Saturday, June 15, 2013

STAGED (Broadway Trilogy) by Ruby Preston: What happens in Broadway stays in Broadway. Or does it?

Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 12, 2013 by Dress Circle Publishing 
Genre: chick lit, women's fiction, contemporary novel, Broadway
Rating: 4 stars
"She hadn't come this far just to let the multi-million dollar Broadway machine chew her up and spit her out now."

STAGED by Ruby Preston
For those who like me are firmly convinced that the marriage between iconic actor Tom Cruise and tv teen drama starlet Katie Holmes was just a big hoax, it won't be hard to accept the idea that, in a business that plays on 'dress up, pretend and make-believe', staged affairs and marriage contracts happen more often than we, paying audience, would imagine. 

(Photo Credit: Bing)

The way Mission Impossible couch-jumping star and Dawson's Creek young actress rushed their already sudden engagement (courtship, if there ever was any, fell completely under the radar of tabloids and gossip columnists) to the 'altar' (or whatever is used to exchange vows during a Scientology rite) didn't convince the media. More speculations about the contractual nature of their relationship were fueled by the news (summer 2012) that their 5 year marriage had come to an equally abrupt ending. The foreshadowing of their split-up had fallen, once again, under the radar of the public eye. And, if it's reasonable to think that the marriage between a traditional Irish Catholic (Holmes) and a rumored-to-be-gay top-rank Scientologist (Cruise) may be a mission beyond impossible, too many red flags pointed from the start in the direction of a charade, with Broadway show castings, out-of-this-world shopping sprees and allowances, stellar divorce settlement and a huge pay out in terms of celebrity as part of the deal for the young actress.

(Photo Credit: Bing)

Well, when an award-winning Broadway producer such as Ruby Preston decides to enter the literary arena with a series of chick lit novels evolving around a young Broadway producer and the lengths she has to go in order to bring her first musical to the stage, you can be sure that a plot otherwise implausible to any stretch of imagination (aspiring Broadway producer Scarlett Savoy accepts to pose as girlfriend of a theater mogul Graham Steward in order to secure a stage for her first musical) becomes an entertaining and 'not too hard to believe' portrayal of a world where acting goes on even when the curtains are down and where more than appears on the scene is staged. Through the expert perspective of an insider we can expect back-room business deals and behind-the-scene dramas to be spilled in the pages of a work of fiction.

Showbiz: A Novel
Dress Circle Publishing, 2012
In  Staged, Scarlet is an up and coming producer in desperate need of a theater for her first musical, Swan Song. Graham is a theater tycoon in desperate need of a "prop" fiancee in order to convince his family and board members that he is the most reliable heir of the Stuart Broadway empire. The young producer will enter into a fictional relationship with the powerful CFO as part of a business proposition. After all, she isn't looking for real romance at this point of her life  and, like Graham, she is focusing all her energy on the achievement of her career goals. So far so good: up to this point I didn't have to try too hard to suspend my disbelief. Less convincing for me was the characterization of the two protagonists: to be able to carry on in the Broadway showbiz, Scarlet is supposed to be a tough-as-nails producer, and Graham is introduced as a hard-as-granite tycoon, but there are circumstances throughout the narration where they both come off as inconsistently insecure, vulnerable, and swinging between conflicting moods. Graham's character is not fully nuanced (I think the author willingly left part of his story and personality in the dark in view of a future development), while Scarlet has a back-story and emotional arc that go back to the prequel book published in 2012 (Showbiz). Staged is, in fact, the transition installment of a trilogy (the sequel, Starstruck, should be in the works) and it reads as a transition novel, where new characters are introduced in order to set the scene for open-ended plot developments, and old acquaintances complete the picture and add zest with their colorful and somehow more convincing characterization (see Scarlet's drag queen brother, her best friend Cassie, the gay playwriters Buff and Jeremy Jersey). Overall, Staged is an enjoyable read: it features the addicting qualities of a light tv drama and it definitely fired my interest. I will read the sequel.

About Ruby
Author Ruby Preston is an award-winning Broadway producer who has helped to bring many musicals to the stage. Her first novel “SHOWBIZ,” described as “The Devil Wears Prada” meets Broadway, received widespread praise and was featured in various theater publications. Now a promising talent in the literary as well as the theater world, Preston’s newest release is the second book in her Broadway Trilogy. To know more about her,  please visit her website, Dress Circle Publishing, Amazon, Goodreads, or connect with her on Twitter

*Review copy generously offered by the author in return of an unbiased opinion.

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