cover image Tales of a Theatrical Guru

Tales of a Theatrical Guru

Danny Newman. University of Illinois Press, $29.95 (260pp) ISBN 978-0-252-03164-9

Opera buffs and Chicago arts fans will be interested in Newman's first autobiographical work, a memoir-in-profiles that chronicles the storied press agent's work with luminaries from Milton Berle to Laurel and Hardy to Geraldine Page to Luciano Pavarotti. Unfortunately, they may be disappointed: though he's been the go-to press agent for the best theatre and classical music organizations for over 60 years, Newman's account of the theatre legends he's met is disjointed and largely insubstantial. Carol Channing's chapter reveals only she ""has never let a holiday go by without sending me a message, and I appreciate it""; readers will also learn that Nina Hirschfeld, daughter of late, great caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, ""stops off between trains in Chicago to visit with us."" Still, some of Newman's 33 recollections are engaging, including his thoughts on Geraldine Page, Placido Domingo and respected but lesser-known opera luminaries such as Richard Tucker, Jan Kiepura and the Lyric Opera's Ardis Kranik. A frustrating tendency to repeat himself-a late-book description of Newman's deceased wife, actress Dina Halpern, follows an entire chapter on her-could have been helped by more vigorous editing. Readers of this vanity project will get a sense of Newman's contributions to the theatre world, but no understanding of the world itself, or the achievements made during Newman's time in it. Photos.