Deep Down Inside

I write about musical theatre a lot. Aside from my history book and my book about Hair, all of my other books are collections of what I call "background and analysis essays." As far as I know, nobody really did this -- at least not for musical theatre -- before I started in the early 1990s. Stephen Banfield did a terrific book, examining famous musicals in term of musical construction, etc., but that's only one piece of what I do.

I deconstruct each show, take it apart and look at its pieces and how they function. I analyze the script and score in terms of music, rhyme, form, content, style, etc. I explore a show's history, historical context, source material, and so much more. Pretty much everything you'd need before starting work on a show. Some people tell me they love reading my essays before seeing a show they don't know; other people tell me they love reading my essays after seeing a show that's new to them. I endorse both practices. And tons of directors and actors tell me that my essays have helped them enormously in figuring out shows they're working on.

Since 1994, I've written background and analysis essays on sixty-four musicals, and I have several more essays under construction (on American Idiot, Atomic, Bonnie & Clyde, Heathers, and The Sweet Smell of Success.)

In my book From Assassins to West Side Story (1996), I analyze Assassins, Cabaret, Carousel, Company, Godspell, Gypsy, How to Succeed, Into the Woods, Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Misérables, Man of La Mancha, Merrily We Roll Along, My Fair Lady, Pippin, Sweeney Todd, and West Side Story.

In Deconstructing Harold Hill (1999), I analyze Ragtime, Camelot, Chicago, Passion, The Music Man, March of the Falsettos, Sunday in the Park with George, and The King and I.

In Rebels with Applause (2001), I analyze Hair, Rent, Oklahoma!, Pal Joey, Anyone Can Whistle, Floyd Collins, Jacques Brel, The Cradle Will Rock, Songs for a New World, and The Ballad of Little Mikey.

And in Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, and Musicals (2011), I analyze The Wild Party, Grease, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Rocky Horror Show, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, I Love My Wife, Bat Boy, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, High Fidelity, as well as brief looks at The Capeman, bare, Taboo, Jersey Boys, Next to Normal, Edges, Spring Awakening, Passing Strange, Love Kills, Glory Days, Rooms, American Idiot, and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.

The truth is that, over the last ten years or so, I write an essay on every show I direct, with only a couple exceptions. I sort of can't help myself. And really, having to put my thoughts and ideas into words helps me figure things out. Since I started my blog in 2007, I blog about my research and analysis as I work on the shows, and then afterward, I form those posts into a coherent (I hope) single essay. Many of these essays then go into my next book.

But not all those essays make it into one of my books, mostly because my books can't be 600 pages long. Still, I write these essays in order to share what I learn; so long ago, I put links on the New Line sitemap to all the other essays I've written. And now, for your convenience, here they are, all in one place. I hope they keep you happily occupied for hours.

Anything Goes
Assassins (expanded from what's in my book)
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
Cabaret  (expanded from what's in my book)
The Fantasticks
Hands on a Hardbody
Kiss of the Spider Woman
Love Kills
The Nervous Set
A New Brain
Next to Normal
Passing Strange
Reefer Madness
Return to the Forbidden Planet
The Robber Bridegroom
The Threepenny Opera
Two Gentlemen of Verona

And coming soon... an expanded essay on Anything Goes, which we start work on in January, plus an essay on Yeast Nation, our June show.  These days, I almost never write an essay on a show unless I'm working on it. Luckily, I routinely work on some of the most interesting musicals ever written. So my collection of essays features a wonderful variety of cool, fascinating musicals.

It is my life's goal to get people to take the musical theatre and its literature seriously, to get theatre artists to stop turning their brains off when they work on musicals, to get everyone to treat musical theatre with the same respect we give to the work of Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, August Wilson, and Suzan-Lori Parks. There's nothing I love more than helping people, through my writing and my work onstage, to see new richness and complexity in great musicals, to understand the emotional and social power of the American musical theatre.

This is how I hope to achieve my goal -- through my essays, my blog posts, and my work. Join my crusade!

Long Live the Musical!