Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Singing a New Tune: The Re-Birth of the Modern Film Musical

Hey everybody, my sixteenth book is currently being published, Singing a New Tune: The Re-Birth of the Modern Film Musical, From Evita to De-Lovely and Beyond (Applause Theatre and Cinema Books, $24.95) and is already available for order from and Barnes and Noble.

Basically, it's an in-depth study of the movie musical genre from the period 1994 to 2004. The book opens with a history of the movie musical during its glory days (1930s - 1960s) - ticking off such highlights as An American in Paris, Singin' in the Rain, West Side Story, and Sound of Music, - and then examines how the increasingly reality-obsessed world of the 1990s brought the once-proud, but highly-artificial and theatrical genre to a new low.

But after a series of fiascoes like Newsies, Swing Kids, I'll Do Anything and The Fantasticks, there came an unexpected turnaround. Suddenly artists such as Sir Alan Parker (Evita), Woody Allen (Everyone Says I Love You), Todd Haynes (Velvet Goldmine), Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut), Kenneth Branagh (Love's Labour's Lost) and others began to create interesting variations on the musical format, incorporating comedy and even Shakespeare into the mix. Then came the tidal wave shift: Baz Luhrmann's smash-hit, Moulin Rouge (2001). After that, the hits kept coming with films like Academy Award winner Chicago (2002), and the book concludes with the release of Phantom of the Opera at Christmas, 2004. There's also a chapter that gazes at the musical format on television during this span, including the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode, "Once More With Feeling."

Singing a New Tune
features brand new interviews with many of the artists who made this span one of re-birth and growth, including directors Sir Alan Parker, Todd Haynes, John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), Keith Gordon (The Singing Detective), Todd Graff (Camp) and Joss Whedon. Writer Craig Pearce (Moulin Rouge) and Jay Cocks (De-Lovely) are also interviewed for their contributions to the genre.

Anyway, the movie musical probably seems a big a departure from my earlier work in books. After all, I've written about superheroes (The Encyclopedia of Superheroes on Film and Television), film comedies (An Askew View: The Films of Kevin Smith, Best in Show: The Films of Christopher Guest and Company), horror (The Unseen Force: The Films of Sam Raimi, Horror Films of the 1970s) and science-fiction (Exploring Space:1999, A Critical History of Dr. Who,) and so forth. But when I looked at the films from this era -- Everybody Says I Love You, South Park, Moulin Rouge, and the like, I realized that they were great movies too, and certainly ones worthy of book-length study.

So anyway, I hope you'll support my latest work in print, Singing a New Tune. I'll look forward to reading your comments on the book.


  1. Anonymous12:12 AM

    I'll keep an eye out for the book... though looking at your synopsis, it seems a shame (although it probably is outside of your parameters you set) that you didn't examine the Richard O'Brien/Jim Sharman musical, SHOCK TREATMENT.

    Robert Hubbard

  2. Interesting! That's one that I didn't include in my background chapter (looking at previous chapters, where I just sorta hit the highlights). But hey, I did mention in the book, at least, Rocky Horror and another 1970s classic - O Lucky Man!