Eva Maze: With Ballet in My Soul

A life spanning close to 100 years is noteworthy, if only because of its longevity. The rich life of a woman committed to a professional vision ahead of its time, filled with glamour, excitement, and adventure, is truly remarkable. Narrated in her own words, this is the story of such a woman, Eva Maze, who, from the time she left Romania as a teenager in 1939, dreamed of being a ballet dancer, and through a series a circumstances, became instead one of the most successful theatrical impresarios in Europe – with a career spanning more than 40 years.

Now in her nineties, Maze looks back at the path and passion that led her from Bucharest to the United States as an immigrant, and then, as a married woman, back again to Europe and Asia, where she found her professional calling.

Set against key historical events of the 20th century, including the building of the Berlin Wall, the massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, as well as the rise and fall of Pan American Airlines, Maze’s fascinating past is brought to life through a combination of serious commentary and amusing anecdotes about the risks and rewards of the business side of theater and dance, some of the personalities who were part of those worlds from the 1940s to the 1990s, her own motivation for being an impresario, and her personal life. Her narration is supported by more than 250 captivating historical and modern images going back to her birth in 1922.

Representing artists and companies abroad from a vast array of talent in the performing arts of the time – including The Alvin Ailey Dance Company, The Living Theatre, and The Swingle Singers – this unique woman became a prolific producer of more than 100 different types of theatrical programs from the world of dance, music, mime, cabaret, and drama.

When the publisher contacted me about Eva Maze’s memoir, the stunning woman on the cover caught my attention immediately. After reading the captivating summary, I couldn’t say no to the review request. I was expecting a regular black and white print copy, but when it arrived, I opened the envelope to find a BEAUTIFUL 200 page full-color coffee-table book!

We all have that one neighbor that we want to know more about–she’s lead the most interesting life, and if we could just sit down for tea with her we know we’d learn a lifetime of history. Eva Maze is one of those people, and opening With Ballet in My Soul is that afternoon tea. So you better have a big pot ready, because you’re not going to want to move from your couch until you finish listening to everything she has to tell you.

Eva has been pretty much everywhere. She was born in Romania in the 20s, and then convinced her parents to move to the US so she could see the World’s Fair–THE YEAR BEFORE HITLER INVADED. Her wanderlust saved her family, and from then on she just never stopped globetrotting. Ballet had a great influence on her life, and this book is intertwined with music and theatre and great talent.

But what I really loved about it were the pictures. Usually when you read a memoir, the pictures are a second thought that the publisher tosses into the center of the book. Not here. They are published along with the story, and as I said before, this is in full-color. It’s the kind of book you want to leave around for someone to idly pick up now and then, and glance through–though definitely actually read it. It doesn’t take long!

Moonstone Press provided a copy of this book for unbiased review. Affiliate links included in this post.

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Hamilton: The Revolution

Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Eleven Tony Awards, including Best Musical

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking musical Hamilton is as revolutionary as its subject, the poor kid from the Caribbean who fought the British, defended the Constitution, and helped to found the United States. Fusing hip-hop, pop, R&B, and the best traditions of theater, this once-in-a-generation show broadens the sound of Broadway, reveals the storytelling power of rap, and claims our country’s origins for a diverse new generation.

HAMILTON: THE REVOLUTION gives readers an unprecedented view of both revolutions, from the only two writers able to provide it. Miranda, along with Jeremy McCarter, a cultural critic and theater artist who was involved in the project from its earliest stages–“since before this was even a show,” according to Miranda–traces its development from an improbable perfor­mance at the White House to its landmark opening night on Broadway six years later. In addition, Miranda has written more than 200 funny, revealing footnotes for his award-winning libretto, the full text of which is published here.

Their account features photos by the renowned Frank Ockenfels and veteran Broadway photographer, Joan Marcus; exclusive looks at notebooks and emails; interviews with Questlove, Stephen Sond­heim, leading political commentators, and more than 50 people involved with the production; and multiple appearances by Presi­dent Obama himself. The book does more than tell the surprising story of how a Broadway musical became a national phenomenon: It demonstrates that America has always been renewed by the brash upstarts and brilliant outsiders, the men and women who don’t throw away their shot.

I just finished reading what is affectionately called The Hamiltome. So don’t worry, I’m not sobbing or anything.

I promise.

I’m perfectly fine.

And if you believe that, then look under your seats because I bought you all front row tickets to tonight’s performance of Hamilton.

I didn’t think it was possible for me to love this musical any more than I already do, at least not until I actually get to see it. Then I read the book. MY HEART IS EXPLODING. With as shitty as the last two years have been, we have been so blessed to have Lin-Manuel Miranda right now. I don’t know where his creative genius comes from, but I am so thankful he is sharing it with us.

The Hamiltome as a book alone is gorgeous–the pictures are stunning, and the text is formatted like an old-school pamphlet. Jeremy McCarter wrote two page chapter introductions to explain the creation process of each section of the show:  set design, LMM’s writing process, casting, workshopping, etc. Then a few songs follow, with LMM’s notes in the margins.

