Thursday, October 26, 2006

Seth, Say It Ain't So!

I’m pleased to offer up this review of The Q Guide to Broadway, a new book by one of my favorite radio personalities, Seth Rudetsky:

For those of you who don’t know (which is pretty much all of you), in addition to being a writer and librarian, I am also a nut for Broadway musicals. Sadly, I must admire them from afar, since even in-town productions are out of my price range. Which is why I’m so enamored with Rudetsky, who hosts numerous music and talk programs on Sirius Satellite Radio’s Broadway channel.

I won’t repeat Rudetsky’s entire show-biz pedigree – which you can find here – but suffice it to say that he’s pretty much a Broadway blueblood with the sort of inside access most of us can’t ever hope to achieve. What’s even better is that he offers a musician’s perspective, telling us to listen (for example) to that last note Mary Martin sings in The Sound of Music’s Do-Re-Mi, and other such heads-up alerts. As someone who fancies myself a singer – someday, maybe – I have learned a lot by listening to him. As we say here in Georgia (where we sport the second-lowest SAT scores in the nation, or something like that), it’s downright edja-cay-shun-al. But it’s also entertaining, because Rudetsky is a very funny guy.

Still, I was a little cynical when I heard he had written a book about Broadway musicals. I figured, with his inside knowledge, that it might be an insider’s book. Like, inside jokes meant for Beautiful People, which probably wouldn’t include me or anyone I know.

I’m pleased to say I couldn’t have been more wrong. The Q Guide to Broadway is an insider’s book, but only in its authorship. While I imagine even Beautiful People will find some lovely gems inside, it’s very well suited for neophytes. Rudetsky tells us the basics, even starting with the definition of “Broadway.” He shows us where to get discounted tickets, where to learn more about the shows and the stars, which CDs are essential to a good collection, and lots more. And best of all, he does it all without making the reader feel like a Pitiful Outsider. Rudetsky’s relationship with the reader is definitely more mentor-protégé than expert-idiot.

And while the “Q” in The Q Guide to Broadway stands for “queer,” it’s not just a gay guide. Of course, somebody like Fred Phelps might get the heebie jeebies reading it, but anything that gives Fred Phelps the willies deserves a thumbs-up.

That’s not to say the book is perfect. It could use one more round of proofreading, and people who aren’t familiar with Rudetsky’s lively personality could be taken aback by his effervescence (those who like Rudetsky will adjust quite nicely).

And there’s one thing more you should know. Rudetsky hurt my feelings. Yes, he did. In praising the performance of baritone Robert Weede in Most Happy Fella, Rudetsky points out that Weede sings a particularly high note on an “e” vowel. He writes: “E vowels are notoriously difficult to sing [in high ranges] because they tighten you up. That’s why so many bad singers change the word ‘me’ to ‘may.’”

Bad singers? Gee, Seth, isn’t that a bit harsh? I mean, I did that when I was learning and I still have to adjust vowels if I go above a high A. And I bet it’s no coincidence that Leonard Bernstein assigned an “ah” vowel to all the really high notes in “Glitter and Be Gay.” Bad singers? Inexperienced, maybe. Out of their range, perhaps. But bad? Doesn't "bad” mean irredeemable? What a depressing thought!

Oh, all right. I just don’t want to admit I’m a bad singer. And maybe always will be. But still…Ouch!

That weakness aside, if you’re interested in Broadway but couldn’t hope to have a clue as to what’s going on, this is a great book to get you started. If you already know a bit about Broadway and you’re planning a trip to New York, this book could definitely save you some bucks. And if you happen to be a Rudetsky fan, well, this book is a definite winner.

But … really, I’m a bad singer?


  1. I'll look for it. I'm way behind on Broadway musicals and I'd love to know more about the current shows.