Holiday Gifts For Theater Lovers 2020

My ninth annual holiday gift guide is, like theater itself, greatly altered from the previous years. Below are recommendations for albums ,
play scripts, librettos and new and cherished books about the theater
and theater streaming services!
I also suggest some souvenirs and knick-knacks

Also, a note on theater tickets.



These six albums  have been nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album

Amélie (Original London Cast Recording)
American Utopia on Broadway,

Jagged Little Pill,

Little Shop of Horrors ,

The Prince of Egypt  and

Soft Power

Broadway Records (which is offering a Black Friday sale of 30 percent off until Sunday with code Friday30) offers a range of original cast recordings for Broadway, Off-Broadway and London, including the year’s Pulitzer Prize winner, A Strange Loop (Original Cast Recording) by Michael R. Jackson.  But this year the record company is featuring two new favorites for Broadway lovers that are not cast recordings. . If The Fates Allow: A Hadestown Holiday Album offers 14 songs sung by the entire cast of the Tony-winning musical Hadestown, but especially the three actresses who play The Fates.  Nick Cordero Live Your Life is a recording of the one-man show at Feinstein’s/54 Below by the Broadway actor (Bullets Over Broadway, Waitress, A Bronx Tale) who died earlier this year of COVID-19 at the age of 41

Ghostlight/Sh-k-Boom, is offering The Michael Friedman Collection, cast recordings of the musicals by the beloved composer who died of AIDS in 2017 also at the age of 41.

For an extravagant gift, Masterworks Broadway sells Broadway in a Box – The Essential Broadway Musicals Collection— 25 (!) CDs of original cast recordings, from Annie to West Side Story.

Atlantic Records, not normally in the original cast album business, is the company that put out the perennially best-selling  Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)(Explicit)(2CD)


There are some wonderful evergreen collection of theater scripts. My favorites:

August Wilson Century Cycle

Hat Box: The Collected Lyrics of Stephen Sondheim

The Collected Plays of Arthur Miller (Library of America)

American Musicals: The Complete Books and Lyrics of 16 Broadway Classics, 1927-1969 (Library of America)

You also might want to consider one (or a bunch) of the 50 Best Plays of the Last 100 Years

There is also a gift subscription to the Dramatists Play Service Book Club, which sends seven plays (a mix of new and back catalogue Acting Edition scripts) every three months.


I love the following memoirs, histories and books of criticism or analysis, some of them going back decades

Act One: An Autobiography by Moss Hart

The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built by Jack Viertel

Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway by Michael Riedel

Black Broadway: African Americans on the Great White Way by Stewart F. Lane

Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops by Ken Mandelbaum

Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History by Glen Burger

Four theater books published this year that I loved, starting with my favorite:

Shakespeare in a Divided America: What His Plays Tell Us About Our Past and Future  by James Shapiro (my review)

This Is Not My Memoir by André Gregory (my review)

Lot Six: A Memoir by David Adjmi (my review)

Playwrights on Television: Conversations with Dramatists (my review)

If you know your gift recipient’s favorite shows, you might consider one of these visually lush coffee table books, which usually combine the libretto with behind-the-scenes and making-of history. Warning, if they’re fanatical devotees, the chances are good they already have the book (with the possible exception of the Hadestown one, which is new.)

Dear Evan Hansen: Through the Window

The Great Comet of 1812: The Journey of a New Musical to Broadway

Hamilton The Revolution

Working on a Song: The Lyrics of HADESTOWN


Sources of other scripts and theater books:

Concord Theatricals (which bought out Samuel French)

The online bookstore of Theatre Communications Group offers some wonderful plays it publishes. (Check out the TCG Gift Guide )

Theater Streaming Services

Companies offering theater online to subscribers were already increasingly popular before “online theater” became the only theater in town. The ongoing commercial subscription services that specialize in theater — BroadwayHD,  Cennarium, Digital Theatre, Marquee TV — have now been supplemented by new start-ups that double as fundraisers for theater organizations and others in need. (Check out my Where To Get Your Theater Fix Online.)

Play-PerView is offering a season pass for its 2021 season.

MCC Theater is offering a “virtual only” subscription for its season, which also provides access to recordings of past shows.

MCC is not the only theater that’s become in effect, at least temporarily, an online streaming service. See my note about theater memberships below.

Broadway Baubles

A good place to purchase theater knick-knacks is Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, which has an online store, the proceeds from which help the needy. They sell  everything from umbrellas, clocks and mugs  to iPhone covers, calendars and shower curtains using the logos of Broadway show.  They offer “Broadway Legend” tree ornament, as. well as Lion King note cards that are beautiful but don’t really remind me of the show. If the choice is overwhelming, they also sell gift certificates

Theater calendars also strike me as a good gift.

On Broadway Calendar 2021
Hamilton 2021 Wall Calendar
my favorite: Royal Shakespeare Company – The Comedies Wall Calendar 2021 (Art Calendar)
Shakespearean Insults 2021 Day-to-Day Calendar

A gift that screams 2020 (and maybe 2021?) is sold by a company called Mask Up Curtain Up — face masks with theater logos. Each show has selected one of these charitable organizations to receive 25 percent of sales proceeds from their respective mask

Note: My past holiday gift guides have focused on recommendations of shows for which to buy tickets. There are some shows that are selling tickets for dates that begin in the summer of 2021, but I can’t in good conscience recommend purchasing any such tickets until there is no longer any uncertainty about when Broadway and other theater venues will actually reopen.

What makes more sense is to get  TKTS gift certificates . They have no expiration date, and buying them now has the added benefit of supporting the wonderful non-profit the Theatre Development Fund, which runs the TKTS booths, and does much else besides.

Similarly, it’s not clear now when somebody would be able to use a gift season membership/subscription to a theater in order to attend a show staged at that theater.  But many theaters (such as MCC, as I mentioned above) are currently offering a slate of virtual content (panels and concerts and conversations as much as plays or musicals), some of which is accessible only to members. Examples: The New Group, and New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theater

And, in any case, it  shows support for your or your gift recipient’s favorite theater to purchase a membership. (Unlike tickets to individual shows on specific dates, these subscriptions and/or memberships will not expire or require the hassle of getting a refund.)


Your purchase through some of the links above may generate a small commission, which helps support my work.

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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