The Hammersteins: A Musical Theatre Family

Oscar Andrew Hammerstein, Black Dog & Leventhal, $35 (232p) ISBN 978-1-57912-846-3
Oscar Hammerstien II's grandson (the great-great-grandson of the original Mr. Hammerstein) pays tribute to his lineage with an insightful and affectionate coffee table scrapbook. The youngest Oscar, a family historian and university lecturer, recounts a legacy worthy of a great American clan – one filled with as many if-at-first-you-don't-succeed failures as eventual hard won triumphs. Oscar I rose from destitute German immigrant to cigar impresario, using his wealth to build grand, often grandiose, theaters and hire opera singers to rival the Met. He lost his fortune many times and made numerous enemies, but never lost sight of his dream of bringing opera to the people, transforming himself along the way into Times Square's first theatrical entrepreneur. Likewise, before Oscar II became the most influential librettist-lyricist in musical theater (South Pacific; Oklahoma!), he had a string of embarrassments. Although a family tree could have helped readers keep track of all the players, reading Hammerstein's book, stuffed with photos of relations and colleagues (and theaters, programs, and sheet music) is like peeking into a family album while grandpa shares stories of eccentricities and affairs, deathbed promises, and larger-than-life theatrics. Like Oscar II's musicals, it's intelligent, fun, and nimbly written. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 11/08/2010
Release date: 10/01/2010
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 250 pages - 978-1-60376-339-4
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