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Why would the multimillionaire producer of Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, and Miss Saigon take his limo from Manhattan to the struggling former steel town of Levittown, Pennsylvania, to see a high school production of Les Misérables?
To see the show performed by the astoundingly successful theater company at Harry S Truman High School, run by its legendary director, Lou Volpe. Broadway turns to Truman High when trying out controversial shows such as Rent and Spring Awakening before they move on to high school theater programs across the nation. Volpe’s students from this blue-collar town go on to become Emmy-winning producers, entertainment executives, newscasters, and community-theater founders.
Michael Sokolove, a Levittown native and former student of Volpe’s, chronicles the drama director’s last school years and follows a group of student actors as they work through riveting dramas both on and off the stage. This is a story of an economically depressed but proud town finding hope in a gifted teacher and the magic of theater.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By robert boots on 06-15-18
I found the reference to this book buried in the opening credits of the NBC TV series "Rise". I was drawn to the show when I saw the promotional ads for a story about a High School drama program in a small Pennsylvania town. I've been on the staff of a High School drama program for many years and I was curious to see how that would be handled in a TV series.
The TV series was disappointing but the book was more than I expected.
The world of Truman High was not the world that I've experienced, but it was a world that is believeable.
The book is a blending of many biographies. Sometimes it's the authors own (He graduated from Truman High and had Mr. Volpe as his English teacher.) sometimes it's the theater director, Lou Volpe, sometimes it's one of the many students that have passed through the drama program.
There's a pause where the author considers education in more philosophical terms. What is the role of a "good teacher"? How does it fit with testable quantifiable school performance? (I'm in agreement. It's not all numbers and performance data.)
For me the book was inspiring. It held my interest from beginning to end.
By Kenneth Estvanik on 06-04-18
Driven to read this, after seeing the TV series "Rise"
Well written and narrated piece of non-fiction. So remarkable, it would be a stretch to buy-in if fictional! As someone who had a similar experience in high school drama (if not the accolades of Truman) ... a life-changing experience ... I was immersed in the story. I met my wife in high school drama. We went on to help charter and run a community theatre company for about 40 years after high school. We also ran/coached our daughter's high school group for seven years ... staying after she graduated ... and using the same principles of learning by doing that we learned from our coaches; it's easily one of the best and rewarding experiences of my life.
I'm sorry to have only learned of Lou Volpe and Truman stage shows years after he retired. I would have enjoyed traveling to see them. The book held my interest beyond the production details, in large part due to the depth of Mr.Sokolove's empathetic exploration of the real people involved. Bravo!