Synopses & Reviews
Incomparable and unique in their ability to write both libretti and lyrics, Oscar Hammerstein and Alan Jay Lerner brought the musical theater to an artistic peak that remains unsurpassed. From Show Boat
and The Sound of Music
, My Fair Lady
, and Camelot
, they wrote book and lyrics for one glittering gem after another, capturing the verve of the Golden Age of the musical at its peak. Their works continue to hold a preeminent place on stages around the world.
Drawing on a wealth of previously unpublished manuscripts, lyrics, letters, and interviews, Stephen Citron's generous dual biography brilliantly brings to life the strikingly different worlds of Hammerstein and Lerner--two remarkable artists who revolutionized the musical theater. Citron's narrative brims with fascinating stories and telling anecdotes about these two master wordsmiths, sweeping us along Hammerstein's roller coaster career with its mixture of hits and flops. This is contrasted sharply with Lerner's endless rewrites, eight marriages, and debilitating drug habits. We learn how Hammerstein and composer Richard Rodgers first wrote musicals together as undergraduates at Columbia, then parted company for twenty years before reuniting to produce one smash hit after another. We also discover that the Loewe-Lerner team almost never made it past Brigadoon, due in part to Loewe's aspirations to become a serious composer and Lerner's chronic (and often exasperating) insecurities about his own talent. Along the way, we meet the century's greatest composers, actors, and actresses--including George Gershwin and Kurt Weill, Mary Martin and Rex Harrison--whose transcendent melodies and showstopping performances combined with Hammerstein's and Lerner's words to leave an indelible mark on one of America's greatest contributions to twentieth-century popular art--its musical theater. And not only does Citron offer consummate analyses of his subjects' lyrics and probing insights into their plots and dialogue, but he provides us with a mini-reference packed with photographs of notable productions and of the artists themselves. The book provides a complete list of their works, an extensive bibliography, and a quintuple chronology of their lives in relation to world and theatrical events.
In The Wordsmiths, Stephen Citron has penned what will surely be the definitive guide to the art of writing story and lyrics as well as an exhilarating dual biography. It is as well a fascinating read for all lovers of the American stage.
"Highly entertaining and admirably comprehensive."--The Chicago Tribue
"Told with loving detail by that musical sleuth Stephen Citron, this is a great book about two great men. With forensic precision he has unearthed everything I wanted to know about my two heroes, and by doing so, has reminded the world of the magical legacy they left for all of us to relish."--Don Black, lyricist of Sunset Boulevard and Song and Dance
"Stephen Criton has the uncanny gift of being able to dissect the anatomy of a song without disturbing its soul."--Don Black, lyricist of Sunset Boulevard and Song and Dance
"Before I turn out the light, I thought, I'll read a chapter. At three A.M. the light was still on. Stephen Citron writes not just for lyricists interested in the craft of two boundless imaginations. His book time-travels the reader into the world and words of two masters creating for a musical theater whose moment will not be seen again."--Dory Previn, Academy Award-nominated lyricist
"A brilliant, perceptive, revealing analysis of the work and lives of two enduring poets of the theater, whose lyrics are literate and whose musical books are literature of the stage."--Jerome Lawrence, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and librettist (Inherit the Wind) and Mame)
Includes bibliographical references (p. -416) and index.
About the Author
About the Author -
Stephen Citron has long been a force in the American musical theater. Composer, lyricist, lecturer, and writer, he is the author of Songwriting, the standard reference on the subject; The Musical From Inside Out; and, most recently, Noel and Cole, the acclaimed dual biography of Noel Coward and Cole Porter.