SHELF LIFE: Books by Chenoweth, Suskin, Plummer, Laurents, and About Irving, Terry, Kander & Ebb

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26 Mar 2009's new monthly look at theatre-related books pages through the memoirs of Kristin Chenoweth and Christopher Plummer, and checks out newly published books about songwriters John Kander & Fred Ebb, director Arthur Laurents and legendary orchestrators.


A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages
By Kristin Chenoweth with Joni Rodgers
Published by: Touchstone Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: April 14, 2009
List price: $25, hardcover
Kristin Chenoweth originated the role of Glinda in the hit Broadway musical Wicked, won a Tony for 1999's You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown, and captivated television audiences as late-in-the-series White House spokesperson Annabeth Schott on "The West Wing" and as Olive Snook in "Pushing Daisies," for which she was Emmy-nominated. She will also star in the new NBC drama "Legally Mad." And now, with the publication of her autobiography, the busy actress can add author to her impressive résumé. As the title of her book implies, behind Chenoweth's journey from small-town beauty queen to Broadway star is her firm belief in family and her strong personal faith. Or, as the publisher notes, the star reflects "on what it takes to stand firmly on a foundation of family and faith — while wearing a hot pair of Jimmy Choo platform sling-backs." For more about the actress-singer, visit her website at

Mainly on Directing: Gypsy, West Side Story, and Other Musicals
By Arthur Laurents
Published by: Alfred A. Knopf
Publication Date: March 10, 2009
List price: $25, hardcover; 192 pages
If anyone knows about the demands and rewards of creating a Broadway musical, it's the man whose five-decades-long career includes his collaboration on two of the genre's finest: playwright, director, screenwriter Arthur Laurents. In September 1957, West Side Story, with a book by Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and direction and choreography by Jerome Robbins, opened at the Winter Garden Theatre. It was still playing its final performances on Broadway when his next hit, Gypsy, with book by Laurents, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sondheim and direction and choreography by Robbins, arrived at the Broadway Theatre in May 1959. Astonishingly, in the 2008 and 2009 Broadway seasons, the 91-year-old Laurents, revisited both shows (albeit reversing the order), this time directing productions that will define each of them for a new generation of theatregoer. According to publisher, in "Mainly on Directing" Laurents "writes in rich detail about his most recent production of Gypsy, [which opened March 27, 2008, at the St. James Theatre and won Tony Awards for Patti LuPone, Laura Benanti and Boyd Gaines], how it began as an act of love, a love that spread through the entire company and resulted in a Gypsy unlike any other. And about his new bilingual production of West Side Story," which opened March 19, 2009 at the Palace Theatre, with In the Heights' creator Lin-Manuel Miranda's Spanish translations of several Stephen Sondheim lyrics and sections of Laurents' libretto. Also included in this candid journey through his career are Laurents' accounts of some of the other musicals he directed — I Can Get It for You Wholesale, starring a very young Barbra Streisand and Elliott Gould, Stephen Sondheim's Anyone Can Whistle, in which both Angela Lansbury and Lee Remick made their musical theatre debuts, and the groundbreaking La Cage aux Folles, the first mainstream Broadway musical with a gay theme. This portrait of an artist working with other artists is, according to the publisher, "a book profoundly enriched by the author's two loves, love for the theatre and love for his partner of 52 years, Tom Hatcher, who shared and inspired every aspect of his life and work."

Buy this Book
The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators & Orchestrations
By Steven Suskin
Published by: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: March 2009
List price: $55, hardcover; 672 pages; 10 halftones
Robert Russell Bennett, Don Walker, Jonathan Tunick. These are some of Broadway's top orchestrators. If you're a musical lover, chances are you are familiar with their names, but perhaps are not so familiar with the nature of their contributions to the shows you love. What is a Broadway orchestrator? Who are these talents whose work is so vital to the success of a musical? What do they do? These and other questions are answered in an entertaining and meticulously researched new book from's "On the Record" columnist, Steven Suskin. The book — according to the publisher, "the first ever to examine the careers of Broadway's major orchestrators" — is divided into three main parts: a biographical section focusing on 12 major theatre orchestrators, with briefer sections devoted to arrangers and conductors; a discussion of the art of orchestration; and a show-by-show listing of more than 700 musical with details such as who orchestrated what accompanied by commentary from people involved with the productions. "The Sound of Broadway" is chock full of intriguing facts and juicy anecdotes and offers new insight into the world of musical theatre.


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