Queen's University

Life is a Cabaret ol' chum

A new Oxford University Press edition of Mississauga, ON, poet-theatre critic Keith Garebian's 1999 book on the musical Cabaret is a treat for anyone who loves this classic Broadway play.

At first blush, Review readers who recall Keith Garebian, PhD’73, as a poet – and as the runner-up in the magazine’s 2004 and 2008 "Well-Versed" poetry competitions – might be surprised to learn that he is the author of a book on the stage musical Cabaret.

True, Keith is internationally known (with four books of verse to his credit, and 18 books in total), but he also enjoys a reputation as a theatre critic and essayist. That’s why a small Toronto publisher (ECW Press) ­approached Keith almost two decades ago to ask if he’d be interested in writing a series of critical studies of popular Broadway musicals.

Keith Garebian's book The Making of Cabaret

“At the time, I wasn’t much of a fan of such shows. I thought they were fluff,” Keith recalls. “But I said, ‘Sure, I’ll think about it.”

After doing so, he changed his tune. Keith found himself intrigued by the strong storylines, compelling music, and back stories of five of Broadway’s most popular and enduring musicals: My Fair Lady, Gypsy, West Side Story, Cabaret, and Guys and Dolls. So he set to work writing about each of these shows.
The books garnered favourable reviews and attracted readers who are fans of the individual shows and of the stage-musical genre, resulting in American book club sales. However, when the original publisher sold the series rights to another publisher, it proved problematic. To make a long (and unpleasant) story short, Keith wasn’t happy to discover that his new publisher was not paying him for national and foreign sales, though the books went into three printings. In their acrimonious parting of the ways, Keith acquired the copyright on the five books.

When an American academic who had used some of his books for her graduate course in musical theatre suggested he contact Oxford University Press, the world’s largest academic publisher, to gauge the company’s possible interest in reissuing the books, Keith did so. The response he got was a prompt and enthusiastic “Yes!”

The first of the reissues, The Making of Cabaret, is now available from OUP ($21.95 Can.).“I’ve updated the book, which now contains a lot of new material,” says Keith. “I write about the original Broadway production, the 1972 film version directed by Bob Fosse, and several of the important new stagings of the show – one of them being at the Stratford Festival in 2008.”

The 232-page softcover book chronicles each production with a wealth of fascinating background, photos, and Keith’s critical assessments. The result is a lively, entertaining, and informative read for anyone who’s interested in the show. That includes Broadway legend Hal Prince, who directed Cabaret when it debuted in New York in 1966. Keith spoke with Prince while updating his book, and found him “open, candid, and extremely generous” – so much so that Keith has dedicated the book to him.

Queen's Alumni Review, 2011 Issue #3Queen's Alumni Review
2011 Issue #3
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