2011 Summer Reading Recommendations

May 27, 2011

I’m new to recommending books, and there isn’t a whole summer worth of theatre books coming out each year. So I’m going to recommend one new book, and four old ones you may not have heard of for your reading pleasure this summer. If you’ve already read them, fantastic! (I’m sure there’s at least one you haven’t seen, though…)

Finishing the Hat by Stephen Sondheim

This is the only new book in my list, and if you don’t have it, you have to go out and get it! It’s chock full of revealing anecdotes and explanations about Sondheim’s shows, analysis of the work of other lyricists, and thorough examinations of Sondheim’s work from the master himself. It’s the best book on Sondheim ever written, by a country mile, (and there have been some very good ones) Simply a must.

Letters From An Actor by William Redfield

I feel like nobody has read this book; I believe it’s been out of print for a long time. But it’s really wonderful. Redfield is in a production of Hamlet directed by John Gielgud, with a cast that included Alfred Drake, John Cullum, Hume Cronyn, and Richard Burton as Hamlet. The book chronicles the rehearsal process in a fantastically funny and perceptive way, and it’s a joy to read with its descriptions of actors at work. 243 pages; totally a beach read. A friend gave this book to my wife and I as a gift many years ago, and it’s a gift that delights every time I pick it up.

The Season: A Candid Look at Broadway by William Goldman

William Goldman (yes, THE William Goldman who wrote Marathon Man and The Princess Bride) followed every show in the 1967-1968 season, and managed to arrange his thoughts in perceptive chapters following trends and ideas. It wasn’t a terrific season in Broadway history, but his insights sure are.

Act One, An Autobiography by Moss Hart

Moss Hart was a playwright and director. With George S. Kaufman he wrote, among other things, the original play version of Merrily We Roll Along, The Man Who Came To Dinner, and Lady in the Dark. He also directed the first Broadway productions of My Fair Lady and Camelot. This book, which tells the story of the first part of his life, is riveting, funny, and occasionally absolutely heartbreaking.

Everything Was Possible: The Birth Of The Musical Follies by Ted Chapin

This is a fly-on-the wall perspective on the first production of Follies, one of Sondheim’s masterful flops. At 20, Ted Chapin was a gopher on the production, and by golly he seems to remember everything! Ever wonder how these shows get put together? This book’ll tell you. By the way, Ted Chapin is now the president and executive director of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization. Oh, and the bookwriter for Follies? James Goldman, the brother of the aforementioned William. Small world, isn’t it?

I’ll be posting a bit less over the summer, but look for more in the fall!


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