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.