‘Marvin’ a family read for musical theatre lovers
With families hunkering in and keeping safe, television can only suffice for so long. Thespians who love musicals need to get a hold of “Marvin” adapted and illustrated by Ian David Marsden and based on “The Way I Was” by Marvin Hamlisch and Gerald Gardner. The late Hamlisch is known for the scores he wrote for theater and film, but how many of you knew that he was accepted at Juilliard at age 6? Throughout his life and career he managed to win Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards. He is also one of two people in the field who brought home a Pulitzer Prize. Don’t think that “Marvin” is a dull biography. This book is so good that families can enjoy it together since it is aimed at middle school age kids to adults. Since so many youngsters and parents are spending more time together at home these days, this book is a real theater treat.
Hamlisch is a name that will quickly be identified with “A Chorus Line,” “They’re Playing Our Song,” and many other theater and film scores. This delightfully insightful and entertaining book has an easy read format like a graphic novel, one of the latest trends in literature. While it looks like a colorful soft-covered book, the interior reads in an almost comic book style. Along with fascinating facts, there’s plenty of humor here in both the dialogue and illustrations.
What is important is that the story is beautifully presented here by Marsden. Imagine Hamlisch at age 6 being accepted at Juilliard. Really. Imagine his father was an accordion player and that his Jewish parents left Vienna to avoid the Nazis. The narration of it is exciting. It almost seems unimaginable that this brilliant composer and conductor really enjoyed playing stickball in the streets of New York as a kid.
“Marvin” is presented consistently as a very nervous guy. When he was young he was quoted as saying, “I would throw up before every recital. There wasn’t a men’s room on Juilliard’s six floors that had not seen the pale, quivering form of young Mr. Hamlisch.” This nervousness remained with him up to adulthood.
While studying classic composition and conducting, as a teen Marvin fell in love with the rock-and-roll of the 1950s. He started writing his own songs and dreamed of becoming an instant success. It didn’t happen quite that way. What proves that fate has a way of influencing lives came about when his parents decided to enroll him in a junior high school that wasn’t too demanding since he was still attending Juilliard and practicing piano two hours a day. It was also the school where Liza Minnelli attended. That was a major turning point for Marvin. It led him to the world of theater and Broadway.
Cleverly illustrated with sepia-colored pages denoting the past, and bright Crayola colors for the majority of the book, this publication is a five-star winner.
Joanne Greco Rochman is a founding member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.