PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Eddie Shapiro, Author of "Nothing Like A Dame: Conversations with the Great Women of Musical Theater"

By Ben Rimalower
07 Feb 2014

Donna Murphy

You state in the book that many of the interviews were split up over several sessions. Was that part of the initial plan?

ES: Partly, I mean, some of those interviews went eight and ten hours long. For example, Donna Murphy can talk. I mean I can talk to her for two and-a-half hours and only get up to 1978. And then, like, one woman said initially, "I'll give you 90 minutes." So, of course, I said, "Okay, great," knowing that we would then want more time. Or with Sutton [Foster] I first talked to her in 2008 and couldn't schedule the rest of the session until 2009. But then she did Anything Goes, so I had to sit down with her again.

What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

ES: The inspiration, actually, came from Barbara Cook, from Barbara Cook concerts and listening to her talk about the great Golden Age and working with Rodgers & Hammerstein and working with Leonard Bernstein and Jule Styne. I would think, always, I wanted more, more, more, more! It also occurred to me she was getting older and wasn't going to be around forever and I wanted to capture some of these stories before they went away. So, that's kind of what started the idea and then I thought, "Well, why stop at Barbara Cook?"

And so why wasn't Barbara Cook included in the book?

ES: God, it makes me so sad, because that was one of my favorite chapters, but then [after completing the interview], Barbara asked me not to include it because she's working on her own book, and wanted to sort of save the stuff.

It's a testament to the intimacy you achieved with these women that she could think your chapter might supplant her own book in some way?

ES: These women were just shockingly candid, shockingly candid. Some of my preparation for the interviews with these women, I know their careers, I obviously know everything that they've done — and I've seen so much of what they've done, but I would still do a ton of research because I wanted to see what they had said to the press before, so that I wasn't repeating stories, or so that I would recognize a story they had told to the press before, at least, so that if I heard it, I could sort of twist the conversation in another direction. And I was amazed by how much I was hearing that I'd never seen in print before.