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Book details
  • SubGenre:Entertainment & Performing Arts
  • Language:English
  • Pages:324
  • eBook ISBN:9781732367111
  • Paperback ISBN:9781732367104

The Wrong Side of the Room

A Life in Music Theater

by Norman Mathews

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The Wrong Side of the Room: A Life in Music Theater is a richly detailed autobiography about coming of age, coming out, and becoming a respected artist. This intimate, funny, and dramatically compelling book traces Norman Mathews’s life-long quest to come to terms with his sexuality, find his place in the professional theater, and  develop a meaningful loving relationship. Born into a colorful Sicilian-American family in the Scandinavian-dominated, conservative town of Rockford, Illinois, Mathews’s remarkable journey takes him from his college years in Denver to a multilayered life among show-business elite in New York City and Europe. A late starter on the path to his artistic and personal goals, the author has struggled against ageism from his early twenties and continues his fight for his rightful place as a composer and playwright.


Born in the wrong town, the wrong era, and with the wrong name, Norman Mathews was forced to conjure a more enticing, if imaginary, world to better navigate the perils of childhood. In this world, he didn't suffer from a lack of self-assurance that dashed his dreams of romance and fame. He wasn't psychologically abused by a priest nor did he endure ludicrously funny psychotherapy over his sexuality. And he didn't attempt suicide, nearly shattering his promising future. But in the real world, he survived all of this and more, and in his autobiography details with stark honesty and humor how Mathews' resolve to build a meaningful life led him to the life of his dreams. From the ashes of near-calamity rose the existence Norman Mathews always dreamed of. Beginning as a magazine editor and eventually becoming a Broadway and film dancer he worked with Barbra Streisand, Gene Kelly, Dorothy Lamour, and Michael Bennett. His star was on a consistent upward trajectory. But an injury cut short his career as a performer and forced him to seek creative fulfillment elsewhere. He reinvented himself as a pianist, composer, and playwright and as such created award-winning works for the concert stage, Tony-Award winners, and opera luminaries. This passionate and inspirational autobiography is steeped in dark humor, celebrity gossip, and backstage intrigue. It not only shines a light onto musical theater, it goes so far as to recount the grisly murder of a Broadway conductor, provides an inside look at the embezzlement of a famed Broadway producer, and details a never-reported rehearsal row involving a famous choreographer. Mathews brings his colorful Sicilian-American family, his triumphs and heartbreaks, and his mine-strewn path to love vividly to life. This riveting drama is a paean to all late-bloomers - proof that no matter how many wrong cards you are dealt, it's possible, with hope and tenacity, to come up with a winning hand.

Book Specifications:

$9.99 eBOOK (available exclusively on Kindle until January 26, 2019)
ISBN-13: 978-1-7323671-0-4 (paperback)
ISBN-13: 978-1-7323671-1-1 (ebook)

The Wrong Side of the Room is the Bronze-Medal Winner in the Non-Fiction—Music/Entertainment category of the Readers' Favorite Book Competition.

What the Critics Are Saying

“The book’s second half is fully stocked with accounts of stage shows galore—not to mention impressive name-dropping (Barbra Streisand, Betty Grable, Dorothy Lamour, Gene Kelly). These anecdotes from the theater’s social scene glide alongside vivid imagery from the author’s performances and other successes. 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

Read the entire Kirkus Review here.

The Wrong Side of the Room: A Life in Music Theater by Norman Mathews is an autobiography chronicling the author's life as he transitions from a confusing and often abusive childhood, born in a sleet of uncertainty (literally, as it turns out). Masked by imagination and written with a humor that most would not be able to apply to such situations, Mathews is able to harness this creativity and hitch it to his own ambitions as a rising star. When an injury threatens to derail an ascent that defies all odds, Mathews is forced to reinvent and reignite himself once more, and does so amid a whole host of personal and professional turmoil, scandal, and the kind of stories that are all the more shocking – and inspiring – because they are actually true.

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. But he does continue to rise and appears to have carved out a genuine niche for himself until, “I woke up one morning with a strange pain in my back and running down my right leg. In a few days, it got much worse, and I began limping.” With the support of his partner Todd, he buys a Steinway, dives into formal education, and...well, at first that all implodes too. But 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.

—Reviewed by Asher Syed for 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. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading list that "The Wrong Side of the Room" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
—Midwest Book Review

About the author

As a composer-playwright, Norman Mathews has established himself as a lush melodist and a writer of sarcastic wit and insightful observations. These qualities are particularly evident in You Might as Well Live, his musical about Dorothy Parker, and his opera, La Lupa. His work has been performed at the Kennedy Center, on radio, and at theaters and concert halls around the world. He is a recipient of numerous awards, foundation grants, and commissions, and has worked as News Editor of Dance Magazine and Managing Editor of Sylvia Porter's Personal Finance Magazine. He lives in New York City with his artist-writer spouse, Todd Lehman. To read excerpts from The Wrong Side of the Room, visit:  Currently, anyone who joins my email list will receive a free copy of the first chapter of the book. Mathews's music can be heard at

Read the interview with Norm Coleman of BookPleasures here

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