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A YEAR WITH THE PRODUCERS: One Actor's Exhausting (but Worth It) Journey from Cats to Mel Brooks' Mega-Hit

Jeffry Denman, Author, Matthew Broderick, Foreword by
Jeffry Denman, Author, Matthew Broderick, Foreword by , foreword by Matthew Broderick. Routledge $17.95 (186p) ISBN 978-0-87830-154-6
Reviewed on: 03/25/2002
Release date: 02/01/2002
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In the summer of 2000, Denman, an actor in New York for eight years, set his heart on appearing in Brooks's much-hyped musical, ignoring New York Post gossip writer Michael Riedel's acerbic comment that it "[h]as all the makings of a floperoo." Here, Denman offers a candid one-year diary of his experiences as singer, dancer and understudy in the production. His style is breezy and refreshingly honest, charting each step from audition to opening night. Winning over director Susan Stroman was the first challenge, and Denman describes achieving the prayed-for callback through intense mental focus that convinces director, composer and author that you're exactly what they've been looking for. The first day of rehearsal establishes a caste system, during which principals frequently ignore those who don't have speaking lines. Dramatizing the confining nature of a Broadway commitment, he asks Stroman for one day off to do an important career-enhancing performance and is flatly denied permission. Tensions mount after a main actor loses his voice and a pre-Broadway Chicago run reveals serious problems. Denman vividly recounts the terror of opening night in New York, and readers share his later triumph when he goes on for star Matthew Broderick and scores a hit. Affectionate biographies of Broderick, Stroman, Nathan Lane, librettist Tom Meehan and Mel Brooks round out the book. Denman's emotional narrative maintains suspense and sufficiently informs, making this a textbook for anyone seeking a theatrical career and yearning "[t]o change, alter, enhance, deepen, and magnify the hearts of people who sit there watching." B&w photos. Agent, Ann Steele. (Apr.)

Forecast:Even those lacking showbiz aspirations will enjoy this book; it has a strong inspirational angle. That, along with the show's blockbuster success, guarantees an instant hit. Making it available at theater district bookstores will help.

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