Get your book bags ready, because there are a host of fascinating books about theatre and theatre people getting ready to release this spring.
In the Presence of Greatness: My Sixty-Year Journey as an Actress, by Patty Duke
Patty Duke’s third novel, In the Presence of Greatness, focuses on untold stories and anecdotes from her career working alongside such legends as Helen Hayes, Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Lucille Ball, Darren Criss, and Liza Minnelli. The book is also illustrated with over 70 photos from Duke’s personal collection.
Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning, by Leslie Odom Jr
If you’re looking for some personal inspiration and tips on how to live your most successful life, pick up this memoir from Leslie Odom, Jr. This Hamilton Tony winner uses stories from his own path to show readers how to unlock their true potential.
Maggie Smith: A View from the Stalls, by Caroline Fevrier
Dame Maggie Smith has enjoyed a long and storied career on both stage and screen, including The Importance of Being Earnest, Downton Abbey, Sister Act, and the Harry Potter series. This memoir centers on the last 25 years of Smith’s career, examining her ability to embody a wide variety of characters.
The Seasons of My Mother: A Memoir of Love, Family, and Flowers, by Marcia Gay Harden
Tony winner Marcia Gay Harden (God of Carnage) recounts not only her incredible acting career, but the story of her mother Beverly and her struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, in this emotional memoir that also photographically captures Harden’s beautiful Ikebana floral arrangements made in tribute to her mother.
Take You Wherever You Go, by Kenny Leon
Soon to be back on Broadway with a new revival of Children of a Lesser God, Director Kenny Leon has written his life story, from his humble beginnings in rural Florida to becoming the first African American director to win a Tony Award.
Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution, by Todd S. Purdum
Today, the work of Rodgers and Hammerstein has earned the moniker of “classic,” but author Todd S. Purdum puts into perspective just how revolutionary the writers were during their time. While creating such musicals as Oklahoma!, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music, Rodgers and Hammerstein demonstrated their aptitute for producing commercially successful musicals that also transformed the canon.
Hirschfeld: The Biography, by Ellen Stern
The black-and-white caricatures of Broadway performers are the hallmark of illustrator Al Hirschfeld. His drawings became nearly synonymous with Broadway, appearing in The New York Times, on Playbill covers, on book jackets, and on album covers. New York magazine writer Ellen Stern has written an exhaustive and definitive biography of this artist who counted numerous Broadway legends as his closest friends.
Red Hot Mama: The Life of Sophie Tucker, by Lauren Rebecca Sklaroff
Star of vaudeville, radio, film, and television, Sophie Tucker was one of the early great belters of New York. Her influence can be seen in the likes of Judy Garland, Carol Channing, and Bette Midler, but Tucker was the true original. Using hundreds of Tucker’s scrapbooks as the primary source, Sklaroff assembled an engrossing portrait of this oft-overlooked legend of early Broadway.
Whenever You’re Ready: Nora Polley on Life as a Stratford Festival Stage Manager, by Shawn DeSouza-Coelho
This theatre book looks at things from a different vantage point: that of stage manager Nora Polley, who became a fixture of Canada’s illustrious Stratford Festival during her 52-year tenure. This story chronicles Polley’s on-the-job lessons from theatre’s greatest artists and offers an unusually immersive look at a life in the theatre.
FOR BROADWAY HISTORY BUFFS:
All That Jazz: The Life and Times of the Musical Chicago, by Ethan Mordden
Now Broadway’s longest-running American musical, Chicago has become one of the most successful musicals ever written. Theatre historian Ethan Mordden digs into the show’s complete history, including the 1926 play inspired by true events, the musical’s 1975 Broadway premiere, and the long-running Broadway revival and movie adaptation that made the work beloved worldwide.
The Complete Book of 1930s Broadway Musicals, by Dan Dietz
The ’30s were a fertile period for Broadway, with a staggering amount of new original musicals from the Gershwins, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, Kurt Weill, and Harold Arlen, to name a few. Author Dan Dietz amassed an exhaustive look at every musical that opened on Broadway in the 1930s, with plot summaries, full cast and personnel, and critical commentary for each individual show.
Historians on Hamilton: How a Blockbuster Musical Is Restaging America's Past, edited by Renee C. Romano and Claire Bond Potter
If you can’t get enough of Hamilton, this one is for you; Romano and Potter have collected essays from over a dozen top scholars who looked into what this Broadway hit says about history and culture today. They examine what Hamilton gets historically accurate and what it obscures—and if it matters.
FOR THE COFFEE TABLE:
The Complete Lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner, edited by Dominic McHugh and Amy Asch
Lyricist Alan Jay Lerner worked on some of Broadway and Hollywood’s most loved musicals, including My Fair Lady, Camelot, Gigi, and Brigadoon. Dominic McHugh and Amy Asch aggregate all of Lerner’s lyrics for the first time, including rarely-seen material such as working draft and alternate lyrics cut songs.
Fraver by Design: Five Decades of Theatre Poster Art from Broadway, Off-Broadway and Beyond, by Frank “Fraver” Verlizzo
If you don’t know the name Frank “Fraver” Verlizzo, you almost certainly know his work; over a five-decade career, this Drama Desk Award-winning artist created artwork and posters for such shows as The Lion King, Moose Murders, Sweeney Todd, and Sunday in the Park with George. Behind-the-scenes accounts of the art’s development and commentary from Broadway favorites like Bernadette Peters, Judy Kaye, and Liz Callaway accompanies vibrant prints of the posters.
FOR THE THEATRE NOVICE:
The Game’s Afoot: A Sports Lovers Introduction to Shakespeare, by Cynthia Lewis
Is there a sports fan in your life who thinks they can’t relate to theatre? Cynthia Lewis draws parallels between the works of William Shakespeare and the world of sports, such as how the long feud between the Boston Celtics and the L.A. Lakers harken back to that of Romeo and Juliet’s Montagues and Capulets.