Wednesday, 26 November 2014

New review in Studies in Musical Theatre

At long last, my book A Million Miles from Broadway has been reviewed in the current issue of Studies in Musical Theatre. The reviewer is Ji Hong Yu of  City University of New York Graduate Centre.  I should begin by saying that she takes some issue with the fact that it was not written in a scholarly style, a criticism that I must say I wear as a badge of honour.  However, the overall tone is positive: As the first of its kind to compile the accounts of the recent developments in musical theatre across time and place, his book is particularly timely as there is a growing interest by scholars, producers and journalists in the transnational circulation, production and popularity of musical theatre, both of  English-speaking musicals and non-English-speaking musicals... He writes in the first-person, and uses a number of his personal experiences and interviews as examples, which makes the chapters seem less scholarly, and more like a series of on-line blog postings written by well-informed industry personnel... His book can still serve as a valuable resource for those who are entering the field of international musical theatre, given the scarcity of resources on musical theatre outside New York and London that are accessible to an English-speaking readership.  Perhaps the greatest value that I find in Atkeys book is that it... questions the widely accepted western-centric definition of musical theatre, and challenges scholars to find a way to discuss musicals that are more layered in their origins and influences... Atkeys book can definitely be a springboard for further research in this area.


Mel Atkey

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Three songs from foreign musicals you didn't know you knew

I recently listened to a concert on the radio of songs from the Great American Songbook, virtually all of which were show-tunes.  I thought I would share with you three songs from foreign musicals all of which have become popular standards.  Unlike the American songs, none of these would be generally recognised today as show-tunes.  (Click on the song titles to go to a YouTube link.)

Although made famous in 1970 by Simon & Garfunkel and misidentified as an Andean folksong, El Condor Pasa is in fact the title song from a 1913 Peruvian Zarzuela by Daniel Alomia Robles.

Aquarela do Brasil (Watercolour of Brazil, from Entra na Faixa) by Brazilian composer Ary Barosso might have vanished into obscurity had it not been featured in a 1942 Disney animated feature called Saludos Amigos.  It was later popularised by bandleader Xaviar Cugat, and was the inspiration for Terry Gilliams 1985 film Brazil.

Glow-worm was originally written in 1902 by German composer Paul Lincke, a protégé of Richard Strauss for his operetta Lysistrata.  Linckes work was eclipsed by the modern jazz style ironically his own song became best known after being adapted into that style as a hit for the Ink Spots.

I hope you enjoyed this bit of musical theatre trivia.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Why I do What I do (Part Two)

In my last update, I explained to you the reason why I have been promoting my book A Million Miles from Broadway in the way that I have as an independent publication I do not enjoy the support and resources of a major publisher or marketing team. This has been a labour of love, as well as a mission.

I would like to further explain some of my future hopes and ambitions.Beginning in September, I will be embarking on a Masters Degree in musical theatre at Goldsmiths University of London. This will help me in my work as a musical theatre writer, and will also enable me to teach at a university level. Once I have that, I would like to offer my services as a guest lecturer and workshop facilitator at the international level. I have already put out some feelers in places like Singapore to assist with local musical writers in the work-shopping of new shows.This is somewhat dependant on my being successful in my bid for funding for the course. I have applied for a couple of bursaries but cant finance it on my own. (Ill let you know what happens.)

You can help is by telling professionals in the field about this book.  I am trying to get it into as many libraries (and onto as many reading lists) as possible.

With gratitude for your understanding and (I hope) support,


Mel Atkey

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Why I do What I do

For a couple of years now, I have been sending occasional updates about my book A Million Miles from Broadway – Musical Theatre beyond New York and London, for which I appreciate your indulgence. I feel at this point that I owe you a bit o...f an explanation as to why I do this.

My 2006 book Broadway North: The Dream of a Canadian Musical Theatre was initially published by a small Canadian press called Natural Heritage Books, who have since been taken over by a slightly larger company called Dundurn Press. They had a mandate to publish books on Canadian cultural themes, and had published an earlier title of mine called When We Both Got to Heaven. Between 2006 and 2013, Broadway North sold just over a thousand copies. Not on the Times best-seller list, but as a niche book with an unusual approach to musical theatre, quite a respectable number. According to a WorldCat search, it is also found in more than 400 libraries.

With my follow-up book, I knew going in that, while it had a potentially wider appeal, it was also a tougher sell. As it did not fit within the Canadian culture mandate (Natural Heritage was funded by grants from the Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council) my initial publishers passed on it. I approached several trade and academic publishers, but was told they would only consider it if I changed the focus to concentrate on how American and British musicals have conquered the world – the very antithesis of what I was trying to do. And so, I ended up taking the difficult step of publishing it myself.

Unlike my previous books, I did not have the promotional support of a publisher, nor the distribution network of University of Toronto Press and Gazelle Book Services. Instead, I chose a print on demand service, which meant the book was only available through on-line orders, and not generally available through bricks and mortar book stores. Therefore, you will not be surprised when I tell you that sales of A Million Miles from Broadway have been about ten percent of what Broadway North has enjoyed. This is in spite of the wonderful reviews it has received from the likes of Peter Filichia and Stage Whispers, among many others.

I believe that this book has an important “mission” – to look at musical theatre from a unique international perspective. But it was written at enormous cost. I travelled to Australia, Singapore, Germany and France without any outside funding (other than from my family). Needless to say, sales have so far come nowhere near covering this.

The only way that this book can succeed is through word of mouth, and through take-up in cultural and educational circles, especially in universities that have musical theatre programs. I am very grateful to people like Charles Gilbert, who ordered it for the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and who also invited me to address the conference of the International Musical Theatre Educators Alliance. To this end, I have also addressed the Lyric Canada conference in 2010, the InTune conference in Vancouver, as well as Musical Theatre West Midlands, both in 2013. I have also guest-lectured at a number of universities. Best of all, because of these two books, I have been accepted into the Masters degree program at Goldsmith University of London beginning in September, in spite of my not having an undergraduate degree. My hope after that is to be able to expand my educational activity worldwide.

A Million Miles from Broadway can be ordered from It is distributed to the trade by Ingram, ISBN9780991695706