NEW YORK — When you read New York Post theater columnist Michael Riedel, there’s no mistaking whom the writer is. He’s snarky and skewering and gleeful. That makes his latest project all the more interesting.
The acid-tongued stage gossip has written a book about Broadway’s history and he’s not opinionated or snarky at all. There’s no Michael Riedel.
“I try to make my columns kind of punchy, light and breezy — bim, boom, rat-a-tat-tat. The old gossip style, I like that. The jangle of the town, the jangle of Broadway,” he said. “But I knew that I couldn’t sustain a 400-page book with that style because it would become incredibly tedious.”
The result is “Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway,” a very entertaining look at how the Great White Way has been shaped over the past century. To write it, the 48-year-old conducted some 70 interviews and read 40 books.
“I never thought about writing a book in my life,” he said. “As a writer, I’m a sprinter. I do 750 words and I go have drinks with my friends. That’s my life.”
Riedel, who by some is feared and even loathed, in person is charming and eloquent. His modest apartment in the West Village reveals a Columbia University history major’s love of books — titles on everything from Hafez Assad to Saki and Willem de Kooning.
To write his history of the Great White Way, he decided to interview all the key players, set scenes and let the story be told through the characters. “I tried to take myself out of it and let them do the talking,” he said.
The book explores the rivalry between the two big theatrical dynasties — the Nederlanders and the Shuberts — as well as the transformation of Broadway from a seedy, scary place to family-friendly tourist trap.