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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

hillaryatsunset

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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Giveaway Contest: The Great Comet

Comet 3D Cover Image

Win a free copy of the book “The Great Comet: The Journey of a New Musical to Broadway“(Sterling Publishing, 2016), which traces the improbable evolution of the musical, “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,” that began with an unknown cast in tiny, experimental Ars Nova, an 87-seat Off-Off Broadway house, and wound up at Broadway’s 1,200-seat Imperial Theater, starring Josh Groban.

I describe the book in some detail here. It includes a CD with five of the songs

To enter the contest, please answer the following question:

What is the best book about the theater, and why?

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The Great Comet: The Journey of A New Musical To Broadway. Book

Comet 3D Cover Image

As Lin-Manuel Miranda did with “Hamilton,” so Dave Malloy came up with the idea for his innovative hit Broadway musical, “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,” while reading a book under the tropical sun. But Malloy wasn’t on vacation; he was working as a piano player on a cruise ship, which gave him enough spare time to plow through Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
Both musicals, then, began with a book. Each is now also the subject of a similar elaborate coffee table book, oversized and authorized. (Hamilton’s was “Hamilton the Revolution.”)

The Great Comet: The Journey of a New Musical to Broadway“(Sterling Publishing, 2016) traces the improbable evolution of a musical that began with an unknown cast in tiny, experimental Ars Nova, an 87-seat Off-Off Broadway house, and wound up at Broadway’s 1,200-seat Imperial Theater, starring Josh Groban (He leaves July, 2017)

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Theater books of 2016 to read in 2017

Below is a list of theater books published in 2016 (or reissued in paperback this year, or just books I couldn’t resist listing.) I reviewed some of these books or interviewed the authors.  But a few are on my own 2017 reading list.

Click on the titles to find more information and to purchase these books, grouped under four categories: 1. Scripts, 2. Coffee Table Books. 3. History, Biography, Criticism. 4. For Fans.

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