The saga of getting the musical

The saga of getting the musical Chicago made into a film reminds me of nothing so much as the saga of reviving the Twenties musical No, No, Nanette in the Seventies. The 1972 book The Making of No, No, Nanette by Don Dunn details the torturous process of staging the Broadway show: the uncertainty about songs and plot, the meddling by those in control (or who thought they were in control), the difficult personalities, such as choreographer Busby Berkeley, brought out of retirement to give the show that particular Twenties feel. Up to the moment of the first public performance, all involved believed it would be a failure. But audiences loved seeing aging tap-dance star Ruby Keeler on the stage, no matter how demure about her talents she might have become. When No, No, Nanette became hugely successful, other tap stars of the previous era found themselves in high demand as the show went on the road. The book is long out of print, but many used copies can be found.

Posted March 19, 2003

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