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Book Reviews

Here Is An Advanced Chapter From City of Angles

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Jonathan Leaf is a playwright and journalist. His drama Pushkin was selected as one of the four best plays of 2018 by the Wall Street Journal. He has been nominated in the Innovative Theater (IT) Awards for Best Play of the Year for The Caterers and has received rave reviews for his work in The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Daily News, The New Criterion, BroadwayWorld, Show Business Weekly, National Review, and many other publications. Since 2017, he has premiered five new plays in New York, San Francisco, and Paris.

As a journalist and critic, his writing has been featured in National Review, The Daily Beast, Spectator (USA), Tablet, Mosaic, the New York Post, New York Press, City Journal, Humanities, The Weekly Standard, Modern Age, First Things, The American, The American Conservative, The New York Sun, and many other publications.

(With the special permission of my publisher, Post Hill Press, he has given T2C a few of his chapters from his recently published novel, City of Angles. To purchase a copy, go to:https://www.amazon.com/City-Angles-Jonathan-Leaf/dp/1637587880.)

There is a kind of apartment building that everyone in Hollywood has been in. The design of the rooms is identical, or nearly so. Plate glass covers the closet doors, and cheap ceiling fans are above your head. A pool sits in the middle of the structure, and, though constructed in a prime earthquake zone, it stands on stilts. Beneath are the coveted parking spaces.

Because the insulation in these buildings is virtually nonexistent and the heating is poor, they can be chilly on summer nights and frigid in the winter. The tenants are warmer, though. Consistently friendly and affable, they await that one big break that’s surely around the corner: the guest starring spot that will be a recurring role, the pilot script that’s about to be picked up, the financing for the picture that only requires one well-heeled benefactor.

Were they all delusional? Billy Rosenberg saw them in passing every day as he lived in such a building, and one morning in the year before the pandemic he asked himself that question.

As he was possessed of a large DVD collection, several movie posters, and a great many books, these reflected back to him from the plate glass, making his apartment seem cramped. It struck him that he had spent too much time in the room, alone, often when the sun was shining. Too many hours had passed, surfing the web or typing scripts that were unread. So, grabbing his laptop, he strode over to a local coffee shop. His reaction upon entering it was the one he had each time he walked in: astonishment at how many attractive folk were inside.

Sitting down, he flipped on his computer and began working. Stopping, he watched the people. The prettiest individuals from towns all over the country, they had been uniformly drawn to Los Angeles by the firm conviction that they were singular and fated to a special destiny. Awareness of that prompted him towards other ruminations. Gradually, then, he realized that he had fallen into a fugue state, and thunderously loud as it was, it took him a moment to recognize that a woman at his side was addressing him. As such, he could only be sure of her second sentence. She was asking if they had met in an Alexander Technique class.

The voice was low and soft, but there was nothing in the expression of her eyes that corresponded to the smile she offered. It was as though the bottom half of her face was hysterically intent on seduction, and the upper half appraising him like an expensive tennis racket. Yet he knew the accent. Even with the decibel level, it was unmistakable. It was what they called RP: received pronunciation, the precise, crisp, non-regional mode of speech taught in acting classes.

He examined her more closely. Her eyes were intensely blue, and her nose was fine and straight. What you could not miss was her chest. Her breasts were large, unnaturally taut and fake. Trying not to stare, he admitted the truth to himself: While he might insist that he did not find silicone implants attractive, and though he really was, in a measure, repulsed by them, his penis was twitching as he tried to keep his eyes at the level of her gaze. Reflecting on this, he hesitated before saying that it couldn’t have been there that they’d met, but he was sure they had been introduced, they must know each other through mutual friends.

“Do you smoke?” she asked.

Since she was inviting him outside, they left their coffee mugs and put their laptops in their cases in a safe spot behind the counter, near the barista. Then they ambled out to the sidewalk.

Taking one of her cigarettes and her match, he yielded to a habit he did not possess. Since she was obviously a natural flirt, he asked himself how much she believed that they knew each other and how much she was interested in him. His face was not preternaturally lovely, and his shoes said every bit as much about his level of success as his car—and the way he held himself—did. Was this an exercise for an acting class? A response to a momentary fit of tedium? Spitefulness towards a boyfriend for some soon-to-be-forgotten slight?

The sky was gray, and the February air chill. Not wearing tights and garbed in a top calculated to show off her cleavage, she was getting goose flesh, and, as she observed him noticing this, they exchanged warmer expressions. Then there was that strange sense of intimacy that you can have with another person when you’ve wandered off together from a party in the early hours. This feeling was so strong and sudden that he asked himself if he could invite her back to his apartment, just two blocks away.

