Oxford University Press; 384 pages; $39.95
Life on the Broadway stage, from an audience’s perspective, looks glamorous and exciting. But what about the stuff that goes on behind the scenes—the out-of-town tryouts that fizzle, the cattle-call auditions, the chronic injuries? In his 20 interviews with leading ladies of the stage, Eddie Shapiro offers a wide-ranging—and honest—taste of what it means to be a woman in today’s world of musical theater. His candid conversations with the likes of Bebe Neuwirth (Chicago, Sweet Charity) and Donna McKechnie (A Chorus Line, Company) alternately idolize and humanize the biggest female stage stars of the 20th and 21st centuries. Though Shapiro’s musical theater insider information is already formidable, he still extracts new tidbits from his subjects: Chita Rivera (West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie) mentions that Jerome Robbins taught her to act and not just dance onstage; Sutton Foster (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Shrek) recalls “bawling [her] eyes out naked in [her] dressing room” after Millie’s second preview, convinced she’d been terrible. Your Broadway-bound students will love reading about their favorite leading ladies, but bear in mind that a few of these divas can have quite the potty mouth (we’re looking at you, Patti LuPone).