NEW YORK – New York Post Columnist and WOR Radio Host Michael Riedel has a new book out about Broadway in the nineties.
Frank DiLella sat down with the author, who spoke about The Great White Way directly following September 11th, and how it is fairing now amid the global pandemic.
What You Need To Know
- New York Post Columnist and WOR Radio Host Michael Riedel has a new book out
- “Singular Sensation: The Triumph of Broadway” is about Broadway in the nineties
- Frank DiLella sat down with the author, who spoke about The Great White Way directly following September 11th, and how it is fairing now amid a global pandemic
“The book is about Broadway in the nineties,” said the author, Riedel. “It was a time when Broadway really came into the mainstream of American popular culture. When you had shows like “Rent” and “Chicago,” “The Lion King,” “The Producers,” I mean, these shows were as well-known and as popular as any television program or movie,” Riedel said.
“So before “Rent” you had these very expensive shows: “Cats,” “Phantom of the Opera,” ” Les Misérables,” “Miss Saigon,” “Sunset Boulevard.””Rent” cost nothing and crucially, it was also contemporary. Here’s a show that was about young people set in New York City at the time, dealing with things such as homelessness, ethnicity, Gay culture, AIDS. And then just a few months after “Rent,” you get “Chicago.” Why is “Chicago” successful? People forget this. What was going on? The OJ Simpson Trial. I mean, Johnnie Cochran is Billy Flynn,” Riedel said, referring to the showman type lawyer character in “Chicago.”
Riedel also credits Disney for making Broadway a part of the mainstream, specifically with their production of “The Lion King.” Soon after, Broadway continued to remain in the zeitgeist with the introduction of “The Producers” starring Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane. One of the hottest shows in history, winning the most Tony awards ever of any Broadway show.
“Just when Broadway was at its height, what happens – September 11th. How can Broadway possibly go on? I mean, Times Square was on the list of top 10 targets for [Mayor Rudy] Giuliani. He wanted to try to get an hour’s sleep that night and he couldn’t sleep of course. So he picked up a biography of Winston Churchill and he read in this book that when the Germans were bombing London, Churchill insisted that the Theatres, The Opera, The Ballet, The Symphony, they all go on because he wanted a signal to the world, to the Germans, you’re not going to destroy us,” Riedel recounted of Broadway’s response after September 11.
Though the bridges and tunnels into Manhattan were closed, Giuliani allowed those who worked on Broadway free passage in, and the show went on just two days after the 9/11 attacks.
“After September 11th, we all wanted to come together. You wanted to be with people. The problem with the coronavirus is you can’t be with people. There’s nothing more communal, nothing that brings people together more than live theater,” Riedel said.
“I think Broadway will figure out a way to get back up. I think the unknowable is when will people feel comfortable. When will tourists feel comfortable coming back? The only plus I can see is ticket prices will have to come down to entice people to come back to Broadway,” Riedel concluded.
“Singular Sensation: The Triumph of Broadway” is now available for purchase.