Then, as though this thought—and the doubt prompted by it—registered in his eyes, this demonstrating his uncertain place, he felt her again cooling, apprising him clinically once more, shaking her black bangs with a mixture of possibly assumed sexual assurance and vague mocking.

So, an hour later, as he reentered his apartment, he asked himself why everything in the city was so alluring yet so inconstant. Picking up his phone, Billy stared at the number she had punched into it. Her name was Vincenza Morgan.

Book Reviews

Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Four Award-Winning Musical Theatre Writers Who Turned to Writing Books

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I am so pleased to announce our guest for next Wednesday’s show on April 17th are four award-winning musical theatre writers who turned to writing books.

For a veteran musical theatre dramatist, getting a new musical on is rarely easy, even at the healthiest of times. But when a pandemic stops everything cold—and a restless creative spirit is driven to both keep writing and reach an audience—what can be done? Well, four musical dramatists independently decided to meet the challenge head on with the same answer: Write a book! But their creative paths to near- simultaneous publication would be as unique as the rave-reviewed books themselves. And when they realized that their musical theatre backgrounds cast them as an equally unique quartet…they decided to come full circle back to the theatre community …to tell that story…the story of how their incredible books came to be…which in its way is also a universal story; a story for our time. A story of taking stock, taking a deep breath, taking new steps…and turning the page. Here are our writers:

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David Spencer is an award-winning musical dramatist, author, critic and musical theatre teacher, whose work has been produced in the US, Canada and England. His most well-known credits as lyricist-librettist are two musicals in collaboration with composer Alan Menken: The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, based on the novel by Moredecai Richler (original cast album on Ghostlight Records) and Weird Romance (co-librettist: Alan Brennert; original cast album digital-on-demand from Columbia Masterworks). He made his professional debut writing the acclaimed colloquial English-language adaptation of La Bohème for the Public Theatre; and as composer-lyricist wrote scores and orchestrations for Theatreworks/USA’s young audience versions of The Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables (librettist-director for both: Rob Barron). His published books are The Musical Theatre Writer’s Survival Guide (Heinemann), the acting edition of Weird Romance (Samuel French)—and, pulpsmith proud, Passing Fancy, an original novel based on the TV series Alien Nation (PocketBooks). He recently completed a draft of his first straight play, Spirit Run (story by him and Jerry James).

David is an ex officio steering committee and faculty member of the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, where he taught for over 25 years, and has also taught at HB Studio, Workshop Studio Theater in New York; and Goldsmith’s College and BML in London.

His book is The Novelizers: An Affectionate History of Media Adaptations and Originals, Their Astonishing Authors—and the Art of the Craft

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 Stephen Cole is an award-winning musical theatre writer whose shows have been produced from New York City to London to the Middle East and Australia. His off-Broadway musical with Matthew Ward, After The Fair, was nominated for the Outer Critic’s Circle Award for Best Musical and was subsequently produced in London to great acclaim. The Night Of The Hunter won the prestigious Edward Kleban Award and was produced in New York City, Dallas, and San Francisco, where it was nominated for several Bay Area Theatre Awards. The award-winning 1998 concept CD features Ron Raines, Sally Mayes, and Dorothy Loudon. Saturday Night At Grossinger’s has had successful runs in Texas (starring Gavin MacLeod), Los Angeles, and Florida. Broadway legend Chita Rivera toured in Casper, and Hal Linden and Dee Hoty starred in the world premiere of his musical adaptation of Dodsworth. In 2005, Stephen was commissioned to write Aspire, the first American musical to premiere in the Middle East. This experience resulted in another musical about the creation of that show entitled The Road To Qatar!, produced to rave reviews and awards Off-Broadway, in London, and at the Edinburgh Festival, garnering a Best Musical nomination. Among his other produced shows are Rock Odyssey, which played to hundreds of thousands of kids for ten seasons of productions at the Adrienne Arscht Center in Miami, and Merman’s Apprentice, presented in concert at Birdland in New York City, followed by an all-star cast album on Jay Records, and an acclaimed premiere production in Sonoma, CA in 2019. Stephen’s latest critically acclaimed musical is Goin’ Hollywood. Stephen’s published books include That Book About That Girl and I Could Have Sung All Night, the Marni Nixon story, currently in development as a feature film from Amazon. Stephen has also written several published stories and his real-life friendships with Ethel Merman and Mary Martin resulted in this, his first novel. Visit www.stephencolewriter.org.