Broadway North by Mel Atkey - Reviewed by Peter Pinne

Broadway North by Mel Atkey - Reviewed by Peter Pinne

Mel Atkey’s book, sub-titled “The Dream of a Canadian Musical Theatre,” almost parallels the Australian experience, in that Canada’s desire to develop a vibrant song-and-dance culture of their own has been thwarted somewhat by their easy access to Broadway and West End product. Book-ended by the country’s two biggest international successes, Anne of Green Gables (London 1965) and The Drowsy Chaperone (Broadway 2006), and documenting everything that came in between, it’s a fascinating look into a musical theatre culture that’s had scant recognition in print before. Atkey’s definition of musical theatre is wide, as he also encompasses the revue and cabaret genres. His research reveals some of the world’s top musical theatre actors were/are Canadian: Robert Goulet, Larry Kert, Len Cariou and Victor Garber, as well as the legendary comediennes Beatrice Lillie and Anna Russell. We learn that Anne of Green Gables, which started as a TV production in 1956, played the Charlottetown Festival for 41 years, that the revue Spring Thaw was the inspiration for Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In, and that Galt MacDermot, the composer of Hair, started out writing songs for the McGill University revue, My Fur Lady. Atkey, himself a composer with an Off-Broadway credit (A Little Princess 2003), has done a terrific job in amassing all the detail and interviewing the key players. It’s well-documented, full of facts, and a compelling read for any musical theatre buff. Highly recommended.
Peter Pinne

Originally published in the September / October edition of Stage Whispers