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15 must-read theatre books to add to your reading list

March 30, 2020 by Diane Cardoso
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If you’re feeling a bit exhausted by all the binge-watching you’ve been doing, here’s a self-care tip: Turn off your laptop and pick up a book! It’s the perfect time to read your way through that never-ending list of books on your shelf and check off everything on your must-read bucket list. Here’s a roundup of some of our favorite theatre biographies, artist memoirs, play collections, and historical tomes that will give you an insight into the lives of those who have revolutionized our industry.

Dear Evan Hansen: Through the Window

If you’re a “fansen” (aka a huge “Dear Evan Hansen” fan), this book is for you. Read interviews with the cast and crew, get a sneak peek at original behind-the-scenes photography, take a deeper look into Evan’s fictional world, and discover unreleased lyrics you won’t see or hear anywhere else.

Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway

Did you know that in the 1970s, before it became the famed tourist hub it is, Times Square was one of the seediest places in the city? It’s Broadway that brought the area to dazzling glory — and Michael Riedel tells that story in his historical account of the Great White Way. Learn about Broadway’s biggest shows and producers of the era, and all the drama, intrigue, and power plays that happened behind the scenes. You might even recognize a few names from today’s Broadway marquees!

And if you can’t get enough exclusive Broadway history, read Riedel’s sequel: Singular Sensation: The Triumph of Broadway, about the 1990s shows that transformed Broadway (some of which you can still see there!).

Patti LuPone: A Memoir

She’s the Broadway diva everyone wants to be friends with, especially now that we’ve all seen her basement. In her tell-all memoir, Patti LuPone lays it all bare, sharing the intimate story of her life both on stage and off. You can expect her trademark humor and sass as she shares her darkest secrets (and juiciest drama) from a celebrated career in the theatre.

Hamilton: The Revolution

From Tony Award-winning icon Lin-Manuel Miranda comes a backstage pass to his groundbreaking hit musical Hamilton. Read about how the story of a revolution became a smash-hit Broadway musical, and why Miranda saw the Founding Father as a perfect embodiment of hip-hop.

A Chorus Line FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About Broadway’s Singular Sensation

The ultimate treasure trove of information, A Chorus Line FAQ collects history and fun facts about the iconic show all in “One” place. Learn about the unique workshop process through which A Chorus Line was developed and written, the stories of its creators, the record-breaking Broadway run and numerous touring productions, and the captivating movie version.

Fifteen One-Act Plays by Sam Shepard

Filled with Sam Shepard’s trademark dark humor, unparalleled imagination, unforgettable characters, and exquisitely crafted storytelling, these 15 one-act plays by the late playwright portray human relationships, love, and lust with rare authenticity. This book is great for those who don’t want to commit to a 300-page book — think of it as 15 little, short ones. Soon you’ll have read them all!

The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America

This book is an oral history of Tony Kushner’s play Angels in America as told by the artists who created it and the audiences forever changed by it, combined with a moving account of the AIDS era and queer history. Whether you’re a newly minted Kushner fan after seeing his West Side Story remake or have long admired the playwright’s career, this book is your guide to his most iconic work, and one of the most iconic American plays ever written.

The Oxford Handbook of Sondheim Studies

A must-read for any Sondheim fan, this incredible handbook offers a wealth of compelling topics and issues within the music and lyrics of Stephen Sondheim. If you’re looking to understand this musician’s work in more depth, then look no further! This book will have you enthralled for hours on end. Read it on a Sunday in the park or at home before company comes.

Home: A Memoir of My Early Years

Since her first appearance on screen in Mary Poppins, Julie Andrews has played a series of memorable roles that have made her an icon. In Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, she takes her readers on a moving and often humorous journey from a difficult upbringing in Britain to the brink of international stardom. She has also released a sequel memoir, Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years, in which she provides an even deeper look into some of her best-known roles.

The Detroit Project

Tony nominee Dominique Morisseau made her Broadway debut in 2019 with the hit musical Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations. If you loved that show and want to discover even more of her writing, her play cycle The Detroit Project includes three plays — Paradise Blue, Detroit ’67, and Skeleton Crew (which debuted on Broadway in 2021) — that examine the sociopolitical history of her hometown.

Hat Box: The Collected Lyrics of Stephen Sondheim

Hat Box is the complete collected lyrics from the acclaimed books Finishing the Hat and Look, I Made a Hat, and is essential reading for theater fans or devotees of the legend’s work. Stephen Sondheim has richly annotated lyrics from his most popular shows like West Side Story, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George, and Into the Woods with anecdotes, observations, and invaluable advice.

Fleabag: The Scriptures

Go deeper into the groundbreaking Golden Globe- and Emmy Award-winning series — which is also a stage show — with this must-have collection. Fleabag: The Scriptures includes full scripts from the show and creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s exclusive commentary.

Fosse

If you loved the FX miniseries Fosse/Verdon, then read the biography that the series was based on. Sam Wasson unveils the man behind the swaggering sex appeal and the iconic dance style, tracing Fosse’s untold reinventions of himself over a career that would spawn The Pajama Game, Cabaret, Pippin, and Chicago, one of the longest-running Broadway musicals ever and the show that’s become synonymous with his choreography.

Rewrites: A Memoir

Rewrites, by Neil Simon, is a combination of touching personal memories and reflections, anecdotes about his writing life, and hilarious stories about some of the biggest names in the entertainment business. The iconic playwright, whose lent his name to a Broadway theatre, is behind plays like Plaza Suite, Barefoot in the Park, and The Odd Couple and has been nominated for more Tonys and Oscars combined than any other writer in history.

Dramatic Exchanges: Letters of the National Theatre

Maggie Smith, Ian McKellen, and Judi Dench are but a few of the many famous actors and playwrights whose endearing messages to the National Theatre are included in this rich collection of letters, scribbled notes, and more.