With musicals and plays closed down due to the coronavirus, it’s a tough time for theater fans out there. While the release of Hamilton on Disney Plus was definitely a game-changer, it’s no surprise that theater fans want more. And while this article can’t bring back Broadway, it will give you a handful of books about theater. If you want to learn more about your favorite entertainment, go check out these books!
1. Broadway: The American Musical by Laurence Maslon
Broadway: The American Musical is an amazingly comprehensive book about the history of musical theater. It follows the medium of musicals through the turn of the twentieth century to 2018-2019 season, including The Book of Mormon, Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, and Hadestown. The book also includes “a treasure trove of photographs, scenic renderings, production stills, and rehearsal shots, many previously unpublished.” Honestly, this book sounds absolutely awesome.
Theater fans, Broadway: The American Musical is a must-have. And for the full experience, you can check out the PBS documentary of the same name that this book is actually a companion for. If you want to learn more about the intriguing history of musical theater or want to gaze longingly at the beautiful pictures, then this book is definitely for you!
2. The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built by Jack Viertel
Jack Viertel, a lover of theater himself with three decades of experience on Broadway as conceiver, producer, dramaturg, and general creative force, leads readers through an exhaustively interesting backstage tour of musicals, examining embarrassing shortcomings of the medium and marveling at the amazing inventiveness throughout. The Secret Life of the American Musical “invites us to fall in love all over again” as we learn how musicals are made, what makes them work, and how they captivate audiences.
Viertel’s immense experience in Broadway will give you a look into musical theater like no other. His book will teach you about the architecture of classical shows, the history and evolution of shows, and the time-tested and well-loved structure of overture, “I want” songs, “conditional” love songs, production numbers, star turns, and finales. Seriously, go check out The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built!
3. Ghost Light: A Memoir by Frank Rich
This book is a memoir by Frank Rich, the child of avid theatergoers, who finds his own love for theater through his parents’ divorce and a lonely childhood. In his life, theater itself became a beacon, analogous to the ghost light. The ghost light is always left burning at center stage of a theater even after all the actors and audience have departed for the night. There is a superstition that if a theater is ever left completely dark, a ghost will come to haunt it—and the only thing that can prevent this is the ghost light.
Rich’s story is an inspirational one, and one that will touch the hearts of any theater lover. This beautifully-crafted memoir will give you humor, eloquence, and an amazing grand spectacle. For any theater lover who misses their favorite entertainment and wants to experience a little of that magic, this book will deliver. Go read it!
4. Not Since Carrie by Ken Mandelbaum
After you’ve read Ghost Light and you want a lighter story, you definitely need to check out Not Since Carrie. This book, unlike the first two entries on this list, doesn’t focus on Broadway’s greatest hits and how they’ve shaped the history of theater. No, this book will entertain you endlessly with its brilliant survey of Broadway’s biggest flops.
Not Since Carrie looks at almost 200 musical failures between 1950 and 1990 in a hilarious and utterly engaging way. It’s framed around the musical adaptation of Carrie, which closed after sixteen previews and only five performances and is considered one of the most notable failures in Broadway history. With a premise like that, Not Since Carrie couldn’t be anything but amazing. Go check it out!
5. Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway by Michael Riedel
For any drama fan who wants a little more drama in their theater books, Razzle Dazzle will deliver that and more. This book focuses on 1970s Broadway, on its rise, fall, and redemption. You’ll learn about its stars, its biggest shows, its producers, and what you’ve been waiting for—all the drama, intrigue, and power plays behind the scenes.
Razzle Dazzle is about the renowned Shubert Organization, both a failing theater company and an opportunity for two ambitious board members, Bernard Jacobs and Jerry Schoenfeld. In an epic story of a coup, corporate intrigue, personal betrayals, and criminal investigations, this story is all about, and full of, drama. Theater fans, this book will have you on the edge of your seat just soaking up all that delicious, delicious drama.
While reading these books definitely won’t give you that brilliant experience of seeing a show live, it’s the best way to get a little of that magic while theaters are closed. So, theater lovers, if you want to learn about the history of theater, both smashing hits and hilarious flops, then Broadway: The American Musical and The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built are the books for you. If you want a more touching and heartwarming tale of a theater lover just like you, go check out Ghost Life: A Memoir! Or, for a hilarious and drama-filled experience, you’ll want to read Not Since Carrie and Razzle Dazzle: The Battle For Broadway. You won’t regret it!