A Night of Razzle Dazzle at The Players Club
By Paulanne Simmons
By Paulanne Simmons
Michael Riedel, the controversial New York Post theater columnist, has written a new book. it’s called Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway (just released by Simon & Schuster), and its subject is the reinvention of Broadway during the 60s and 70s when New York City was careening toward bankruptcy.
The main heroes of the book are Bernard Jacobs and Jerry Schoenfeld, the two lawyers who took control of the Shubert Organization after J.J. Shubert’s death in 1963 and the ensuing power struggle. Other key players include director and choreographer Michael Bennett, producer and director Joe Papp and the prolific hit producer, David Merrick.
On Feb. 29, Riedel celebrated the publication of his book with a panel discussion and performances at Manhattan’s famed Players Club. On the panel were theater personalities who were there at the time: Broadway producer Liz MCann, whose credits include The Elephant Man, Amadeus, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Morning’s at Seven and Copenhagen, all Tony winners; general manager, producer, writer and performer, Albert Poland; and actor and director Lee Roy Beams, a song and dance man who worked with Gower Champion and played the leading role in David Merrick’s legendary 42nd Street.
The panelists talked about the power and humor of Jacobs and Schoenfeld. They also spoke of the long-running dispute between the Shuberts and the Nederlanders, who were convinced the Shuberts had cheated them on certain financial dealings.
The most somber moments of the evening came when the panelists discussed the devastating path of AIDS, which ravaged the theatrical community and affected future generations of actors, choreographers and directors.
But the most cheerful moments came when Sean McDermott, Susan O’Dea and N’Kenge sang a few of the songs from hit musicals, beginning of course with Chicago’s “Razzle Dazzle.”