Books on Ballet, Circus, Theatre, Musicals, Horror Movies, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Morecambe and Wise

Books on Ballet, Circus, Theatre, Musicals, Horror Movies, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Morecambe and Wise

Robert Tanitch’s Round-up of Books No 3 (2018)

Ballet: The Definitive Illustrated Story (Dorling Kindersley £25). A magnificent selection of images from 1550 to the present day, from Louis IV (The Sun King) to Carlos Acosta and covering story line and different productions and major performers, composers, choreographers, designers. Every page, 360 of them, with its beautiful images and informative texts, is a delight. Where do I start? Carlotta Grisi and Jean Coralli in Giselle, Tchaikovsky and Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty, Anna Pavlova’ The Dying Swan, Diaghilev, Nijinsky in Le Spectre de la Rose, The Rite of Spring, Leon Bakst, Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev in Romeo and Juliet, Maurice Bejart, Spartacus, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, Kenneth MacMillan, Mikhail Baryshnikov. I have hardly begun. There is so much more. This is a lovely book for anybody who loves ballet.


The Circus: A Visual History by Pascal Jacob (Bloomsbury £30). The nearest I came to the roll-up, roll-up, sawdust and tinsel thing was when I was very young and saw a Moscow circus in a stadium. I have seen Slava’s Snowshow and visiting Chinese and Japanese companies on poles and bicycles in theatres. But any knowledge I have of circus is limited to such films as Les Enfants du Paradis, Freaks, La Strada, The Greatest Show on Erath and Lola Montez. So this beautiful book, with its fantastic illustrations of clowns, acrobats, trapeze artists, elephant, lions, even camels, and the buildings and the brightly coloured posters, is an authoritative mine of information and real visual treat. How I wish that I had seen equestrians Philip Stanley and Mon Ducrow, the Joan of Arc/Nero spectaculars, Barnum and Bailey, Grimaldi and Grock.


Dramatic Exchanges: The lives and Letters of the National Theatre selected and edited by Daniel Rosenthal (Profile Books £25). Here’s a good enjoyable and invaluable read for all theatre lovers: Eileen Atkins auditions for Ophelia; a contretemps between George Devine and Kenneth Tynan on how Becket should be performed; Ian McKellen turns down a three-year contract; Derek Jacobi is frustrated at the lack of star roles; Maggie Smith is heartbroken that Laurence Olivier does not cast her as Millamant in Congreve’s Way of the World; Paul Scofield turns down Shylock; a bruising relationship between between John Osborne and Peter Hall; Michael Blakemore resigns; John Dexter want some of the royalities of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus; the furore over Howard Brenton’s Romans in Britain; and much, much more.


Les Miserables: The Story So Far of the World’s Longest Running Musical by Martyn Palmer (Carlton Books £20). Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg and Herbert Kretmer’s musical version of Victor Hugo’s novel opened at the Barbican in 1985, transferred to the West End and has been running there ever since and all over the world. The arrival of the film version (with Hugh Jackman as ex-prisoner Jean Valjean and Russell Crowe as police inspector Jarvet) actually increased the box-office receipts at the theatre. This volume is a splendid souvenir for all those who have enjoyed the musical. Producer Cameron Mackintosh thinks the London run of Les Miserables will outlive him.


The Definitive Guide to Horror Movies by James Marriott and Kim Newman (Carlton Books £20). 333 films to scare you to death are more than enough for a lifetime of fun/revulsion. Horror has never been my favourite film genre. However, looking through this guide I am reminded just how wide the genre is and just how many films I have enjoyed. The Innocents, The Birds, Dead at Night, Don’t Look Now, The Wicker Man, The Shining, Misery, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Psycho, Les Diaboliques, Jaws, etc, etc.


The Complete Michael Jackson by Chris Roberts The Man, The Music, The Movies, The Magic by Chris Roberts (Carlton Books £25). Michael Jackson (1958-2009), the charismatic, energetic King of Pop, who made his debut at 6, and went on to become one of the world’s most popular, influential and groundbreaking entertainer for four decades. (“I’m a perfectionist. I strive. I work till I drop.”) Trigger, the best-selling album ever made, sold 50 million copies worldwide. He died in 2009 but his legend lives on. He is as popular now as he always was. Trigger, the stage show, continues to play to full houses in the West End.


Ricochet: David Bowie 1983: An Intimate Portrait by Denis O’Regan (Particular Books £30). One of the world’s best-selling music artists reached the peak of popularity and commercial success in 1983, which was a remarkably happy year. There are over 300 personal never before seen photographs from his official photographer. They record Bowie’s life on the road during Serious Moonlight which was his largest tour ever and featured 99 concerts in over 60 cities. Collectors and his fans will be delighted by these full page portraits.


Morecambe & Wise: 50 Years of Sunshine by Sam Morecambe (Carlton Books £20) is a scrapbook for fans with lots of photographs and scripts and facts. Eric and Ernie, who had been a double act since 1949, went on to highjack every Christmas. Famous people wanted to be on their show. They were unique in that the straight man (Ernie) was the klutz whilst the comic (Eric) was the brighter of the two. Eric directed the comedy meticulously. If I had to choose one sketch, it would have to be the hilarious and brilliantly choreographed Breakfast sketch. What else could it be?


To learn more about Robert Tanitch and his reviews, click here to go to his website