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Hardcover From the Bowery to Broadway: Lew Fields and the Roots of American Popular Theatre Book

ISBN: 0195053818

ISBN13: 9780195053814

From the Bowery to Broadway: Lew Fields and the Roots of American Popular Theatre

Before Ziegfield launched his Follies, before the Shubert brothers built their empire, Lew Fields' productions were the toast of Broadway. For the "smart set" in silk hats and evening gowns in the luxury box seats, and the shopkeepers and clerks in the gallery, an evening at the Weber andFields Music Hall was the hottest ticket in town. The five year old named Moses Schoenfeld who crossed the Atlantic in steerage with his family in 1872 had grown...


Format: Hardcover

Condition: Very Good*

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An Exhaustive Chronology

This book is not for everyone; certainly not the casual reader who wants to know a little about Vaudeville. This is a year-by-year compendium of Lew Fields' career on the stage, from his earliest years in the Bowery, working with Tony Pastor and early variety shows, to his triumphs on Broadway, working with and trying to outwit the Syndicate, and on to his nurturing Rodgers and Hart in six of their first Broadway shows. It is a heady story, with the Shuberts, Keith and Orpheum, trying to take control of the Vaudeville circuit, and Fields usually getting caught between. While the book can be exhausting as well as complete, (it should be read slowly - no one can distinguish between some of the plays, "Twirly-Whirly", Whirl-i-Gig, Fiddle-di-Dee, etc.), it suffers from some bad copy editing, and some facts that aren't correct. But in the main, this is a book that is written lovingly from the viewpoint of two family descendants. It is perfectly revealing of a man trying to make his way in the theater, and being buffeted about by the businessmen who always seemed to take advantage of him. It is inspirational, as he is undaunted and always seems to come up, oftentimes buoyed by revivals of his famous comic routine with his parter, Joe Weber. So much of the American Theatre depended on how Fields characterized his shows, that he really needs to be paid more attention to. Ziegfeld, Billy Rose, Shuberts - none of them really contributed much to the actualy structure of the theatrical form, as they were more interested in how much money they could force through the system. Fields seemed genuinely interested to make a difference, and he did, for the better. It is gratifying to see that Rodgers and Hart's earliest successes were achieved thanks to Fields' name and reputation, as well as his shaping of the actual show. Anyone who is deeply interested in the American musical theatre should read this.

Weber & Fields and the Roots of American Popular Theatre

For comedy lovers, the most important thing about Lew Fields and Joe Weber was that they were so funny that their comedy lives on in the performances of later comics: Smith & Sale, Three Stooges, Abbott & Costello, Bing Crosby & Bob Hope, Jackie Gleason & Art Carney. Lew was the taller one, a sharpie who berated and bullied his squat, less bright partner, Joe. Sometimes they were billed as Mike & Meyer. Their style ranged from violent knockabout to musical satire. They were also producers of note. Although there were hundreds of show biz entrepreneurs that participated in the creation of an American style of show, a case can be made that a half dozen great innovators, among them Lew Fields and Joe Weber, adapted and assembled the elements essential to the Broadway musical: farce, burlesque comedy, a chorus line of pretty young women, and a plot that doesn't get in the way of the comedy, music, dancing and singing. The Weber & Fields Music Hall years of 1896-1904 featured all-star casts, the like of which was seldom seen again: Lillian Russell, Fay Templeton, William Collier, De Wolf Hopper, David Warfield and Sam Bernard. Weberfields productions also provided Flo Ziegfeld, Charles Dillingham and John Murray Anderson with the template of musical comedy. After the partnership dissolved Lew Fields became one of the most successful producers in Broadway history. Joe Webber enjoyed success, too, and for the right occasion, Weber & Fields would briefly reunite, and their performances were captured on film, both silent and sound. But Lew Fields started a theatrical dynasty: his children playwright Joseph, librettist Herbert, and lyricist Dorothy continued their careers into the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Armond Fields, the great-nephew of Lew, and L. Marc Fields, son of Armond, have written far more than a family memoir. "From the Bowery to Broadway: Lew Fields and the Roots of American Popular Theatre is a must for every theatre buff and every serious theatre historian. Highly recommended.
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