I’m a sucker for any book about musical theatre, so when I saw there was a new book, dealing specifically with “the Politics of Bursting into Song and Dance” I was seriously interested in reading this.
However, I take issue with any book that reads like a graduate thesis, looking to convince the reader of something, as opposed to a non-fiction book, and this really reads like a thesis paper to me.
We start with an introduction that is at least twice as long as the longest chapter in the book and the first half of it reads like an explorative chapter. So much so that I stopped reading (twice!) and flipped back, certain that I must have skipped over a page indicating the beginning of the chapter. But no, it’s just a very long introduction.
When the introduction starts to inform the reader what they will be reading (“The case studies and arguments of chapters 1-4 form the infrastructure for the synoptic account of the genre that I articulate in chapter 5, while chapters 6, 7, and the conclusion explore (mostly recently) responses to the ethical issues that I explore in chapter 5.”) It gets quite specific (“The fifth chapter subsumes the concerns of the first four, arguing that a radical aesthetic of disintegration – a distinguished logic of identification, control, and labor – underpins musical theatre and also generates the anxieties that provoke integration.”) and I wondered if it would even matter if I read the book itself and not just the introduction.
Author Bradley Rogers is never able to take himself out of the book and instead makes it very clear that he’s there, with a goal to convince the reader of his premise or statement.
Through a close reading of Where’s Charley?, I will show how the plots of musical comedy explicitly explore both the operation and the stakes of the exotic/erotic dynamic. Having shown how this dynamic structures the plot of Where’s Charley?, I then explore how it structures not only the plot of Lady in the Dark but also the scene of its construction and performance.
This becomes a common theme – Rogers letting the reader know that he “would propose that…” or he will “show that…” throughout the book.
How can a book about bursting into song and dance be so dull and lifeless? The answer: When it’s written for academia and not the general book buyer/musical theatre lover.
Maybe that’s not how or why this book was written, but that’s definitely how it presents itself.
There was a moment, near the end, when Rogers wrote one sentence that I found really great and insightful.
“…when we in the audience applaud, it is we who burst into song.”
It is unfortunate that I can’t sing the praises of this book.
Looking for a good book? The Song is You, by Bradley Rogers, is not recommended unless you really enjoy academic lectures as reading material.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Song is You
author: Bradley Rogers
publisher: University of Iowa Press
paperback, 270 pages