SHOWBIZ – book review

by Dick Kerekes
In the novel SHOWBIZ, a young Broadway producer involved with musical theatre productions in New York takes readers behind the scenes of the theatre world of the Great White Way.
The principal character is a young Broadway producer, apparently in many ways like the author herself. Scarlett Savoy is an associate producer working for highly successful and legendary Broadway musical producer Mr. Margolies, who obviously hired her for her good looks and not because she was experienced.
Ms. Preston presents her novel in scenes. There are 54 of them, each just three to four pages long.
In the very first scene, Ken Kanter, the caustic chief theatre critic for “The New York Banner,” a nationally circulated newspaper, is found dead at his townhouse. He appears to have taken his own life. Over the years, his scathing reviews have been credited with closing a number of shows soon after opening night. At this point, this reviewer got the impression that this was going to be a murder mystery, since it seemed Kanter had more than his share of theatre folks who disliked him intensely and had ample motivation for murder.
But no, the story moves in another direction. After a chance encounter, Scarlet becomes romantically involved with Reilly Mitchell, who is a theatre gossip writer for the “Manhattan Journal.” One story Reilly is researching is the possibility that the famous but now dead theatre critic was receiving payoffs for good reviews.
As the story moves briskly along, we gain some insight into the world inhabited by musical theatre producers. Scarlett, in her role as an associate, attends musical showcases where producers are hoping to find new works to put on stage. In addition, she is involved with all phases of public relations, from the initial casting to planning and hosting parties for potential investors.
Mr. Margolis is in the process of bringing the musical “Olympus” to the Great White Way, which will be the biggest and most expensive as well as the most technically challenging musical in New York’s history. While working on “Olympus,” Scarlett receives permission to use her spare time to find a musical property she can produce on her own. She finds a little show called “Swan Song” and readers will find her involvement with the musical an interesting behind the scenes story.
Some interesting subplots develop. Candace, an executive with “The New York Banner,” is charged with hiring a new critic, which she decides to approach by holding a competition among several theatre critics. Cupid and Psyche, the writers and stars of “Olympus,” are a rock-star couple in real life, who display interpersonal difficulties that make them hard to work with. Lawrence, who made his money in venture capital, has a penthouse across from Lincoln Center and now invests heavily in Broadway shows. The fifty-year-old bachelor has his eye on the young Scarlett and is interested in “Swan Song.”
Things come to a head when Margolis fires Scarlett because “Swan Song” has received such good preview press. Scarlett’s boyfriend can guarantee himself a job as the next theatre critic of the Banner if he will write an unfavorable review of “Swan Song.” On the opening night of “Olympus,” Scarlett seeks revenge. I will leave the details for readers to discover for themselves.
This 241 page novel is a fast read and very intriguing especially if you are an avid theatre goer or have been involved in community or professional theater in any way. While a disclaimer states the book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental, Preston’s writing is so believable that readers will want to draw their own conclusions as to her sources. “Showbiz” is published by Dress Circle Publishing, For more information on this book, visit www.showbiznovel. com.