The Wrong Side of the Room: A Life in Music Theater

Feb 04, 2019 295

The Wrong Side of the Room: A Life in Music Theater by Norman Mathews is one man’s tale of a harrowing journey to a fulfilling life in music, theater, and love. Growing up in a loving Sicilian-American family (his real name is Ignazio Norman Cangelosi) in Rockford, Illinois, deeply shaped his future. The book traces an arc from his grandparents' departure from Sicily to America to Mathews’ eventual return to the island, which provided inspiration for his artistic ventures.

As a child, dreams of a life in show business and of passionate romance were stymied by lack of self-assurance. Psychological abuse by a priest led to absurdly comic psychotherapy over his sexuality. At age twenty, a failed suicide nearly shattered a promising future. From the ashes of this calamity rose a staggering resolve to build a meaningful life. Byzantine twists paved the way to a career as a magazine editor and eventually a life as a Broadway and movie dancer.

During his performance years, he worked with Barbra Streisand, Dorothy Lamour, Gene Kelly, and Michael Bennett. After an untimely injury, he reinvented himself as a composer and playwright, for which he created highly acclaimed works for Tony-Award performers.

His passionate autobiography is steeped in dark humor, hilarious celebrity gossip, and backstage intrigue. It is a rare book that can brutally describe a self-destructive trajectory, recount the grisly murder of a Broadway conductor, provide an inside look at the embezzlement of a famed Broadway producer, detail an ugly never-reported rehearsal scene involving Michael Bennett, and give a behind-the-scenes look at the birth of new musicals and operas. Mathews’s colorful Sicilian-American family is intimately and richly depicted with compassion and humorous detail. His Italian heritage was essential in creating the impetus for his opera, La Lupa, based on the novella by Giovanni Verga. Mathews brings his triumphs and heartbreaks, and his mine-strewn path to fulfilling love vividly to life.

What the Critics Are Saying

The author clearly delights in detailing his life story, starting with his Sicilian ancestry and beginning with his grandparents, who arrived in America via Ellis Island. He goes on to present his distinguished life on Broadway with all the glow of center stage and the nerve-wracking thrill of opening night. . .The book also has a delightful, chatty sense of humor with moments of wry wit that make it exciting to read. In the end, it effectively celebrates a life of artistic inspiration alongside the giddiness and glory of live theater.
—Kirkus Review

Norman Mathews delivers a riveting memoir with The Wrong Side of the Room that opens with a contentious genesis and powerfully surges through to its finale. This is the ultimate tale of a man who is knocked down seven times and gets up eight, except in this case our tenacious narrator is struck to the ground far more than that. . .Mathews is the consummate phoenix and, much like he displays in the writing of this book, skillfully maneuvers the trajectory of his life's own narrative into a story that we are fortunate enough to have shared in The Wrong Side of the Room.
—Asher Syed, Readers’ Favorite

Impressively candid, exceptionally informative, deftly written, organized and presented, "The Wrong Side of the Room: A Life in Music Theater" is an extraordinary memoir that will have special and particular appeal for anyone with an interest in show business. . .highly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections.
—Midwest Book Review

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