“A vivid page-turner” (NPR) detailing the rise, fall, and redemption of Broadway—its stars, its biggest shows, its producers, and all the drama, intrigue, and power plays that happened behind the scenes.
“A rich, lovely, debut history of New York theater in the 1970s and eighties” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), Razzle Dazzle is a narrative account of the people and the money and the power that turned New York’s gritty back alleys and sex-shops into the glitzy, dazzling Great White Way.
In the mid-1970s Times Square was the seedy symbol of New York’s economic decline. Its once shining star, the renowned Shubert Organization, was losing theaters to make way for parking lots and losing money. Bernard Jacobs and Jerry Schoenfeld, two ambitious board members, saw the crumbling company was ripe for takeover and staged a coup and staved off corporate intrigue, personal betrayals and criminal investigations. Once Jacobs and Schoenfeld solidified their power, they turned a collapsed theater-owning holding company into one of the most successful entertainment empires in the world, spearheading the revitalization of Broadway and the renewal of Times Square.
“For those interested in the business behind the greasepaint, at a riveting time in Broadway’s and New York’s history, this is the ticket” (USA TODAY). Michael Riedel tells the stories of the Shubert Organization and the shows that re-built a city in grand style—including Cats, A Chorus Line, and Mamma Mia!—revealing the backstage drama that often rivaled what transpired onstage, exposing bitter rivalries, unlikely alliances, and inside gossip. “The trouble with Razzle Dazzle is…you can’t put the damn thing down” (Huffington Post).
Drawing richly on interviews, reviews, memoirs, and archival materials, New York Post theater columnist Riedel crisply tells the tale of the men whose contentious battle for the Broadway theater district turned 1970s Times Square into today's mecca for theatergoers and tourists. In fast-paced prose, he chronicles the financial intrigues and rapacious feuds that set the stage for Broadway's decline and comeback. After J.J. Schubert died in 1963, he willed his 17 theaters to the Sam S. Schubert Foundation. J.J. Schubert's cousin, Larry, ineffectively tried to resuscitate his father's dying empire, only to be thwarted and challenged by Gerald Schoenfeld, chairman of the Schubert Foundation, who eventually brought the Schubert empire back to its glory days with the production of A Chorus Line in 1975. The battle for Broadway heated up when Schoenfeld and Jacobs's archrival, Jimmy Nederlander, opened Annie in 1977, beginning what the New York Times called "the Great Duel." With the prurient appeal of a gossip column and the rapid-fire and detailed chronicle of the fall and rise of cultural powerhouses, Riedel's fascinating tale gives readers a glimpse of how Broadway grew into the glittering spectacle it is today.