A guest review by Leslie
IN A NUTSHELL: Stephen Sheerin’s diary, narrated by the author (Rudetsky) relates the ins and outs of mounting a major Broadway musical, along with the ins and outs of Stephen’s life, including his (boy)friends, family, therapist, and day-to-day life in New York City.
Mr. Conductor, if you please…
It’s been said (actually, it’s been sung) that when a Broadway baby says goodnight, it’s early in the morning. But what about those nights? The thrill of being on stage, the adulation, the applause, the stage door fanatics…
Stephen Sheerin has no such life. Sure, he dallies on the Great White Way, but when he does have a job it’s beneath the stage, subbing in the orchestra pit. Other parts of his life are the pits too—including his love life. Why does he always date men who already have boyfriends?
But now Stephen has been given the chance of a lifetime: to be the music director on a brand-new, Broadway-bound show. He couldn’t be happier. Trouble is, Stephen doesn’t do happiness well.
I am going to go out on a limb and give this five stars, because I enjoyed it a lot. I can honestly imagine there are people who would not care for this book one bit and would disagree with my rating. But I found it laugh-out-loud funny, full of interesting anecdotes about Broadway, a main character who grew and changed over the course of the story, and a happy ending. What more could a reader ask for?
I listened to the audiobook from Audible.com because the paper version is out of print (see below) and an ebook version is not available. However, the author is the narrator and he is a very funny man, so I suspect that listening to this book is more entertaining than reading it. As a bonus, there are a number of cameos from famous stars who voice various characters, including (to name just a few): Andrea Martin as Mrs. Remick; Kristin Chenoweth as Françoise; Jonathan Groff as Mason (he has a very sexy voice); and Andrea Burns as Stacy (“the human icicle”). It becomes more like a play and less like a book with the variety of characters who are speaking and kept me completely entertained for the entire 10+ hours of listening time (the audiobook is unabridged).
The book is written as a diary which the main character and author, Stephen, has been encouraged to keep by his therapist, Monikah. The first few entries/chapters introduce Stephen and his life, friends, family, and a bit of background. The story picks up when he runs into an old friend, Mason, who has just returned to New York with a Master’s in drama from Yale and a contract to direct a brand new Broadway musical, “Flowerchild.” Stephen gets hired as the conductor and from there, we readers get to experience every detail of the production, from the initial casting of the show to the opening night party, five months later. Along the way, we also get to experience the ups and downs of Stephen’s life and the lives of his friends, all of whom seem to thrive on drama, both onstage and off.
In real life, Rudetsky has been a pianist and “sub” (substitute) on Broadway for many years, so he clearly knows what he is talking about (I suspect large parts of the story are drawn from his own life). He assumes that we readers don’t know much about the inner workings of Broadway so he fills us in, while at the same time keeping the story—which turned out to be more complicated and clever than I expected—moving forward.
Now, here’s the caveat—Rudetsky has, shall we say, a signature voice. You’ll either find him funny, like I did, or he’ll drive you wicked up the wall. I suspect there is not much middle ground with this man. He’s a DJ with a daily show on Sirius radio, so if you’ve heard that, you know what he sounds like. If not, I suggest listening to the sample at Audible before committing to buy the book.
To sum up: if you like Broadway, show tunes, gay men being bitchy, and humor that is decidedly New York-centric (Hotel Bar butter, anyone?), then you’ll definitely enjoy this book as much as I did. Even if you are not much of a Broadway fan and have never set foot in the Big Apple, but like to laugh, I’d suggest giving this book a try because it certainly tickled my funny bone—and I hope it would do the same for others.
NB: The print version of this book was published by Alyson in 2007. That same year, Alyson was purchased by a larger publisher and many (most) (all) of its LGBTQ books went out of print, including Broadway Nights. It appears that Rudetsky took the initiative to make the audiobook (he lists himself as producer and director). Only used copies of the print book are available. The audiobook can be purchased from Audible and also in the Apple iTunes store.