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Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Mandelbaum was introduced to Broadway musical theatre by his parents and grandparents at an early age. He initially pursued an acting career, studying with Stella Adler and performing at Circle in the Square and the Provincetown Playhouse.
In 1986, he began writing for Show Music Magazine and the New York Native, and the following year he joined the staff of TheaterWeek. He is a frequent contributor to Playbill and wrote a regular column for Broadway.com until 2006. Prior to his career as a theatre writer, he was a teacher in New York public schools.
He is the author of A Chorus Line and the Musicals of Michael Bennett (1989) and Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops (1991), both of which are regarded to be the definitive discussion of their respective topics by theatre historians and musical theatre buffs.
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