Friday, July 25, 2008

Attack of the Theater People

In my attempt to read even 1/4 of the books of good friend, CoffeePastor, I recently finished a fun, frivolous read called "Attack of the Theater People" by Marc Acito. It has one of the greatest book covers ever. Set in the 1980's, it follows the adventures of Edward Zanni who is kicked out of Juliard for being "too jazz-hands". Living on little-to-no-cash, Edward and his theater-geek friends have a series of mishaps, from putting together a radical version of "The Music Man" with a deaf leading man and blind leading lady, to trying to incriminate a stockbroker for insider training.

The writing is OK. Its hard to tell if the author intentionally made Edward seem so "oh my God! It's all about me and how dreadfully fabulous my life is" or if this is the author's real voice. As with any book, no matter how trivial, there is a scene with real heart where everything slows down and comes together.

Edward and his friend Paula sneak into a matinee to see Barbara Cook sing. During the concert he realizes Barbara is everything they say you're not supposed to be: fat, breaking down the fourth wall between audience and actor, raw and "jazz hands."

"Look at her," Paula says "Who gives a s&%t if she's fat? Look at what she can do. She doesn't let it stop her. It's like Marcus says-if you're an artist create art. Don't sit around waiting for someone to give you permission."

As an encore, Barbara sings without a microphone, her voice fills the hall and her face breaks into a smile that says "let me show you how we did it in the old days." Edward describes her as if she is singing directly to the people, both blessing them and offering a word of prayer.

After the concert, Edward and his friend leave the hall and are greeted by the honking horns of too many cars stuck in traffic. Edward notices that there is an ambulance trying to get through but can't. Edward breaks out of his self and realizes there is someone in that ambulance, that someones life hangs on the line and says "We've got to help."

"What can we do?" Paula asks.

Edward looks at the cars and says "We'll get them to move a steps." And one by one Edward and Paula convince each car to move four inches one way, three inches back, five inches to the side, until a space clears and the ambulance is bale to make its way through.

None of the drivers hesitates and all of them do as Edward and Paula ask.

Pretty powerful stuff, even if it lasts for all but two pages before the silliness resumes. But it creates the heart of the novel and the turning point for out narrator.

Would I recommend the book? For a summer read yes.

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