E. Lockhart's novel DRAMARAMA offers a solid, realistic storyline - and plenty of toe-tapping musical references. Set among the glitz and glamour of a modern-day musical theatre summer program, it has all of the backstage drama you'd expect, but the focus is on the friendship of Sayde and Demi - a tall, insecure teenage girl and her lively, exuberant best friend.
I was delighted and dazzled by DRAMARAMA. I was feeling so generous while reading it that I even gave the movie Center Stage a second chance. (It didn't take.) Shortly thereafter, I had the opportunity to speak with E. Lockhart about all things theatrical and bookish.
As a musical theatre girl, DRAMARAMA struck many chords with me. What inspired you to write this story? Are you a singer, a dancer, and/or an actress?
I sing on key, but that doesn't mean anyone would want to hear it.
I trained as a dancer and as an actress, beginning around age 10. I am -- or was -- a reasonably good dancer, with solid ballet training, though I don't have the right feet or long legs, so I knew it would never be a career. I acted well enough to get into summer drama camp (3 years), but not to get good parts once I was there.
I did star in a show at Seattle Children's Theater when I was 15, which was a great experience, but I was never cut out for the stage. And yet, I love the theater! So much!
It was really hard to accept my limitations, and that's very much what DRAMARAMA is about. Those summers at camp were highly charged -- it was this wonderful world of classes and shows and fabulous people, combined with tremendous self-doubt and disappointment.
If you were in GUYS AND DOLLS, you'd portray...
I'd want to be Adelaide, which is obviously the best (the only!) part. But I wouldn't get it, because my dance skills far outweigh my vocals. And I'd be a Hot Box Girl. I was a Kit Kat Club girl in Cabaret in college. We were really really trashy and it was a blast.
If you were in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, you'd portray...
I am best suited, I think, to Hippolyta. I am a bit of a know-it all and I think I'd make a good amazon.
But when I was actually IN Midsummer, I was, like Sadye, cast as Peter Quince. One funny thing is that when YA novelist Cecil Castelluci read Dramarama, she emailed me and said "Oh my dear! I was Mustardseed! And I wanted to be Hermia!" So we had had very similar and sad Midsummer experiences, and then grew up to do the same job.
I have yet to be in Midsummer, but I was in Taming of the Shrew.
(Note that in Shrew, the two female leads are pretty-gorgeous and feisty-gorgeous. Thus, I was cast as Tranio. All of my costumes were for an adult man, while I am a child-sized girl. But I digress.)
Both Sadye and Roo love timeless films. Which classic film stars do you find dazzling?
I have a big love for Judy Garland. She always seems on the verge of a total collapse, and yet she finds joy, somehow. It is just a transcendental combination that I am for in my writing.
For me, it's Gene Kelly all the way. I'm a tapper and a choreographer, so I would have loved to have worked with him.
I love Gene Kelly, too. That "I Got Rhythm" in An American in Paris -- I can watch it over and over and over.
My favorite non-musical classic stars are Cary Grant and Barbara Stanwyck, though each did appear in films related to music and musicals - Night and Day, Ball of Fire...
Oh! I love Katharine Hepburn, though I would rather not hear her sing.
Bringing Up Baby is one of my favorite films. Katharine and Cary!
Oh! And somewhat reluctantly, I find I love Ann Miller. She was so bonkers! And homely! And sexy! And a seriously great tapper. Case in point: "Too Darn Hot" in Kiss Me Kate.
Very true. I like On the Town. Again, GENE. Which Broadway legends or modern marvels would you love to see live on stage?
I would have liked to see Carol Channing in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I love that Anita Loos book, it's a masterpiece of comic writing, and Channing is one of those performers who seems to me made for THEATER, not for TV, which is the only medium in which I've ever seen her.
I would have loved to have been in the audience during the initial Chicago production of The Last Five Years starring Norbert Leo Butz and Lauren Kennedy.
I saw Norbert Leo Butz in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and he was totally electrifying. I'd have liked to see him in Cabaret.
(Little Willow sends Emily a link to a video of Norbert performing Willkommen, the opening number for Cabaret.)
I also enjoy Anthony Rapp immensely, unexpectedly. His memoir is wonderfully written, by the way.
I saw Anthony Rapp in Rent! He was awesome. He is such a thinking woman's cutie.
I would have loved to have seen the original staging of The Secret Garden with Daisy Eagan. You get many points from me for mentioning that play and Daisy in DRAMARAMA.
I'd have also liked to see the original My Fair Lady, with Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison. I read Dazzler, which is a biography of Moss Hart, who directed that show, and it has amazing backstage gossip and insight.
I hope that Max and Laura do well in the forthcoming Broadway production of Grease.
The self-doubting, slightly-neurotic, crazy-fun Roo stars in two of your novels, THE BOYFRIEND LIST and THE BOY BOOK. She also pops up in the anthology IT'S NOT LIKE I'M JEALOUS OR ANYTHING. Was LIST conceived as a single title, or as the start of a sequence?
The Boyfriend List was conceived as a stand-alone book, but by the time I got a little ways in, I knew I wanted to write a sequel. There was that whole big BOY BOOK just sitting there, unexplored!
Can readers expect to see even more Roo stories?
There will be a third Roo book, which I'll start writing this summer. It's tentatively titled A REAL LIVE BOYFRIEND, but that could change.
Roo has a marsupial nickname and some lovely ceramic frogs. Do you have any offbeat nicknames or collections?
