Cheap Seats for Your Beach Read

By Annie Schiffmann

Warning: Ron Fassler's Up In The Cheap Seats is a memoir chronicling performers and plays that you won't recognize. But that's what makes this book such a pleasant read.

New York When It Was...

Ron Fassler was a child of the '60s on Long Island and one of six children who got lost in the shuffle. When a great-aunt takes him to his first Broadway show I Do, I Do, his life is changed. After that, he calculates how much a matinee at the theater would be (including train ticket, rear mezzanine seats, and a soda) and every Saturday travels by himself from Long Island to Times Square using the money he'd earned on his paper route. He does this for the next four years and chronicles each show in a notebook. Up in the Cheap Seats has the backdrop of the Times Square that New Yorkers of a certain age lament: gritty, seedy, scary, dangerous.

Honoring the Workhorses

Since many of the subjects and plays discussed are not very well known (James Earl Jones and Bette Midler aside), Fassbender's profiles of them are all the more endearing.  He bears witness to a time when Broadway tickets were $3, producers bought the audience Nathan's hot dogs on the Fourth of July, and over fifty new shows in a season. More importantly he respectfully - but, thankfully, not wistfully - chronicles a time when Broadway stars stayed in their shows for years and would speak to a precocious kid when he'd sneaked through the stage door.  

Balcony View From Your Beach Chair

Up In the Cheap Seats will remind you that there is more to Broadway than the big luminaries. A humble reminder that every day there are thousands of people whose names you don't know, working on shows you probably won't see, and how much value there is to it nonetheless.