Showbiz, A Novel
Author: Ruby Preston
Published By: Dress Circle Publishing
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I was sent promotional material for the debut novel from Award-winning Broadway producer Ruby Preston, I was intrigued. A fictional story about what takes place behind the scenes of Broadway musicals - the gossip, the romances, the backstabbing - from a person who would clearly be knowledgeable about the workings of such things sounded incredibly interesting. I fired off an email right away - I wanted to get my hands on a review copy of Showbiz, A Novel.
When Ken Kanter, the chief theater critic of the New York Banner, commits suicide, it seems like no great loss to Scarlett Savoy. Actually, it seems like a blessing or poetic justice. After all, this is the critic that just panned her boss' latest project. For the last four years, Scarlett has been apprenticing under Margolies, one of the most successful Broadway producers out there. Kanter had been known for his vicious reviews that could make or break theater projects. His suicide is the topic of gossip everywhere. Who would replace Kanter as chief theater critic and will he be as nasty as Kanter? And was there any truth to the rumors that the top critic at the Banner was not actually writing honest reviews, but being paid to trash or praise?
In only a couple of days, Scarlett finds herself completely embroiled in the drama surrounding Kanter's death. Could it be that Margolies is involved in this reviewer scandal? How much will Scarlett be willing to sacrifice to uncover the truth? Will she do the right thing only to discover that she has destroyed every chance of achieving her dream of becoming a Broadway producer?
When I first started reading Showbiz, A Novel, I wondered if this book was really a whodunit. Would we be made to think that Kanter's death was a suicide when it was really murder? As I read on, I realized that there was a great deal more depth to this novel than I had originally anticipated. Sure, this is a story about the grittier side of Broadway, but there is so much more here.
Preston uses likable characters and an engaging story to discuss real life issues affecting Broadway. She discusses the lack of original musicals thanks to the toting of various revivals of older musicals. She delves into the burial of smaller productions by larger productions featuring awe-inspiring pyrotechnics and special effects. Could this be a jab at productions like Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark? She also brings to light the bandwidth issues on Broadway, something I never realized before reading this novel. Apparently there is a theory that someone with high-powered technology could accidentally cause an interruption of service to things like wireless microphones, audio systems, special effects and more, virtually bringing a show to its knees in minutes. She even alludes to a presentation made by theater producers to an FCC executive to prove a point about unlicensed white space frequencies. Intrigued, I did a little research and found out this really can happen and the demonstration really did take place. Check out more on the issue at Silent Musicals: Why Smartphones Kill Theater.
Showbiz, A Novel, is an impressive debut. Ruby Preston doesn't seem like a freshman novelist. In fact, I found her writing to be on par with authors who have been churning out novels for years. Her characters are believable and easy to relate to and I'm not just talking about the good guys and gals in the novel. We can all point to someone in our lives that are very close to being represented by the villains in this novel. The story is interesting and I loved the way the story took such an unexpected twist. Remember, I was thinking this was going to be a whodunit - I'm glad it wasn't. After all, the direction this novel took was much more interesting and original than a "Who Killed the Critic?" would have been.
Showbiz, A Novel is an excellent debut novel. I can't wait to see what else Ruby Preston has to offer.