Book Review: Ruby Preston’s “Showbiz” and “Staged”
Guest contributor Scott Redman recaps the first two books in a trilogy by Ruby Preston about the high drama of Broadway.
Looking for a page-turner that pays homage to Broadway? Cast your eyes no further than the novels of Ruby Preston. Showbiz and Staged are the first two books in a planned trilogy that explores the drama — both in front as well as behind the curtain — of producing live theater.
The first book, Showbiz, centers around a savvy young woman, Scarlett Savoy, who works by day for Broadway’s most demanding producer (not far from the styling of David Merrick) and moonlights at night working on her own show. Without revealing too much of the plot, the novel digs deep into what it takes to get a new show on its feet.
Just when you think the plot is becoming predictable Preston throws in a wrench and doesn’t look back. The chapters are quick and episodic which makes the book a perfect read for a vacation or plane ride. Its fun tracking an attractive, smart, young woman barrel through the old dogs who hold the “strings” to Broadway and watching her journey unfold as she pursues her dream of producing a Broadway musical. Preston’s writing is action driven and relies heavily on the events rather than character insight or reflections, though at times the book reads like a soap opera and the characters seem a bit over the top.
Preston touches upon many production aspects, from casting and rehearsals, working with composers, dealing with rich bachelor investors all play a role in this read. The passion surrounding the creation of great musicals is what is most exciting and emotional. There’s also a fun love story that has its own set of ups and downs, which managed to make me shed a few tears in the first book. I would have enjoyed a bit more description of setting and the environment that surrounds this wacky and sharp world. Nevertheless, this is an entertaining read.
Staged doesn’t skip a beat and picks up right where Showbiz ends but can still be enjoyed on its own. The second book focuses on Scarlett’s quest to find a theater for her Broadway show since she’s been blacklisted by the big producers in town.
This is the kind of material you wish Smash referenced to keep the TV show exciting. Showbiz and Staged both deal with a very similar set of characters and situations but Preston’s scenarios keep the reader on the edge of his or her seat. After I finished the first book I immediately started the second book because I was committed to the characters and following their journeys. Ruby Preston’s writing is a ghost light that shines bright through the exciting and often grim world of creating theater. Anyone who has spent time working in the business will relate to the situations and chuckle at the references to Broadway culture and New York City.
One question, Ms. Preston: When can we expect the final novel?