Saturday, January 18

Lighting the way


The bright lights of Broadway are flashing. Consider them
warning lights.

UCLA graduate theater student Jodie Langel’s new tell-all
book on the ins and outs of life on Broadway might ultimately
celebrate that life ““ as do hundreds of other books already
on the shelves. But through the voices of over 150 Broadway stars,
including Jason Alexander and Antonio Banderas, Langel embarks on a
frank, funny and sometimes heartbreaking journey that frequently
exposes the unglamorous underbelly of Broadway.

Langel’s extensive use of an impressive array of quotes
from an all-star cast culled over a four-year period makes her book
unique, and the multiple voices are presented in a cohesive format
that makes for a refreshing read.

“This book was never meant to be about one
individual,” said Langel, speaking by phone from New York,
where her book was officially launched last week. “It’s
about collecting all these experiences. It isn’t about one
voice. It’s not about Antonio Banderas’ career or about
my career. It’s about all of us together and how all these
experiences are so shared and so universal.”

Langel, herself a veteran of several prominent Broadway shows
including “Les Miserables” and “Cats,”
never imagined that she would end up writing a book about Broadway.
It was her co-author and boyfriend of 10 years, David Wienir, a New
York-based entertainment lawyer, who encouraged her to put pen to
paper.

“David “¦ was kind of living these experiences with
me, through me doing all these shows,” said Langel.
“After I finished my last Broadway show, … David and I sat
down and said, “˜We really need to write about these
experiences.'”

It then came down to the task of scoring enough interviews to
cover the spectrum of topics Langel and Wienir wanted to discuss, a
task Langel recalls with a lot of pride and fondness.

“The (Broadway) community is very small, so it
wasn’t too difficult getting interviews,” said Langel.
“I would simply call them and say, “˜I would like to
interview you for this book,’ and people just opened their
hearts to us. I’d find myself sitting in dressing rooms and
having these three-hour conversations. In a lot of these
interviews, people ended up in tears and thanked us so much for
doing this. This was something that people were ready to talk
about, but nobody was asking the right questions.”

Langel once considered naming her book “The Base of the
Tony is Plastic” (a working title that survives as a chapter
title in the book) before eventually settling for the more
conventional (and, hence, ironically more commercial) title of
“Making It on Broadway.” But her working title perhaps
hits closer to the heart of the book, which refuses to skirt
stories of compromises made along the path to stardom and broader
issues concerning the commoditization, commercialization and what
insiders refer to as the “Disneyfication” of
Broadway.

In fact, “Making It on Broadway” goes for the
jugular right off the bat. Tony Award-winner Jose Rubinstein offers
a killer quote in the book’s opening section: “If there
is anything else that lights your fire, go that way. Avoid this
mess. The only way to walk up that hill, with the avalanche pouring
down on you, is if it’s the only direction you can possibly
go.”

Langel, who is currently a teaching assistant and in her second
year of UCLA’s Master of Fine Arts theater acting program,
feels that her new book is not meant to be a deterrent, but instead
an eye-opener for both students of theater and the ordinary
theatergoer or layperson.

“I tell all my students (at UCLA) if they want to make it
to Broadway ““ and many of them do, that’s why
they’re in the program ““ to go read my book,”
said Langel. “There are so many misconceptions about the
lifestyle of a Broadway performer, that it’s so glamorous,
and it’s easy, and you work only a couple of hours a night.
“¦ But it’s tough work, and it’s especially tough
when you train and work your whole life to get there, and when you
get there, it’s not exactly what you imagined it to
be.”

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