Book Review: SHOWBIZ (Dress Circle Publishing)

by Sarah Taylor Ellis on February 3, 2013

in Extras

Sarah Taylor Ellis' Stage and Cinema review of SHOWBIZMOUNTING OLYMPUS

Think of it as Twilight for the theater geek or Smash in literary form. You may love to hate it or hate to love it, but Ruby Preston’s new novel Showbiz is an undeniable page-turner: a fabulously fun, fictional glimpse into the drama of mounting a Broadway musical today.

Scarlett Savoy is an aspirational young Broadway producer who has toiled as an assistant to the legendary and ruthless veteran producer Mr. Margolies for four years. Margolies’ latest production – the aptly named Olympus – is the most ambitious Broadway musical to date; it features a rock band writing team, a star-studded cast, multi-million dollar sets, and spectacular stunts. (Sound familiar?) Yet the suicide of critic Ken Kanter sends shockwaves across the theater industry just before Olympus’ opening night. As Scarlett continues to work on Margolies’ ambitious project and starts to fall for Broadway gossip columnist Reilly Mitchell, she grows suspicious of her boss’s ties to Kanter, who had the power to kill a show with a single review.

To be sure, the writing is uneven and often cliché. Preston also has a tendency to name drop a place like Sardi’s or a theater concept like understudies and diverge from the plot to provide a definition. I would have loved such detailed insider knowledge as a teen living far from the NYC theater scene, but the style does feel unnecessarily didactic at times and can pull the reader out of the story – especially in the early chapters.

Despite these few stylistic faults, the story is outrageously addictive. Showbiz thrives on thinly concealed caricatures of theatrical figures who are all too familiar on the Great White Way: the domineering David Merrick-like producer, the gossipy Michael Reidel-style journalist, and – most importantly – the determined young apprentice getting her chance at Broadway fame.

While solving the mystery of Kanter’s suicide and falling in love, Scarlett also strikes out on her own to produce a fresh new musical off-Broadway: Swan Song, which has the glimmering potential for a future Broadway run. I expect Scarlett’s honesty and ambition will make her a role model for many a young girl, who will eagerly anticipate her future theatrical adventures.

by Ruby Preston
Dress Circle Publishing, 2012, Paperback and Kindle on Amazon
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