cover image The Happiest Corpse I've Ever Seen: The Last Twenty-Five Years of the Broadway Musical

The Happiest Corpse I've Ever Seen: The Last Twenty-Five Years of the Broadway Musical

Ethan Mordden / Author Palgrave MacMillan $30 (312p) ISBN 978-

In his six previous books (One More Kiss: The Broadway Musical in the 1970s, etc.), Mordden chronicled the ""Golden Age"" of musical theater, which for him is the period between 1920 and 1970. This scattered but stinging critique focuses on modern musicals and the many ways in which Mordden finds them lacking. ""Today the musical is suffering dislocation and alienation,"" he declares. ""It no longer leads the culture. It follows, adopting the degenerative policies of schlock."" Mordden freely admits that this book is a ""rant,"" and though his fans will enjoy his clever putdowns and razor sharp wit, the writing is sorely lacking in structure. Facts, people, shows and summaries come fast and furious; there doesn't seem to be a new musical, revival or even a concert presentation on or off Broadway that Mordden hasn't seen since 1979. Unfortunately, the book races from show to show without regard to chronology, leaving readers wondering when his opinions will coagulate into a coherent angry thesis. It's even hard to tell which shows Mordden loves since he uses the same arch tone throughout, repeatedly calling his readers ""boys and girls"" and the like. Casual musical theater-goers will be either baffled or put off by eccentric statements like, ""I increasingly think that the farther we get from shows with a valid role for Barbara Cook, the farther we get from what is enjoyable,"" but old hands will know just what he means. Mordden's knowledge of musical theatre is impressively displayed here, but readers will wish he had presented that knowledge in a more coherent manner.