The year 2017 was a boom year for thoughtful theatre books—from memoirs to biographies, annotated playscripts to children’s storybooks, coffee-table books to novels, and even a Broadway cookbook.
Here are Playbill‘s picks for the top theatre-related tomes of the past 12 months.
1. Stage to Stage, My Journey to Broadway
By Josh Groban
The three-time Grammy nominee and multi-platinum singing star Groban fulfilled a dream to star on Broadway last season when he opened in the co-title role of the musical Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of of 1812. He tells the story of his odyssey to West 45th Street (and to a Tony Award nomination) in a limited-edition, coffee-table sized book that goes behind the scenes at rehearsals and performances with minimal text and maximal full-color images.
2. “Dear Evan Hansen”: Through the Window
By Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul
A behind-the-scenes account of the making of the Tony-winning musical, written by the creative team, and including personal memories, photographs, unreleased lyrics, and the complete Dear Evan Hansen libretto.
3. After Anatevka: A Novel Inspired by “Fiddler on the Roof”
By Alexandra Silber with a foreward by Sheldon Harnick
Written by the actor who most recently appeared as Tzeitl in the 2015 revival of the classic musical about a Jewish milkman and his family in Czarist Russia, Silber also played Tevye’s second eldest, Hodel in the West End prior to her Broadway turn. The novel picks up Hodel’s story after she says goodbye to her father with the beloved “Far From the Home I Love.” As described, “Second-eldest daughter Hodel takes center stage as she attempts to join her Socialist-leaning fiancé Perchik to the outer reaches of a Siberian work camp. But before Hodel and Perchik can finally be together, they both face extraordinary hurdles and adversaries―both personal and political―attempting to keep them apart at all costs.” The book features an introduction by Fiddler lyricist Sheldon Harnick.
4. Sugar, Butter Flour: The “Waitress” Pie Book
By Jenna Hunterson
When you enter the Brooks Atkinson Theatre to see the Broadway show Waitress, the aroma of real-life pies baked on the premises permeates the theatre—appropriate for a musical about a baker. For the dessert-maker on your list, a book with recipes for three dozen of the show’s “most evocative and delicious pies.”
5. When I Grow Up
By Tim Minchin
The Tony-nominated composer of Broadway’s Matilda The Musical and Groundhog Day The Musical has collaborated with illustrator Steve Anthony on a children’s book built around Matilda’s Act 2 opener of the same title, in which kids imagine all the things—fanciful and serious—they will do when they grow up.
6. Anne Bancroft: A Life
By Douglass K. Daniel
A comprehensive biography of the actor (1931–2005) who won an Oscar (The Miracle Worker), two Tonys (in The Miracle Worker and Two for the Seesaw), two Golden Globes (The Graduate and The Pumpking Eater), and two Emmy Awards. The book takes a close look at her performance as Annie Sulllivan, the teacher of blind and deaf child Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker, and the politics behind her Oscar win in a category against Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor.
7. Life Is Like a Musical: How to Live, Love, and Lead Like a Star
By Tim Federle
The librettist of the musical Tuck Everlasting author shares 50 motivational essays drawn on his personal experience in the theatre world—from sharing a stage with Bernadette Peters to a disastrous Cats audition—to offer lessons in all aspects of life. Think of it as the Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for theatre people.
8. Up in the Cheap Seats: A Historical Memoir of Broadway
By Ron Fassler
This memoir comes from an ordinary theatregoer (and theatre-lover) from his perch in the balcony over the past 40 years. He focuses on his experiences, between ages 11 and 16, when he managed to see upwards of 200 Broadway musicals and plays (along with big stars like Henry Fonda and James Earl Jones) from the cheapest seats in the house.
9. The Actors Life
By Jenna Fischer
This hard-core how-to guide for aspiring actors mixes humor and memoir of all the mistakes she made and the roadblocks she overcame on her way to becoming a featured performer on TV’s The Office. Fischer explains resumes, headshots, agents, auditions, and forming your own circle of supporters to get through it all.
10. The Man Who Designed the Future
By B. Alexandra Szerlip
With 19 Broadway productions to his credit (including (Fifty Million Frenchmen, Dead End, and The Eternal Road), designer Norman Bel Geddes (1893–1958) didn’t let his imagination stop there. He designed planes, refrigerators, and even skyscrapers in a visionary career laid out in this extensive biography.
11. Seth’s Broadway Diary: Volume Three
By Seth Rudetsky
If you cannot wait until Monday to read Seth Rudetsky’s weekly Playbill column, then this is the book for you. A compilation of Rudetsky’s best behind-the-scenes stories from Broadway stars, plus adventures from his concerts and Playbill cruises, this book will have you shouting “Brava!”