Publisher: Oxford University Press
Freelance writer and theater journalist, Eddie Shapiro has put together twenty-one conversational interviews he conducted with some of Broadway's leading ladies. Shapiro informs his readers that he was fortunate to grow up in New York City where he was exposed to Broadway productions at a very early age. When he grew older, he would attend cabaret performances of some of Broadway's leading ladies.
As he points out in the Forward to Nothing Like A Dame: Conversations With The Great Women of Musical Theater, “The history of musical theater is full of incredible, indelible female roles.... Everyone of these amazing characters has been played (and in many cases, created) by at least one of the incredible women in this book.” It is these women and their roles that share their exciting experiences with Shapiro which include Carol Channing, Leslie Uggams, Chita Rivera, Elaine Stritch, Angela Lansbury and several others who are captured within the pages of the book.
All of the women interviewed have devoted a huge portion of their careers to the theater and there is no one who started in the theater and moved one such as Barbara Streisand. There are no stars as Liza Minnelli who “visit” Broadway, and there are no one-hit wonders as Jennifer Holiday. In addition, each of the performers had to have at least one Tony Award and one other nomination or major award.
Shapiro points in his introduction that it was his objective to create comprehensive conversations with these women that would be career encompassing.
Consequently, the questions are not superficial but rather deep and penetrating to understand what makes these icons tick. For example, if we refer to the Leslie Uggams interview there are seventy five questions conducted during April and May of 2009. The topics discussed ranged from how she would compare the musical theater today with that of forty years ago, what does she remember about rehearsing Hallelujah Baby, her reaction when she won a Tony for her first show, do great showman producers still exists as David Merrick to her upbringing. Uggams candidly shares informative tidbits such as what it was like to perform in a show when you know it is not working such as Her First Roman. Uggams confesses that the show did not seem right and the producers did not know the theater very well. When it was shut down after seventeen performances, she was relieved.
Shapiro provides his readers with quite a smorgasbord of interesting interviews reflecting his impressive research and if you are a theater buff, you definitely will enjoy the read. The interviews are thoughtfully presented in a reader friendly manner and as Shapiro points out, he wanted to create a tapestry, an oral history of the last sixty years of the American musical theater and what it meant to be a female in that world. He certainly accomplished his mission.