In addition to loving musical theatre, I am a huge reader and lover of books. In fact I was a school librarian for three years (where I promise I didn't shush too many people). So when Thea said she'd be on vacay this week, I knew I wanted to write a post about some great theatre reads. Below is my recommendation for a “must-read” along with some other suggestions provided by a few of my fellow actor friends and theater enthusiasts. Feel free to chime in with a comment about your favorite theater book. And don't forget to visit the Encore Boutique the next time you come to see a show at the Hobby Center. Encore has a great selection of books about your favorite shows and performers.
One of my favorite musical theatre books is Letters from Backstage: The Adventures of a Touring Actor by Michael Kostroff. What started as emails written to friends and family became a book that highlights the good, the bad and the funny in the life of a touring actor. Kostroff details his experiences on the road with the first national tour of The Producers followed by a year touring with Les Mis and includes many laugh-out-loud anecdotes about the fun he and his cast mates had on and off the stage. I loved how this book allowed me to see behind the scenes of a life I will probably never experience but have always been curious about. Additionally, it is the easiest, most pleasurable read ever. Kostroff's style is up-beat, honest, and conversational. He isn't shy about discussing the highs and lows of life on the road, yet he remains humbled by the privilege and avoids cynicism and negativity.
Patti Lupone: A Memoir is flawlessly brilliant and shows the trials and tribulations that a majority of actors face. It also humanizes and legitimizes a woman who has been called a diva and other names, (not good ones), so that we all know her side of the feuds and backstabbing that she's been through. It is available in print and audio, but I highly recommend the audio. Hearing it in Patti's voice adds soooo much more depth and feeling. She has a real knack for painting the picture and telling a story...and making fun of herself and some of her 'dud' projects.
Making it On Broadway is a compilation of all these Broadway stars/casting agents/directors stories of success, failure, living in New York City, touring, the Tony awards, and basically anything that goes along with being in a Broadway show, and the way many different people got there/are trying to get there.
Ed Dixon's Secrets of a Life On Stage...and Off. Wonderfully written, poignant and entertaining account of his remarkable life and stage career. Ties to TUTS and Texas...
A Chorus Line and the Musicals of Michael Bennett by Ken Mandelbaum and/or The Creation of A Chorus Line by Robert Viagas, Baayork Lee and Thommie Walsh. Both books provide an interesting and in-depth look at the creation of A Chorus Line and Michael Bennett, and both books have been in my collection since their original printing. I love A Chorus Line. It's all good, but the Paul parts are great! The show defined a generation of theater and changed how dancers, actors and singers interact on the stage.
Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops by Ken Mandelbaum. It's great for really understanding what makes a musical work--and (as indicated by the title) not work.
So what are you waiting for? Pick up your e-reader, or get to a bookstore or a library and check these books out! Here's a helpful bibliography of the books so you can add them all to your “to-read” pile!
Dixon, Ed. Secrets of a Life On Stage . . . and Off. Dog Ear Publishing, 2012. 272. Print.
Kostroff, Michael. Letters from Backstage: The Adventures of a Touring Actor. 1st ed. Allworth Press, 2005. 224. Print.
Lupone, Patti. Patti Lupone: A Memoir. Three Rivers Press, 2011. 336. Print.
Mandelbaum, Ken. A Chorus Line and the Musicals of Michael Bennett. St. Martin's Press, 1990. 352. Print.
Mandelbaum, Ken. Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops. 1st pbk. ed. St. Martin's Griffin, 1992. 384. Print.
Viagas, Robert, Baayork Lee, and Thommie Walsh. On the Line-The Creation of A Chorus Line. 2nd ed. Limelight Editions, 2006. 376. Print.
Wiener, David, Jodie Langel, and Jason Alexander. Making it on Broadway: Actors' Tales of Climbing to the Top. 1st ed. Allworth Press, 2004. 288. Print.