GIFT BOOKS IN BRIEF : MORE BROADWAY MUSICALS <i> by Martin Gottfried (Harry N. Abrams: $49.50).</i>
Despite the countless times it has been reported dead, Broadway keeps going on, and so does Martin Gottfried’s survey of musicals. Following up on his 1979 “Broadway Musicals,” Gottfried’s richly illustrated book tracks the tumultuous 1980s, when an older generation of plays died away, and a new one stormed the barricades, like the rebels in “Les Miserables.”
Gottfried has always been a critic keenly attuned to change, and Broadway’s gradual shedding of the traditional “book musical” for the “through-composed” epics of a composer like Andrew Lloyd Webber or a director/choreographer like Tommy Tune intrigues him. That sense comes through best in a chapter on the making of Tune’s “Grand Hotel,” which documents not only how a contemporary musical is made, layer by layer, but how Tune thinks.
What Gottfried himself thinks of the era of “Phantom of the Opera” is a little less clear. He incessantly reminds the reader that “Broadway is about hits,” and in noting that Stephen Sondheim disdains hits, he comes close to disdaining Sondheim. Yet Sondheim is the only artist with a chapter in both of Gottfried’s books.