I am fascinated by collections -- it comes out more in FLY ON THE WALL, really, than in the Ruby Oliver books. In FLY, Gretchen collects all kinds of things I'd like to collect, but don't. I have a recipe collection and a collection of 19th-century and early 20th-century children's books. But that's it.
Oh, and rubber stamps. But that one is just lying fallow. I don't add to it, anymore.
I have no offbeat nicknames. But many of my high school friends had great ones. I can't tell them to you, though. Or they might kill me.
Would you ever write a novel from the point of view of one of your established supporting characters?
Good question. It has never occurred to me! I loved The Murder of Bindy MacKenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty,which does just that. But usually, if I love a book, I want to stay with that central character in a sequel, so that's what I've done in my own writing.
Have you considered writing a book for adults in which Roo is fully grown?
(The idea struck me while considering Megan McCafferty's novels about Jessica Darling, and how much time she has covered in Jessica's life over the course of four novels.)
I have written for adults, and I probably will again, but the Ruby books are for teenagers. I'd like to write a fourth Roo novel, I think, but I don't have a vision of what it would be, yet. A REAL LIVE BOYFRIEND (or whatever it's called) takes place in the first half of her senior year of high school.
Care to name your ten favorite books? Films?
Favorites, no. I never can pick! But I'll name ten adult novels I love (in no particular order) and which I would recommend to YA readers.
Note: Numbers 3, 6, and 8 have mature content of one kind or another -- especially 6.
BOOKS I LOVE THAT ARE WRITTEN FOR ADULTS BUT GREAT FOR TEENAGERS
1) Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, by Anita Loos
2) The Code of the Woosters, by P.G. Wodehouse
3) A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
4) All Creatures Great and Small, by James Herriott
5) Persuasion, by Jane Austen
6) Geek Love, by Katherine Dunn
7) A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, by David Foster Wallace
8) Naked by David Sedaris
9) Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
10) The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by A. Conan Doyle
And here are ten movies I love or loved, though some of them I haven't seen in years and maybe I just love their memory very much and maybe I wouldn't love them the same way if I saw them today.
MOVIES I LOVED ONCE AND MAY STILL
1) Truly, Madly, Deeply
2) Gregory's Girl
3) Desperately Seeking Susan
4) Spiderman (duh, if you've read FLY ON THE WALL)
5) The City of Lost Children
6) Cabaret (duh, if you've read DRAMARAMA)
7) Moulin Rouge
8) Bringing Up Baby
9) His Girl Friday
10) Drowning by Numbers
Emily has created an iTunes playlist for her book, fittingly titled THE DRAMARAMA IMIX. Search for it on iTunes, or re-create it using this tracklisting:
•It's a Fine Life - Alice Playten & Georgia Brown - Oliver! (Original Broadway Cast)
•Sherry - Jersey Boys - Jersey Boys (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
•Seasons of Love - Cast of Rent (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
•Popular - Kristin Chenoweth - Wicked (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
•Manchester England - Hair (Original Broadway Cast)
•Singin' In the Rain - Gene Kelly Hollywood's Best: The 50's Soundtrack
•Hot Lunch Jam - Irene Cara - Fame (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)
•Big Spender - Original Broadway Cast - Fosse (E. adds: This song is originally from Sweet Charity)
•Ol' Man River - Paul Robeson - Paul Robeson Sings "Ol' Man River" & Other Favorites (E. adds: This song is originally from Showboat)
•Take Back Your Mink - Guys and Dolls - Guys and Dolls (50th Anniversary Cast Recording)
•All About Ruprecht - David Yazbek, John Lithgow, Norbert Leo Butz & Sara Gettelfinger - Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
•All That Jazz - Bebe Neuwirth - Chicago
•Tomorrow - Andrea McArdle - Broadway - The American Musical Box Set (E adds: This song is originally from Annie)
•Cabaret - Liza Minnelli - The Best of Liza Minnelli Pop (E. adds: This song, obviously, is originally from Cabaret)
•Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee - Stockard Channing - Grease - 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture) (E. adds: I like this version better than the Broadway cast recording -- so sue me).
•A Bushel and a Peck - Guys and Dolls - Guys and Dolls (50th Anniversary Cast Recording)
•I'll Know - Guys and Dolls - Guys and Dolls (50th Anniversary Cast Recording)
•Fugue for the Tinhorns - Eduard Strauss & New Broadway Cast Recording - Guys and Dolls (1992 Broadway Revival)
•Hymn for a Sunday Evening - Johnny Borden, Marijane Maricle, Paul Lynde & Susan Watson - Bye Bye Birdie! - Original Broadway Cast
•Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat - Eduard Strauss & New Broadway Cast Recording - Guys and Dolls (1992 Broadway Revival)
•Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious - Dick Van Dyke & Julie Andrews - Mary Poppins (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)
•One - A Chorus Line (Original Broadway Cast)
•The Telephone Hour - Sweet Apple Kids - Bye Bye Birdie (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
•Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer Cats (Selections)
•Sue Me - Eduard Strauss & New Broadway Cast Recording - Guys and Dolls (1992 Broadway Revival)
•Anything You Can Do Ethel Merman Annie Get Your Gun (Original Cast Album)
•Honestly Sincere - Marty Wilde - Bye Bye Birdie (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
•Somewhere That's Green - Ellen Green - Little Shop of Horrors (Broadway Cast Recording)
Related Posts at Bildungsroman:
Interview: E. Lockhart (2009)
Book Review: Dramarama by E. Lockhart
Book Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Roundtable Discussion: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Book Review: How to Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lauren Myracle
Interview: E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lauren Myracle