Pub Writes

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Broadway Musicals: The Biggest Hit & The Biggest Flop of the Season 1959-2009 by Peter Filichia

Posted by Caitie F on February 27, 2011

Title: Broadway Musicals: The Biggest Hits & The Biggest Flop of the Season 1959-2009
Author: Peter Filichia
Paperback: 277 pages
Publisher: Applause Books
Year Published: 2010
ISBN: 9781423495628
Rating: ++++

Summary (from back cover):

When Evita opened on Broadway during the 1979-1980 season, it was (as one of its songs said) “High Flying Adored.” But in the 1970-71 season, the producers of Lolita, My Love saw their show (as one of its songs said) “Going, Gone, Gone” after its torturous Philadelphia and Boston tryouts. It didn’t even try to brave Broadway, although the bookwriter-lyricist of My Fair Lady had written it.

It happens every season. Broadway has one, two, or a few hit musicals, but many, many more flops. Here’s a look at the extreme cases from each season of the past half-century. The musicals that everyone knew would be hits – The Sound of Music, The Phantom of the Opera, The Producers – and were. The tuners that sounded terrible from the moment they were announced – Via Galactica, The Civil War, Lestat – and turned out to be even worse than anyone expected. The shows that were destined to succeed – Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Merrily We Roll Along – but didn’t. The ones that didn’t have a chance – Man of La Mancha, 1776, Grease – but went on to household-name status. Peter Filichia takes a look at 100 shows that met either the most glorious or the most ignominious fates


This book is a must-read for any Broadway fan. There are 100 shows, half of them the best of the season, and half of them the worst. But the best aren’t always the most loved shows, and some of the worst are cult favorites or shows that are put on every month around the globe.

Filichia does a fantastic job of covering the shows. It is not always about plot, who was in it, or who wrote it. Sometimes he talks about how the show changed during previews (for better or worse). Sometimes, it was very specific. In the section about The Phantom of the Opera he talks about the cast member who has been in the show for 20 years. The Rent section is all about the lottery and how it impacted theater.

It is also a great book to read in short chunks. Each section is 2-4 pages and can really be enjoyed over time.

So, if i loved it so much, why only four out of five, instead of five? ALl it took for the book to lose one ranking is one section on Hairspray.

Filichia calls Hairspray a fairy tale. While there are arguments that could show the show is a fairy tale, his are offensive. He claims that it is a “stretch the Corny cared only about how Tracy danced and not how she would look on TV”. Well if that isn’t bad enough, he asked if “a wildly overweight housewife retain the lust of a still-skinny husband a couple decades into the marriage”.

What? He claims that is a fairy tale? I guess men just care about how a woman looks and if she gains weight, he should just dump her. That is so pig-headed and disgusting to me. It made me lose respect for a columnist I love and made me judge the book as a whole.

Other than that section, it is a great book and a must read for any theater lover!


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