Those notes are definitely the best part. Some are funny, some are sad, some are just interesting. But all give us just a hint of just how fast and deep LMM’s brain works. He is no where close to the rest of us. We are not worthy.

If you are a fan, you need to pick this up. I’m telling you now, put it on your birthday list, Christmas list, Must Buy list. Do it. Click the linky below.

Don’t throw away your shot.

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Alexander Hamilton

What’s your name, man?

Alexander Hamilton. My name is Alexander Hamilton. There’s a million things I haven’t done. Just you wait, just you wait.

Why yes, I did just sing that from memory. I *might* be a little obsessed. OK…more than a little.

GUYS GO LISTEN TO HAMILTON IMMEDIATELY I COMMAND YOU.

SON. CALL ME SON ONE MORE TIME.

Dammit. Sorry, I did it again.

As if my Hamilton obsession couldn’t get any worse, I just finished the 730 page Ron Chernow biography that Lin Manuel Miranda based his musical after. And by that, I don’t just mean he took a few facts from it, oh no. GUYS, I COULD MATCH THE RHYTHM TO THE ENTIRE BIOGRAPHY. Have you ever read a 730 page biography in rap? It makes it SO much more interesting. I wish Lin Manuel Miranda could teach us all of the history. We would understand so much more.

Hello, Mr. Next President, do you want to save the schools? This is what you need to do. Hire LMM to produce our curriculum. Post to the internet. Done. Teenagers will now be engaged. They will even create fanart.

But I’m getting away from the actual biography again. For the most part, it’s exactly the same as the George Washington one that I read several months ago. It’s very long and very dry. There is SO much research here, and he does a brilliant job. It’s a 730 page history, though, and while Hamilton is very interesting, there’s only so much you can do to make it not boring. And that is to get LMM to make a musical about it. Seriously, Chernow needs to kiss LMM’s feet for the amount of extra book sales he is getting out of this. I couldn’t find it anywhere because it was sold out.

Sorry. Sorry. The book. Right. It’s a solid biography. If you like biographies, read it. If you are interested in the founding fathers, read it. If you’ve previously read Ron Chernow’s work and liked it, read it. If you are obsessed with the musical…it’s going to be a toss up. Because I’m a book nerd and will read EVERYTHING, I say read it–but I also think there are a lot of musical nuts who may start this monster and just really not care for it at all. It’s a beast. Just know what you are getting into when you pick it up, and if you’re used to fiction and never read NonF, this may not be the book for you.

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Fulfills Bibliophilicwitch’s #BigBookChallenge

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It Happened on Broadway

I grew up in a family that loves musical theatre. From the time I was young, we watched Disney movies and acted them out in our living room. The carpet was light blue, so it was often the ocean. Or, in the reenactment I remember most vividly, it was the Nile River, since The Prince of Egypt was one of my absolute favorites. The music in that one, am I right? I’m pretty sure we have video of it somewhere, too. Gawd.

Oh, and of course there were church plays. My most notable performance being some weird joke about taxes during “We Like Sheep.” The adults all though it was hilarious, but my partner and I had no idea what was so funny. I sure wish I could remember the punchline now. Something about keeping receipts in a shoebox. *shrug*

My sisters and father were also pretty heavy in our local community theater, show choir, the works. I was much happier putting on plays at home than in front of people, so I stayed in the audience.

Then I met my husband, who was equally enthralled with the theatre–I’ve told you about that before.

All this to say, when I saw It Happened on Broadway on Netgalley, I jumped at the chance to read it. I thought it was going to be a grand history of the stage, an in depth look at some of the most favorite actors, producers, etc.

Unfortunately…I did not get what I wanted. For people who grew up in the golden age of Broadway (that is to say, people much older than myself, living in New York City), this may be the perfect book. They are going to be intimately acquainted with the people speaking in this oral memoir.

But for me, this was a bunch of mumbo jumbo. I knew exactly one person–Carol Channing.

And instead of that grand history? It was as if I was at a party, trying to grasp on to pieces of conversation from everyone around me. I was so confused. This is the type of introvert nightmare that I avoid! There’s no structure, no chapters or themes. Just a bunch of people thrown together talking.

Now, maybe if this were done documentary style on camera where we could see the vibrant personalities, this would have worked terrifically. But with words on a page, it was lacking something.

As much as I love theatre and history, I am just not the target market for this book. It’s too bounce-around, and I’m just not familiar with the contributors. I mostly skimmed through and read a few, grabbing memories from people I recognized, but I just couldn’t finish the whole thing. It didn’t hold my attention long enough. I am not going to completely discredit it, though, because I am sure there are a lot of people who are going to find this oral history extremely amusing. It was just wasn’t for me.

 

Disclaimer:  I was given an ecopy of this book by Netgalley for review.