THE BOOK SHELF: Ken Ludwig on Shakespeare, Peter Filichia on Musicals, an Encyclopedia of Jerome Kern

By Steven Suskin
14 Jul 2013

But taking your copy of this book and sitting down with a six-year-old? How exactly would that work? I would have gladly tried to do so with my children at that age, although I don't know how far we would have gotten. (I expect that Ludwig, with a memory bank full of Shakespeare, could whittle away at it on long walks and car rides without needing to drill them from a book.) At the same time, I've just watched my 13-year-old spend a semester learning — and learning to appreciate — A Midsummer's Night Dream. It worked out fine, but I can only imagine how far ahead he'd have been if he walked in proficient in Ludwig's first 50 pages.

Part of me wants to test this by giving a copy of the book to some friends who have twins about to start kindergarten. Something about it, though, sounds like it would be one of those presumptuous gifts that could put caring, hard-working parents on the spot. I would certainly imagine that with the right parent and the right kid, Ludwig's method would work like a midsummer dream.

More to the point, though, is whether "How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare" will help you — a non-child, presumably — to brush up your Shakespeare? Most decidedly, forsooth.


Cover art

Peter Filichia, Broadway's cheerleader-in-chief, is back with another book. "Strippers, Showgirls and Sharks" [St. Martin's Press] it's called; if you cannot instantly identify at least two of the musicals he is referring to in the title, then you're reading the wrong column. If you realize that the show in the middle is Follies, sandwiched by the more obvious Gypsy and West Side Story, you'll guess that he either has Sondheim on the brain or is launching into a discussion of Shows That Didn't Win the Best Musical Tony Award. Or both.

Filichia concentration is indeed on musicals that lost the Tony Award, 153 of them. (Far more than 153 musicals didn't win the Tony, of course; the author restricts himself to shows that were nominated but lost. This leaves out titles like the non-nominated Camelot, although Filichia uses his prerogative to discuss that one, anyway.)