cover image I Got Rhythm

I Got Rhythm

Bob Thomas. Putnam Publishing Group, $16.95 (239pp) ISBN 978-0-399-13041-0

Veteran show-biz biographer Bob Thomas has crafted a breezy, affectionate tribute to Broadway's belter non-pareil, Ethel Merman. His no-nonsense narrative depicts her modest beginnings, her fierce drive to ""sing,'' her easy, early successes and unparalleled domination of the Broadway musical scene for over 30 years. Although Merman's star was luminous and long-lasting, Thomas does not gloss over her personality quirks or her toughness. She knew how to take center-stage. Any actor, musician or even stagehand who interfered with her love feast with an audience did so at his or her professional peril. Public success did not spill over to her private life. Four troubled marriages, the deaths of her daughter and daughter-in-law, and her own physical and emotional deterioration left her virtually alone. This is a fully fleshed portraitpoignant but jubilant. Merman's triumphs, earthiness and super-professionalism all contributed to a Broadway phenomenon that has not yet been eclipsed. For theatromanes, Thomas offers a thoroughly enjoyable, easy read. Photos not seen by PW. First serial to the Star. November 20