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AuthorMessage: Great review of "Deconstructing Harold Hill" in Backstage
Posted by: chaz64

On: 8/2/2000 at 7:34:47 PM GMT

Message #: 113

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BACKSTAGE, July 28, 2000

REVIEWS (excerpt)
Off the Bookshelf
by Michael Lazan

Quality Musicals

There are books in which an author constructs a workmanlike puzzle built of
painstakingly thorough research, and there are books in which an author
creates, more or less, a testament to a lifelong love. Such is
"Deconstructing Harold Hill," in which Scott Miller displays such sustained
passion for musical theatre that it can only be that this man lives his life
for the medium.

It is not the Broadway stage, however, that Miller lusts after. Making clear
that Broadway "is still a commercial enterprise aimed more at tourists than
at serious theatregoers," Miller displays a fascination only with what he
considers quality musicals -- that is, those possessing the intelligence and
passion and gutsiness that any good drama has. And to Miller, artistic
director of New Line Theatre in St. Louis, quality musicals must be equated
with serious drama: "The Music Man, The King and I, and Ragtime are
brilliant, surprising, serious works of theatre, no less than King Lear,
Waiting for Godot, or Angels in America."

To this end, Miller provides detailed chapters exploring some of his
favorites, complete with rumination on theme, production design, motivation,
and historical and social context. With the focus more on the underlying
drama than on the score and choreography, the chapters are all presented in
an infectiously readable, undeniably intelligent manner that should be a
happy help to theatre professionals interested in producing a particular show.

Making Miller all the more credible is the fact that he does not hold back
from criticizing a show he has already eagerly touted. "Passion," a work of
"inordinately profound emotion," is hard to do because "it's hard to figure
out what the show means to say." "Camelot" is "a magnificent work," but "two
of the show's songs, The Jousts and Guenevere, describe offstage action, a
universal no-no for any play or musical." Miller then proceeds to try to
advise the practitioner on ways to sidestep the hazards, always pointing
toward emotion -- one of Miller's mantras.

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