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"On My Way"

The Untold Story of Rouben Mamoulian, George Gershwin, and Porgy and Bess

A revelatory history of the operatic masterpiece that both made and destroyed Rouben Mamoulian, its director and unsung hero.



"Bring my goat!" Porgy exclaims in the final scene of Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess. Bess, whom he loves, has left for New York City, and he’s determined to find her. When his request is met with astonishment―New York is a great distance from South Carolina’s Catfish Row―Porgy remains undaunted. He mounts his goat-cart and leads the community in an ecstatic finale, "Oh Lawd, I’m on my way."

Stephen Sondheim has called "Bring my goat!" "one of the most moving moments in musical theater history." For years it was assumed that DuBose Heyward―the author of the seminal novella and subsequent play, Porgy, and later the librettist for the opera Porgy and Bess―penned this historic line. In fact, both it and "Oh Lawd, I'm on my way" were added to the play eight years earlier by that production’s unheralded architect: Rouben Mamoulian. Porgy and Bess as we know it would not exist without the contributions of this master director.

Culling new information from the recently opened Mamoulian Archives at the Library of Congress, award-winning author Joseph Horowitz shows that, more than anyone else, Mamoulian took Heyward's vignette of a regional African-American subculture and transformed it into an epic theater work, a universal parable of suffering and redemption. Part biography, part revelatory history, "On My Way" re-creates Mamoulian's visionary style on stage and screen, his collaboration with George Gershwin, and the genesis of the opera that changed the face of American musical life.


“Joseph Horowitz has written an eye-opening book that completes our understanding of America’s greatest opera, Porgy and Bess.” (John Mauceri, Tony Award-winning conductor, producer, and arranger)

“'On My Way’ restores Rouben Mamoulian to the pantheon of essential figures in the development of American theater and cinema, which is where he unquestionably belongs.” (Larry Starr, author of George Gershwin)

“A fascinating and brilliantly written story of Rouben Mamoulian’s contributions to Porgy and Bess.” (Speight Jenkins, general director, Seattle Opera)

“Blending his strengths as a writer, scholar, critic, storyteller, and fan, Joseph Horowitz explores the talents of Rouben Mamoulian, who helped to make Porgy and Bess America’s premier opera.” (Richard Crawford, author of America's Musical Life: A History)

“The meat of this book lies in Horowitz’s analyses of Mamoulian’s three masterpieces, which may make theater and movie mavens break out in grateful goosebumps. Musical-theater book of the year? Mmmmm—could be!” (Booklist, Starred Review)

“Horowitz’s elegant sketch offers an illuminating glimpse into a corner of American music history.” (Publishers Weekly, Starred Review)

“A resurrection story that offers a significant contribution to the history of American popular theater.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Horowitz gives his readers much insight… thorough and satisfying.” (Vinton Rafe McCabe - New York Journal of Books)

“Remarkable … vitally important… Mr. Horowitz's research is thorough and illuminating.” (Ted Chapin - Wall Street Journal)

“Horowitz is uncommonly perceptive.” (Jonathan Yardley - Washington Post)

“Remarkable… A fascinating chronicle of the birth of America's great folk opera.” (Stevin Suskin - Playbill)

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