Lady Gaga Should Write A Broadway Musical; Crazy Rich Asians Should Be One.

Lady Gaga, Madonna, Kesha, U2 and Panic! At the Disco were among the answers to the question: What recording artist or band would you most like to see providing the score for a musical on Broadway?
The question was asked in a contest to win tickets to Head Over Heels, a musical that uses the music of The Go-Go’s. The winner of the tickets, David Ashtiani, happened to pick Lady Gaga: “Her music is fun, relatable, and easy to get into the “beat”. Lady Gaga’s music is so flexible and can be adapted into many different, fun scenes throughout an original script.” (David won not because of his choice, but because his order in answering was selected at a drawing on Scroll to the bottom for more songwriter selections.

There was an alternative question:
What work of literature would you like to see turned into a musical?

The answers to this question were more varied and sometimes obscure. Below are a selection of responses to the literature question, organized alphabetically by title, with links to the recommended books to learn more about them. Producers, are you listening?
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Playing to the Gods: Sarah Bernhardt, Eleonora Duse, and the Rivalry That Changed Acting Forever

Sarah Bernhardt remains the most famous stage actress of all time, the subject of the play Bernhardt/Hamlet on Broadway. But during her lifetime she had a rival, Eleanora Duse. The two didn’t just compete; they represented opposing views of what acting, and the theater, should be, according to “Playing to the Gods: Sarah Bernhardt, Eleonora Duse, and the Rivalry that Changed Acting Forever” (Simon and Schuster, 277 pages) by Peter Rader.

The author makes much of the two divas’ contrasting acting styles, Bernhardt with her extravagant flourishes, Eleanora spare and still, willing to turn her back to the audience, and have moments of silence.  Or as Rader at one point succinctly describes the difference: Sarah posed. Eleanora paused.

Eleanora Duse as Cleopatra in 1887

Sarah Bernhardt as Cleopatra 1890

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Lulu The Broadway Mouse: Backstage Book for Kids

When Jenna Gavigan made her Broadway debut at age 16 as a member of the ensemble in the 2003 revival of Gypsy, she shared the stage at the Shubert Theater not just with stars Bernadette Peters and Tammy Blanchard, but with Tim Federele, who was also making his Broadway debut – and also, presumably, with a family of mice. Federle has since become the author of the Nate series of young adult novels peering backstage at Broadway.
Now Gavigan has made her own contribution to the genre with “Lulu the Broadway Mouse” (Running Press Kids), a book geared to readers age 9 to 12, about a young mouse named Lucy Louise who wants to be a star on Broadway.

Author and actress Jenna Gavin

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New Theater Books for Summer Reading

Below are a dozen new or forthcoming books about theater, plus a bonus of two books likely to be of interest to theatergoers, which I list under the category Theater Adjacent. Not all these selections are beach reading, but they promise to keep you engaged in the stage even when you’re nowhere near one.

Click on each title to learn more about the book, and to purchase it.
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New Broadway Biographies: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Rodgers and Hammerstein

The Broadway composer Richard Rodgers found four things invariably gratifying: “eating, a warm bath, making love and having a successful show.”

But how gratifying is it to read about successful shows – or the people who’ve created them?

That’s the question that hovers over two recently published Broadway biographies —
Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution  (Henry Holt, 2018, 386 pages) by Todd S. Purdum and
Renaissance Man: The Lin-Manuel Miranda Story An Unauthorized Biography
(Riverdale Avenue Books, 2018, 184 pages) by Marc Shapiro
Both are about people who created Broadway musicals that became cultural phenomena. But they differ so radically in quality it’s almost an offense to consider them together.
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Theater books of 2017 to read in 2018

Below is a list of theater books, most of which were published in 2017. Click on the titles to find more information and to purchase these books, grouped under four categories: 1. Scripts, including all the plays that are scheduled to be produced on Broadway in Spring, 2018. 2. Coffee Table Books. 3. Theater History, Biography, Criticism. 4. For Fans and For Fun

Please also check out 15 great books about the theater, a list compiled with the assist of readers of New York Theater
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Dear Evan Hansen: Through the Window book published as Platt departs Broadway musical

In his dressing room at “Dear Evan Hansen,” Ben Platt has kept an anonymous letter from a fan: “You stopped me from letting go.” That letter kept him going when “I don’t want to cry, and sing, and scream” in the title role of Evan Hansen in the Tony-winning Broadway musical.

Platt is leaving the musical today, two days before the official publication of “Dear Evan Hansen through the window” (Grand Central Publishing, 2017, 224 pages) the latest coffee table book that offers a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a Broadway musical and also contains the entire libretto of the show, annotated.

The new book is similar to last year’s Hamilton The Revolution and The Great Comet of 1812: The Journey of a New Musical to Broadway Like the others, the Evan Hansen book is geared for fans such as that anonymous letter-writer, the most fanatical of whom call themselves “Fansens,”   It is an elaborate souvenir book with lots of photographs, individual profiles of each member of the cast and creative team and a tinge of self-congratulations. (It is also printed on paper dyed blue or black, which is dramatic and keeping with the the musical’s color scheme, but makes the words less easy to read.)   But the book also offers intriguing details of the years-long process of putting together a musical from scratch, without even, say, American history or a famous novel to guide its creators.

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Hillary Clinton Says Broadway Helped Her Recover


In the months after her defeat by Donald Trump in the race for President, Hillary Clinton was so devastated, she writes in her new memoir, “What Happened,” that she had trouble finding relief. Good friends suggested Xanax and recommended their therapists.  Instead, she writes:

“I went to Broadway shows. There’s nothing like a play to make you forget your troubles for a few hours. In my experience, even a mediocre play can transport you. And show tunes are the best soundtrack for tough times. You think you’re sad? Let’s hear what Fantine from Les Misérables has to say about that! By far my favorite New York City performance was way off Broadway: Charlotte’s dance recital.” Charlotte is her two-year-old granddaughter.

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Harold Prince’s Memoir: “Sense of Occasion”


Harold Prince’s new memoir, “Sense of Occasion” (Applause Books, $29.99) — a conversational chronicle and candid analysis of his many hits, seminal musicals and occasional flops — includes a last chapter on his new show, “Prince of Broadway,” which opened last night; the book and the musical  were clearly timed to coincide with one another.

They have much in common. Both promise a retrospective of a 70-year career in the theater that is one of the most successful in American history. Both aim for breadth over depth — Prince offers his take on 46 of his shows in the book! — although obviously a 300-page book can go into more detail than a two and a half hour stage show. But if his new Broadway revue tries to recreate the original look and sound of popular musical numbers from shows that Prince produced or directed, his new memoir replicates his past work more directly. The first two-thirds of “Sense of Occasion” – 200 of its 300 pages – is a reprint of his 1974 memoir, “Contradictions: Notes on Twenty-Six Years in the Theatre” with updates entitled “Reflections” after each of the first 26 chapters.
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15 Great Books About The Theater

The 50 best plays and 10 greatest musicals of the last century are all available as books to read, but what are the best books about the theater?

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