Top 10 Theatre Books of 2016 - Christmas Theatre Gifts
As the year draws to a close and the numerous 'Best of' lists continue to be published, we continue our Top 10 run down by looking at our favourite theatre books of the past twelve months. Each of these are perfect gifts for the theatre lover in your life, so if you're still looking for the ideal Christmas present or Secret Santa item, we recommend our favourite theatre books of the year that are bound to put a smile on everyone's face this Christmas morning.
10. I Wanna be a Producer by John Breglio
Anyone who has dreamed of mounting a show on Broadway or the West End will be interested in John Breglio's comprehensive and informative new book. Part memoir, part handbook Breglio takes readers through a behind the scenes journey on the job of a producer and the path from initial idea to a [hopeful] smash hit. With practical analysis and useful anecdotes the text is stuffed full of knowledge about the theatre industry from a true vet with over 40 years of practical experience. He can't promise you a hit, but he can share his valuable experience of a life well lived in the heart of the theatre industry.
9. Showstoppers!: The Surprising Backstage Stories of Broadway's Most Remarkable Songs by Gerald Nachman
This loving account of some of Broadway's most memorable musicals looks specifically at the most popular numbers from each of the shows. Nachman's interviews with dozens of theatre figures from Patti LuPone to John Raitt to Jerry Herman reveal priceless anecdotes telling the story behind hit songs such as "Don't Rain on My Parade", "Hello, Dolly!" and "You Got Trouble". Letting the songs and their creators speak for themselves the tireless research and love of the material is palpable, appealing to the more 'hardcore' fan as well as those with a passing interest in some of the world's biggest shows. Lively in tone, witty and easy to read this is a fantastic account of musical theatre hits that has the ability to change the way you think about some of your favourite songs.
8. Curtain Call: A Year Backstage in London Theatre
In what has to be the most visually appealing book of the year, Matt Humphrey and John Schwab's coffee table book is packed full of exclusive photographs and intimate interviews of West End theatrical talent, all taken from the backstage behind the scenes perspective. A visually stunning account of sixty London theatre productions it is a fantastic document and chronicle of a whole year in the industry. Photographs of artists such as Nicole Kidman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Imelda Staunton and Mark Rylance show an honest and intimate look at some of the most exciting productions of recent times, pulling back the curtain and giving you an access all areas look at the industry. A must have for London theatre fans.
7. Barbara Cook: Then and Now
Broadway legend Barbara Cook released her memoirs earlier this year spanning half century of theatrical history that covers the the golden age of musical theatre to the present day. Known for roles in Candide, She Loves Me, and The Music Man, 'Then and Now' is a frank and honest account of Cook's long and sometimes troubled career. Cook takes readers on a journey from her life in the South to Broadway itself, full of intimate accounts of her personal difficulties as well as the glorious performances triumphs. Her relationships with personalities such as Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, Elaine Stritch, and Robert Preston provide hilarious anecdotes, telling the story of one of the greatest singers ever to work in musical theatre.
6. British Musical Theatre since 1950
As a musical theatre historian, this academic yet highly accessible text from Robert Gordon, Olaf Jubin and Millie Taylor pulls focus away from American musical theatre back to our own shores, offering a detailed and relevant account of the industry from this side of the pond. Billed as a critical introduction to the period the book is split into different sections, analyzing the way British musicals have responded to social change, the forms of popular theatre and music from which they have developed and their originality in elaborating new narrative strategies. Throughout the book case studies are given from some of the biggest British musicals of the period including Blood Brothers, Les Miserables and Matilda, offering an analytical and deeply interesting overview of the period which has produced some of the genre's finest examples. A demanding yet rewarding read there's much to enjoy for both the academic and the general theatre historian, particularly those who are looking for hope in the next generation of British musical.
5. Hamilton: The Revolution
In a year that's seen Hamilton dominate both theatre and American pop culture the 'Hamiltome' has fuelled the hysteria around this highly successful new musical. Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, alongside cultural critic Jeremy McCarter, this handsomely presented hardback book is a perfect companion for those who love the show as well as those who can only dream of getting a sold-out ticket. Including the full libretto of the musical, Miranda has provided annotations to explain the genesis of his ideas, cross referencing his influences and changes throughout the show's development process. Set against stunning production photography this is the closest thing you can get to being in “the room where it happens”, complete with fantastic interviews that track the musical's modest beginnings from a rap at the White House to Pulitzer Prize-winning show.
4. Alan Bennett: Keeping On Keeping On
One of Britain's most loved playwrights Alan Bennett recently released his third collection of prose, following on from Writing Home and Untold Stories, each covering a different decade in his life and work. This latest account covers the period from 2005 to 2015, a period that included no less than four new productions at the National Theatre as well as a West End double-bill in which Alex Jennings portrayed him on stage as well as the film adaptations of 'The History Boys' and more recently 'The Lady in the Van'. A master storyteller it's a challenge not to read the prose in Bennett's warm, distinctive voice, and once again the account mixes details of his past, family life and education with his successes on stage and everyday life in north London. Eloquent, funny and deeply satisfying, Bennett proves once again why his work continues to be loved both on and off the stage.
3. Untold Stories of Broadway Volume 3 by Jennifer Ashley Tepper
Jennifer Ashley Tepper is a font of all Broadway knowledge and this third book in her Untold Stories of Broadway series continues the format of the previous two, taking a look at eight more Broadway theatres and the people who work in them. Wide ranging in scope, this new volume puts the spotlight on the Broadhurst, the Belasco, the Edison, the Lyric, the Majestic, the Schoenfeld, the St. James and the Walter Kerr Theatre and includes fascinating stories and pithy memories from your favourite theatrical personalities. Ideal for the coffee table or night stand the beauty of this series is that they are easy to dip in and out of and enjoy over and over again. Tepper's style is informal and inviting, and above all her love for the theatre industry is bound into every single page. A true account of the people by the people and an intensely enjoyable read.
2. On Broadway: From Rent to Revolution by Drew Hodges
We all know the artwork and posters for top shows such as Rent, Hamilton and Hairspray, but very few know of the work and effort that goes into each marketing and design campaign. Founder of SpotCo Drew Hodges has put together this vibrant new book that is framed by two of the company's most prolific accounts, Rent in 1996 and Hamilton in 2016, including shows such as The Blue Room, Annie Get Your Gun, Gypsy and Kinky Boots in between. Through a beautifully designed linear narrative, the sketches, stories and ideas behind each of the artwork campaigns is explored, including accounts from Broadway personalities such as Lin-Manuel Miranda, Patrick Stewart, Bernadette Peters, Joel Grey and Harvey Fierstein. A perfect account of commercial theatre over the past two decades, this is a real behind the scenes look at one of the most important aspects of theatrical production that tends to go unnoticed. Stunningly presented, this is the perfect gift for the stylish theatre lover in your life.
1. The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built by Jack Viertel
This New York Times Bestseller has been one of my highlights of 2016. Earnestly researched and written by the wonderful Jack Viertel this book provides a knowledgeable and highly engaging blueprint for the world's most successful American musicals. If you've ever wondered why some shows 'work' whilst others end up on the wall at Joe Allen's restaurant, Viertel offers his informed opinions on the inner mechanics of musical theatre itself in an entertaining and consistently impressive manner. This is vital reading for any fan of the genre, particularly those studying new musical theatre writing or criticism. Bold in his opinions, this is a deeply personal yet accessible text from the senior vice president of Jujamcyn Theaters and Artistic Director of the acclaimed Encores! Series. From the Overture through to the 'I Want' song and the 'Eleven O'Clock Number' this book will have you hooked from start to finish.