“Fun and gossipy.” —The Wall Street Journal * “A masterful history.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review) * “Engaging.” —Newsweek
A “brisk, insightful, and deliciously detailed take” (Kirkus Reviews) on a transformative decade on Broadway, featuring behind-the-scenes accounts of shows such as Rent, Angels in America, Chicago, The Lion King, and The Producers—shows that changed the history of the American theater.
The 1990s was a decade of profound change on Broadway. At the dawn of the nineties, the British invasion of Broadway was in full swing, as musical spectacles like Les Miserables, Cats, and The Phantom of the Opera dominated the box office. But Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard soon spelled the end of this era and ushered in a new wave of American musicals, beginning with the ascendance of an unlikely show by a struggling writer who reimagined Puccini’s opera La Bohème as the smash Broadway show Rent. American musical comedy made its grand return, culminating in The Producers, while plays, always an endangered species on Broadway, staged a powerful comeback with Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. A different breed of producers rose up to challenge the grip theater owners had long held on Broadway, and corporations began to see how much money could be made from live theater.
And just as Broadway had clawed its way back into the mainstream of American popular culture, the September 11 attacks struck fear into the heart of Americans who thought Times Square might be the next target. But Broadway was back in business just two days later, buoyed by talented theater people intent on bringing New Yorkers together and supporting the economics of an injured city.
“Told with all the wit and style readers could wish for” (Booklist) Michael Riedel presents the drama behind every mega-hit or shocking flop. From the bitter feuds to the surprising collaborations, all the intrigue of a revolutionary era in the Theater District is packed into Singular Sensation. Broadway has triumphs and disasters, but the show always goes on.
Riedel, a theater critic and longtime Broadway columnist for the New York Post, follows his bestselling Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway, about Broadway in the 1970s and '80s, with a masterful history of the key moments of the '90s, "a decade of profound change" for the Great White Way. Riedel covers the decade's biggest hits and flops: Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1994 Sunset Boulevard, whose "abrupt collapse" signaled the end of the British invasion of plays including Webber's production of Cats (1982) and Phantom of the Opera (1988). What followed was Tony Kushner's Angels in America (which premiered on Broadway in 1993 and had resounding success throughout the decade), and the groundbreaking Rent, which first took the stage in 1996 in the East Village's New York Theatre Workshop. Riedel details how, thanks to the phenomenal success of culturally inclusive and innovative shows such as The Lion King, the decade's productions had "put Broadway at the center of American popular culture in a way it had not been since the 1950s." Riedel concludes with a strong argument that the successes of the 1990s paved the way for the current moment of "cultural phenomenon" musicals, and that Broadway "is in the midst of its new Golden Age." Broadway aficionados and pop culture geeks will be entertained by this fascinating survey.