Books about show biz too often focus on the glitter and glamour of the performers but Razzle Dazzle fixates on the theater owners that really rule The Great White Way. This is a fascinating and fun read on the history of Broadway theaters focusing on the seventies and eighties but providing full context. It dwells on Gerald Schoenfeld and Bernie Jacobs, lawyers who wrested control of the Shubert organization from Lawrence Shubert Lawrence, and – in Michael Riedel’s telling – saved Broadway and by extension New York City. Schoenfeld and Jacobs get a very generous halo but there is no doubt that without them the Shubert empire was spiraling downward.
My first visits to New York were in 1975 and 1976 and saw the rot and wild times of Times Square first hand. Knowing more about what was happening behind the scenes is fascinating. Reidel also tells tales on other luminaries of the theatre, including Joe Papp, David Merrick, Michael Bennett, James M. Nederlander, and many more.
While holding strong opinions that you may or may not agree with, you will find this a fast and entertaining read if you are interested in the business of show.
TOMORROW: Mom vs. Irma