I’ve known Michael Riedel for over 30 years, ever since he was a young preppy-looking smart aleck, running around New York and trying to make a name for himself in the cutthroat world of Broadway theater.
Well, all that running around sure paid off. Today he is the authority on the subject. He built his reputation on 1) his must-read column for the New York Post, and 2) his TV show—Theatre Talk—that ran for 20 years on PBS. Now he is completing a trio of books that are turning out to be the definitive history of Broadway since 1970.
I’ll be having a little Zoom talk, “A Conversation with Michael Riedel,” with Riedel on Dec. 15, 5-6 p.m., and you’re all invited. We’ll discuss Riedel’s second installment, his brand-new book entitled Singular Sensation: The Triumph of Broadway. It begins as an era was ending—the British invasion of Broadway. The great mega-musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber were coming to a close. Sunset Boulevard, the last of the great British imports, was so overripe that you knew decay had set in.
Things were brought into focus when Rent opened the next year and ushered in a whole new audience and a whole new attitude, young and hip. Then came Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, which announced that great American playwriting was back. A revival of Chicago broke all the rules and ran for a record number of years. Disney and The Lion King made Broadway family entertainment, and The Producers was acclaimed as a great American musical and Broadway’s biggest hit ever.
The result of all these changes was a shift as dramatic as Broadway itself. It became an industry, transforming itself from a pastime for well-educated and affluent New Yorkers into a form of entertainment for the entire world. It moved—triumphantly—to the mainstream.
And it’s got a great cast. We’ll talk about Patti LuPone, Jonathan Larson, Michael Eisner, Rosie O’Donnell, Julie Taymor, Nathan Lane, Mel Brooks and a supporting cast of visionaries, losers, idealists and crooks.
Much of Singular Sensation was written right here in Sarasota. Michael’s folks lived here until recently, and he would come down periodically and lock himself in their guest room in The Meadows and spin out a chapter or two. Many of you remember Michael’s occasional articles for Sarasota Magazine, in which he would keep us up-to-date on what to see and even where to eat after the show.
We’ll also discuss Broadway’s future. The pandemic has caused the Great White Way’s biggest crisis ever. Will it recover? How will it be different? Join us on Dec. 15 and find out.
You can get tickets here, A Conversation with Michael Riedel. Every ticket includes a one-year subscription to Sarasota Magazine, and only one ticket per household is needed. Thanks to our sponsors, Florida Studio Theatre and Bookstore1 (where you can buy the book and support a local business).