Book review: A Million Miles from Broadway, revised ed, by Mel Atkey

This weighty and detailed survey of musical theatre arrived on my desk just as the theatre lockdown came into view, and so it has taken time to give it my full attention.

I love musicals, whether on stage, film, television or audio recording. Where I can I try to look beyond the United States or United Kingdom (the subtitle of this book is Musical Theatre Beyond New York and London), so this book did appeal.

Atkey, himself a Canadian-born writer of musicals (O Pioneers and A Little Princess), has chosen to start with the roots of the musical in European operetta and through the great American composers, before a survey of the international scene in part three.

At over 500 densely printed pages, this book requires a lot of attention and is full of research and references should you want to explore those lesser-known shows and writers. I found it best to return to it in repeat sittings: especially as I am watching a wide variety of musical films at the moment from around the globe and different time periods.

As a primer for those dipping their toes into musicals it works just as well as an aide memoire for seasoned theatre fans and those in the profession. It is full of interview excerpts, contemporary and current opinion, and a wish to highlight some unsung failures on the musical stage alongside the “big guns” of Broadway.

Atkey is clearly knowledgeable about his field and covers a lot of ground including a number of titles (such as Anne With An E and Bran Nue Dae) which have not necessarily taken off outside of their countries of origin.

However, I would not recommended this is the first text for a beginner with no knowledge of musical theatre as the sheer scale could be overwhelming. Better to start with one of the coffee table volumes on the subject and then explore from there.

Atkey’s book, now in its second edition, can be purchased from Amaxon or direct from the publisher, Friendlysong.

LouReviews received a complimentary copy of this book for review.