What Would Barbara Do?

How Musicals Changed My Life
by Emma Brockes
ages: adult
First sentence: “To give you an idea of the scale of what we are dealing with here, I’d like to begin with an act of superstition.”
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Emma adores musicals. And that’s not exactly a cool thing for a 20-something English gal. So, she adores them in quiet. (Well, only some of them. The Good ones.) As she’s grown up, she’s discovered that there are two types of people: those who like musicals, and those who don’t Get It.

This little book is basically a memoir framed around musicals. Which wasn’t a bad thing. Brockes has Definite Opinions about musicals (some of which I agreed with; others which I didn’t), and isn’t afraid to own the fact that she adores the whole genre. She’s not an “expert”, but she is an enthusiast, which qualifies her to give her opinion about such things. Right?

Well… actually, that’s kind of what annoyed me about this one. The subtitle gave me the impression that either 1) she really had something new and original to say about musicals, or 2) she had a really crappy life, and somehow musicals pulled her out of it. But, truth be told: it was neither of those things. It was a story about a middle class suburban girl who grew up with a mother who loved musicals and thought they were dorky until she was able to accept the dorkiness and own it. (Oh, and there was actually very little about Barbara Streisand to boot.) And she needed 264 pages to get through that.

In the end, I’m not sure if I disliked this one because of my expectations about it. Or if it was Brockes came off as a pompous twit. And even though I finished it (admittedly skimming the last bits), I don’t think it was worth my time.

Is there any other book about musicals out there that would be a better read than this one?

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3 thoughts on “What Would Barbara Do?

  1. If you enjoy The Music Man, I definitely recommend BUT HE DOESN'T KNOW THE TERRITORY: The Making of Meredith Willson's The Music Man by Meredith Willson. It only covers the broadway show, but, it is amazingly descriptive about the writing and producing aspect of this particular musical.

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