Today I finished reading Broadway Nights by Seth Rudetsky. The book is the semi-autobiographical tale of Rudetsky’s narrator, Stephen Sheerin, a perpetual also-ran in the small world of Broadway musicians, finally getting his chance at being the music director and conductor of an original Broadway show. It’s a fast-moving, comic story involving the many wild stereotypes you’d find in the Broadway community: the sassy choreographer, the divalicious leading lady, the precocious ingenue, the matronly stage manager, the cheap producers, and the amoral agents. Essentially, Broadway Nights is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a backstage musical on paper.
It also takes place in a heightened reality where everyone quotes their therapists, no one is ever without a bitchy bon mot, and sexual partners are traded like baseball cards. Basically it’s a gay Woody Allen movie.
It’s a fun book, a perfect mindless summer read. Loving Broadway and working in the business, I enjoyed the book a bit more, I imagine, than the average reader, particularly when narrator Stephen would tangentially recall true-life legendary Broadway scandals. The only thing more fun was trying to guess which figures and events Rudetsky based the fictional characters in the book on. I have my suspicions.
The second half of the book is much smoother and more exciting to read than the first. It’s only when Stephen’s new project, the fictional but all too possible 60’s hippie juke box musical Flowerchild, gets into production that the narrative gains focus and urgency. The tangents are now kept to a minimum; while they are a great barometer of Stephen as a character and of his development, they also showcase just how annoying and trivial he can be.
The best thing about Broadway Nights is that Rudetsky keeps a sense of wonder fairly constant throughout. He loves and lives for musical theater, and works hard to make the reader understand and appreciate that passion. I think he makes a perfectly convincing argument, but then again, he’s preaching to the choir.
The worst thing about Broadway Nights, however, is the absurd number of typos. I may belong to the First Church of Musical Theater, but I’m also a certified English major and card-carrying member of Vigilante Editors’ Anonymous. The fact that a book can go to publication with letters and punctuation missing makes steam come out of my ears.
Still, if you’re looking for some summer fluff, and love all things Theater District, I’d recommend it. Just have a red pen handy.