk about Broadway shows and or have questions regarding things on Broadway...

Do you see where I am going with this? Let me be real: the internet is the worst enemy of this book. Razzle Dazzle worked well in Mr. Riedel's favor due to the fact that the internet did not exist during the birth of the Broadway musical. So all the information, the stories, gossip, and etc. were all hearsay or lost in various books that may or may not be read by the everyday person. So to have him go through and interview the people who were still alive and pour through history books for the inexperienced Broadway guru is a blessing.

Singular Sensation mentions the Sunset Boulevard fiasco. If you aren't heavy into Broadway lore or familiar with Patti LuPone or Andrew Lloyd Webber, then of course the story will come across absolutely scandalous. Probably enough for people to rate the book higher than my three star rating. For people who do know? Well, we got it from the internet.

It covers the birth of RENT and the death of it's creator/composer. ... Google it, all of the information is there. (Though, I admit, there is the fact that I had no idea how dirty they did Freddi Walker during her time in the show [publicity wise]. That was a bit shocking.)

It covers the influence of Disney. Google it, it's all there.

The best bit the book covered was Livenet/Garth Drabinsky fiasco. The guy who is famous to me for bringing us the ol 'Phantom by Phone: Call 872-2222!' and the hype for Toronto in the 90's. That is where most of the book's rating comes from. Being that I am friends with people who are associated or familiar with that time, seeing a good handle / scope of the rise and fall of that man was a treat. I feel sorry for the countless actors and the people he fooled. It makes me wonder what could have been if his company was handled more efficiently. Though, I don't know if we would have gotten Phantom. His want and strive to have the best in Toronto was addicting and it was one of those things of the past that would probably not happen or be if it were anybody else.

So. Where am I going with this review? The point is, this book was a nice sequel, but it felt too tame, too hindered by the internet, and frankly brought nothing really new to the table in terms of history and or insight to a 90's pre 9/11 world. I gave it three stars because it is a well written book, and it was the first time we had a chronological and in-depth look at the Livenet/Drabinsky fiasco.

Again. I'm a Broadway fan, but perhaps I'm a little too knowledgeable. Or maybe he just chose to not focus on the more interesting things. Who knows?

Krista

This fun, gossipy chronicle of Broadway and American musical theatre in the 90s will please any former theatre kid whose formative years were spent belting Rent lyrics with their friends at any given opportunity. As that former theatre kid, it was fascinating to hear the inside baseball about shows I have loved since childhood. Familiar and unfamiliar names alike come alive on the page. The writing is friendly and inviting, and feels just like having drinks with the author. I always read the acknowledgements in books, and this one solidified how deeply researched this book is, and the lengths the author went to to get as many sides to each story as possible. This book continues the trend of books by former journalists topping my 2020 favorites list.

Netgalley provided me with an arc in exchange for an honest review.

Lesa

I don’t ever remember staying up late to finish a nonfiction book before. I seldom even stay up to finish a mystery or other novel. But, Michael Riedel’s Singular Sensation: The Triumph of Broadway was worth it. Riedel admits in the introduction that the subtitle is ironic. He turned in the manuscript just as the coronavirus was hitting China. He had no idea what COVID-19 would do the United States, New York City, and Broadway.

Although Riedel was the theater columnist for the New York Post until he was laid off due to COVID, this is not his memoir. It’s the story of the 1990s on Broadway, up until it’s reopening following 9/11. Riedel interviewed more than one hundred people. Singular Sensation is the behind-the-scenes, gossipy account of some of the larger-than-life personalities behind the productions on Broadway, the producers more than any others, although, depending on the show, there are chapters about the playwrights or the directors.

I did not start going regularly to Broadway until the last decade, so the stories and accounts from the 1990s were all new to me. But, I certainly recognize the names of plays and musicals covered in the book as Riedel discusses the end of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s reign on Broadway, the new American shows that drew a younger audience, the return of drama to the stage, Rosie O’Donnell’s reign as the middle class ambassador who introduced Broadway to her TV audience. The Lion King is discussed in depth. It’s personalities and behind-the-scenes politics that move this book along.

The book covers the problems with Webber’s Sunset Boulevard. Riedel tells the story of Rent, the revival of Guys and Dolls, Julie Traynor’s dream for The Lion King. Mel Brooks and The Producers are covered in depth. As I said, all shows with recognizable titles, but with stories unknown to those of us with no connection to Broadway, other than a love for it.

I found Singular Sensation fascinating. As I said, I stayed up late to finish it. I also ordered Michael Riedel’s first book, Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway, a book that covers the ’70s and ’80s. As the friend wrote who gave me the book, “Well, you can’t be in the audience on Broadway this year. But, why not go there in this new book!” This glimpse behind-the-scenes was the perfect antidote to Broadway withdrawal.

Scott

An extremely well-written and thoroughly entertaining look at the recent productions of Broadway. Told with unapologetic honesty, it is relevant and relatable.

Shannon K

I'm a huge musical lover and so I was excited for this look at the musicals behind the recent Broadway boom. Many of the musicals covered were some of my family's go-tos when I was growing up. While there were some fun stories, I wanted a bit more of an overarching thread in the discussion of this era; instead it just felt like a compilation of gossip and backstory. Definitely check it out if you enjoy musicals and behind-the-scenes tidbits.

3/5 stars

Thanks to the publisher for the gifted copy.

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