Broadway, once upon a time. A place where people buy tickets at the box office, with cash; where patrons dress for theatre, with no sneakers, no water bottles, and no backpacks; and the only text messages are the ones put there by the playwright. A place where iconic legends of stage and screen can be found in plain view, smiling politely or egotistically preening. Where three dollars will get you a balcony seat at the biggest hit—or the lowliest flop—in town. And a place where an innocent teenager from the suburbs can buy a ticket, slip through the stage door, and wander o'er the threshold into the magical world backstage.
Steven Suskin introduces Broadway, once upon a time, in Offstage Observations: Tales of the Not-So-Legitimate Theatre. The drama critic and noted chronicler of Broadway takes the reader through a decade's worth of adventures, working his way from a menial pencil sharpener for producer David Merrick toward a career as a full-fledged manager, producer, and drama critic. The book follows the author's progress from the wintry night after his sixteenth birthday, when he unexpectedly finds himself alone on the empty stage of a Broadway theatre, peering out at the silent, empty auditorium lit only by a solitary ghost light to the matinee eight summers later when he finds himself accidentally and uncomfortably acting in a Broadway musical, bombarded by roars of laughter from a houseful of playgoers.
A keen observer of the impertinent with an ear for amusing anecdotes, whimsical curiosities, and exaggerated tales of life upon the wicked stage, Suskin draws a portrait of a not-so-long-ago theatre world that has all but vanished.
Steven Suskin has led a well-rounded life in the Broadway theatre on both sides of the footlights. His fifteen books include The Sound of Broadway Music, Second Act Trouble, Opening Night on Broadway, and coffee-table books for The Book of Mormon and The Great Comet. He produced Forever Plaid and William Finn's Falsettoland. He has written more than one thousand columns, reviews, and liner notes for Playbill, Variety, and The Huffington Post and currently as critic and founding editor of New York Stage Review. But before becoming a writer, Suskin spent many years learning, watching, and collecting intriguing offstage observations.
“The joy and the curse of live theatre is that it is ephemeral, the performance you see lives on only in your memory. But while reading Offstage Observations, I came as close as one can get to feeling I was actually experiencing all the great (and not so great!) shows and performances that Steven Suskin so wonderfully recreates with his words. This book is a gift to anyone who loves the theatre.”—Marc Shaiman
“A wonderful book about a young man’s obsession with the theatre and the many adventures he had along the way. He saw everything—and I mean EVERYTHING—and seems also to remember everything! Suskin’s Broadway tales are a delight.”—André Bishop
“I would advise anyone who loves theater to read Offstage Observations. Steven Suskin’s journey through the offstage world is unique and compelling, funny and touching.”—Jerry Zaks
“Reading this book felt like finding my Broadway roots! Steven Suskin is a great listener and a great observer, and in the perfect position to illuminate our story. His impeccable taste helps us understand the tapestry of NYC theatre, including both hits and flops, in our quest for art to achieve refinement.”—Faith Prince
“A blood-curdling tale of lust and passion—Steven Suskin’s for Broadway, that is. You’ll meet the great and the near-great, and more than a few eccentric and entertaining schlockmeisters along the way—including a felon or two. Tales of triumph and calamity, egotism, talent, chicanery, and bluster, opportunities taken and opportunities blown—it’s show business at its confounding best. Pick a rainy day, brew up a pot of coffee or a pitcher of martinis, and just start reading. You won’t want to stop.”—Jack Viertel
“What a treat to read Steven Suskin—a fount of theatrical knowledge, garnered over years of experience alternately glorious and grim. And all narrated with precision, scruple, and honesty of the kind only an abiding love for the theater's truth can bring.”—Michael Feingold
"Offstage Observations is the perfect book for theatre aficionados. Reading it will alter how you perceive the 'show' and 'business' of Broadway. Part autobiography, part theatre history, it will hold a special place on readers' shelves for the research and pleasure it provides."