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Before the Parade Passes By: Gower Champion and the Glorious American Musical

John Anthony Gilvey, Author
John Anthony Gilvey, Author . St. Martin's $29.95 (371p) ISBN 978-0-312-33776-6
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-1-4299-2559-4
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When Gower Champion died in 1980 at age 59, the lights on Broadway dimmed. It was a fitting tribute to the visionary director/choreographer responsible for Mame ; Bye, Bye, Birdie ; and 42nd Street . Enrolled in dance classes as a child, Champion turned pro as a teen and by age 27 had teamed with wife Marge to great acclaim. Champion's distinctive style used "story dances," or narratives told through dance and pantomime. Smart and stylish, they became the trademark of the team's nightclub and film work in the 1940s and '50s. When Champion's dancing career ended, he expanded his repertoire as a director and choreographer. His specialty was "two- and three-dimensional choreographic movements" that integrated song, dance, theme and props to dazzling effect. Though Champion directed early TV specials and did innovative work for MGM, his biggest coup was electrifying Broadway. Hypersensitive to criticism, he found his defeats, such as Prettybelle , crushing, but his successes were legendary. (Hello, Dolly! was the first Broadway musical to receive 10 Tony Awards.) Gilvey, a theater professor at St. Joseph's College, has written an exhaustive biography. Though the book suffers occasionally from detail overkill (there's too much information on failed musicals), it reveals the grit behind Broadway's glamour. Photos. Agent, Eric Myers. (Nov. 15)

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