Wednesday 2 January 2019

Book Review: Kander and Ebb by James Leve (Biogrpahy/Non-Fiction)

Title: Kander and Ebb
Author: James Leve
Yale University Press

Publication Date: 2009
eBook - PDF

Composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb collaborated for more than forty years, longer than any such partnership in Broadway history. Together they wrote over twenty musicals. Their two most successful works, Cabaret and Chicago, had critically acclaimed Broadway revivals and were made into Oscar-winning films.

This book, the first study of Kander and Ebb, examines their artistic accomplishments as individuals and as a team. Drawing on personal papers and on numerous interviews, James Leve analyzes the unique nature of this collaboration. Leve discusses their contribution to the concept musical; he examines some of their most popular works including Cabaret, Chicago, and Kiss of the Spider Woman; and he reassesses their “flops” as well as their incomplete and abandoned projects. Filled with fascinating information, the book is a resource for students of musical theater and lovers of Kander and Ebb’s songs and shows.

Kander and Ebb is a wonderful read for fans of the musical theatre-writing duo. This biography looks at their professional histories (both together and apart) and offers an in-depth study of their works, considering the shows' structures (both dramatically and musically) and their place in the history of American musical theatre. Once or twice I disagreed with something Leve posited, but that aside this was a gripping and informative read, and a worthwhile study of a songwriting team too often neglected.

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