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BOOKS

Showstoppers!

Showstoppers!: The Surprising Backstage Stories of Broadway's Most Remarkable Songs

When Robert Preston shouted “Ya got trouble!” in River City, when Carol Channing glided down a gilded staircase while waiters serenaded her with “Hello, Dolly!,” when Barbra Streisand defied us to rain on her parade in Funny Girl, audiences were instantly enchanted. After such indelible moments, musicals were never the same, and neither were we. These were all showstoppers, the numbers you think about that propel you to see the show again, the songs you recall whenever the show is mentioned—“Big Spender” in Sweet Charity, “Popular” in Wicked, “I Cain’t Say No” in Oklahoma! 

Showstoppers! is all about Broadway musicals’ most memorable numbers—why they were so effective, how they were created, and why they still resonate. Much of it is told through the eyes of the performers, songwriters, directors, and choreographers who first built these explosive numbers and lit the fuse. Gerald Nachman has interviewed dozens of iconic musical theater figures to get their inside stories for this book, including Patti LuPone, John Raitt, Jerry Herman, Edie Adams, Dick Van Dyke, Joel Grey, Marvin Hamlisch, John Kander, Tommy Tune, Sheldon Harnick, and Harold Prince, uncovering priceless untold anecdotes and details.

Right Here on Our Stage

Right Here on Our Stage Tonight!: Ed Sullivan's America

How TV's most inept emcee created America's most powerful popular variety show and kept it on the air twenty-three years with a cornucopia of mid-20th century pop culture that became a prism on American life. It was not merely a television show; it was a Sunday night family ritual. The book includes scores of interviews with stars who appeared on the show and were instantly catapulted to national stardom, plus insights from show staffers into TV's wooden but beloved host.

Seriously Funny

Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s

Led by Mort Sahl's radical emergence in 1953, a revolution of incisive cutting-edge satirical comedians – from Lenny Bruce to Joan Rivers, from Woody Allen to Dick Gregory, from Nichols and May to Jonathan Winters – changed the face and sound of American comedy forever. The book includes in-depth profiles of both the famous (Sid Caesar, Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby) and the unfairly neglected (Bob & Ray, Jean Shepherd, Godfrey Cambridge), all crucial comic groundbreakers; Vanity Fair called the book "indispensable."

Raised on Radio

Raised on Radio

In quest of the Lone Ranger, Jack Benny, Amos `n` Andy, The Shadow, Fibber McGee & Molly, Our Miss Brooks, Dragnet, the Quiz Kids and so on. Before its dreary 24-hour menu of music, news, and talk shows, radio was a nonstop extravaganza of variety, comedy, detectives, westerns, drama, quiz shows, gossip, soap operas, specials, documentaries, public events – plus music, news and sports. The book features interviews with surviving stars, also announcers, sound effects men and writers for Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Bob Hope and many more. The Wall Street Journal called Raised on Radio one of the five best books ever written on old time radio, and the New York Times said the book "has the amplitude of a Ken Burns TV documentary."

Fragile Bachelor

The Fragile Bachelor: Perilous Adventures in the Single Life

Reports from the trenches of the singles scene by this middle-age not-quite-swinging single who relates his adventures, both wondrous and wretched, in a wry, candid manner, as he prowls fern bars, dating agencies and mixer parties. He also reveals the real-life forlorn reality of solo Saturday nights watching Cheers reruns, shopping for one and learning to live alone and like it, even flourish. The column was either adored or despised by single readers, depending on their state of mind about being unattached – or attached.

Out on a Whim

Out on a Whim: Some Very Close Brushes with Life

In its rave review of this collection of Gerald Nachman's syndicated humor column from the New York Daily News, the New York Times compared reading the book to "walking down the street with a guy who notices everything and has an opinion about it. Nothing much escapes the author's gimlet eye." Newsweek called him "a wholesome Woody Allen," and added, "He explores the flip side of social fashions with a style that meshes those of Robert Benchley, Holden Caulfield and the National Lampoon."

Playing House

Playing House: From Marital Ecstasy to Despair and Back Again

Erma Bombeck, Jean Kerr, Judith Viorst and Barbra Walters all praised Nachman's honest insights into marriage, as viewed from the rarely investigated husband's perspective. In his introduction, the author vows, "My modest hope is that this book will finally rip the lid off marriage." Nachman claims that wives are unreliable sources for what really goes on in there. Women's magazines, he notes, found Playing House too hot to handle, but husbands find it a crucial first-aid kit.

SHOWS


Quirks

Gerald Nachman wrote the sketches for this 1979 musical revue, with songs by Morris Bobrow, which ran for more than a year at the Open Theater and Chi-Chi Club in San Francisco. His sketches featured an Old Testament TV weatherman who predicts frogs, followed by scattered locusts and an 80 percent chance of boils; the tragedy of "Romeo and Juliet" as reported by a frenzied local TV police reporter; and a society cocktail party where the guests brag of their membership in the Radio Shack Battery Club, Costco, Triple A, the Columbia Record Club, etc. The show won a San Francisco Drama Critics award for best musical play of 1979. When it moved to Los Angeles, under the name "Mixed Nuts," it won a Drama-Logue award for best musical revue.

Aftershocks

In the wake of San Francisco's 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, Nachman and his collaborator, Emmy-winning songwriter Rita Abrams, produced this musical revue in 1993 at the Plush Room in San Francisco. Nachman produced and wrote the sketches, which included gibes at the then new domestic partners law (a woman goes to City Hall for a license to legalize her relationship with her cat); the city's obsession with California cuisine (a fussy waiter describes lavish dinner choices for a San Quentin prisoner ordering his last meal); and a homeless man with a credit card machine who rejects a handout when the passerby's Mastercard doesn't clear.

New Wrinkles

Nachman and both of his earlier collaborators, Morris Bobrow and Rita Abrams, concocted a 2002 musical comedy revue about the horrors and humiliations of aging. The show, which has since had nearly 20 productions in the United States and Canada, includes sketches by Nachman about a middle-age couple on a date who get increasingly sexually excited as they compare medical conditions; a flirtatious macho guy in a restaurant resisting a cute waitress's urging that he order from the senior menu; a married couple who realize, the moment their daughter leaves the house for college, that they have nothing to say to each other; a TV commercial for a dating service that makes you feel younger by hooking you up with little old ladies; and two old friends who meet on a street corner (for lunch) but can't remember why. Abrams' and Bobrow's songs include numbers about plastic surgery; a fantasy doctor who advises you to eat more cheeseburgers and hot fudge sundaes; a man who realizes every authority figure is younger than he; and a woman who laments she has moved from a miss to a ma'm.

Theater groups interested in presenting any of the above incredibly clever, melodic and funny shows, for a cast of five,can contact Gerald Nachman at nachnach@comcast.net.

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