Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Letters to the Editor

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Letters to the Editor

Article excerpt

AS A PASSIONATE READER of the magazine with my own small Sondheim connection, I must take issue with an inference in Christopher Weimer's review of Meryle Secrest's Shoot the Widow. Referring to Somewhere for Me: A Life of Richard Rodgers, Mr. Weimer says that Ms. Secrest "found herself so enthusiastically embraced by Rodgers' family and intimates that she could not help but disappoint them when [the book] proved less sunny than the image of the composer they cherished." Please, may I beg The Sondheim Review not to compound a felony here?

The truth is that we all opened our doors and our files, and anything else we knew existed, and helped guide her to sources and people, in the hopes she would come up with a book that would explain to the world who this man was and where his music came from. If we had wanted a book that gave a "sunny message" of Richard Rodgers, we would have written it ourselves. The problem was simply that Ms. Secrest failed to write the book she should have written. It's too cheap a shot to blame the standard-issue biography that she came up with on us. When she writes in Shoot the Widow of the "kitschy view of life expressed in the [Rodgers and Hammerstein] musicals, which were written a half-century ago for a much more sentimental taste" and of Rodgers falling "under the ominous saccharine spell of Oscar Hammerstein," it should make any reader question just how unbiased she was going to be and just how well she, as a biographer, understood her subject.

Ms. Secrest's final comment in her chapter on the Rodgers book in Shoot the Widow was that Mary Rodgers preferred the title The Sweetest Sounds over Somewhere for Me because that would indicate the sunny side of Richard Rodgers. Quite to the contrary. If Ms. Secrest had done her work properly, she would have given us all an examination of this complicated man who lives on because of the output and acknowledged quality of his music. The Sweetest Sounds would have been the right title for that book. Somewhere for Me is the proper title for Ms. Secrest's mediocre book, and I only wish she would have been impartial enough to admit her own failure and not blame it on those of us who did nothing but help her.

Ted Chapin

President and Executive Director

The Rodgers & Hammerstein

Organization

New York City

FOR THE LAST 47 YEARS THE MEDIA have been incorrect in reporting that the film version of West Side Story won 10 Oscars. There was an 11th that is always overlooked because it was a special Oscar awarded to Jerome Robbins for "his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film." The only reason the movie did not receive an official Oscar for its choreography was because there had been no official category since 1937. But who would deny that the choreography was every bit as deserving of an Oscar as the other elements of the movie? Certainly the Academy realized this serious omission and created a special award so many years after the category was abandoned. We should not, then, ignore this Oscar as it is in some ways more deserving than the others, having received special consideration. It is time the media is corrected whenever 10 Oscars are mentioned. Even on the official West Side Story Web site, in the fact sheet section of the archives, only 10 Oscars are mentioned. …

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