THE BOOK SHELF: Memoirs by Hal Holbrook and Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Stanley Green's "Show by Show," Plays by Enda Walsh and More Mormon

By Steven Suskin
18 Dec 2011

Cover art for "Luck and Circumstance"

And here's another eyebrow-raising tale of life with show people, off stage. Imagine growing up in the exotic world of Hollywood royalty, with a full-fledged movie-star as mother. Imagine a strange existence with father and stepfather, while rumors increasingly reach your ears that your true father is one of the few geniuses of the modern world. Imagine spending 50-odd years trying to sort out these rumors despite denials from your mother about the genius in question: Orson Welles, who uncharacteristically always treated you affectionately. Imagine finally resolving at 70 that you are indeed your father's son and writing a memoir to set the record straight, only to discover — after finishing your first draft — that you are truly and unquestionably the son of Orson. Whom you greatly resembled as a child, by the way; and then, there's the fact that you've spent your entire lifetime struggling with a weight problem.

To say that "Luck and Circumstance: A Coming of Age in Hollywood, New York, and Beyond" by Michael Lindsay-Hogg [Knopf] makes an interesting tale is an understatement. It is also a well written one; Hogg seems to have inherited much from his mother, actress Geraldine Fitzgerald, and from the paradoxical Mr. Welles. The author is an accomplished director in his own right. After appearing onstage as a teenager with Welles in the 1960 Dublin production of Chimes at Midnight, he began a career behind the camera filming the British rock 'n' roll television program "Ready Steady Go!" This led to a series of music videos/promos with The Beatles and later The Rolling Stones. (At his job interview with the Beatles, George Harrison asked Lindsay-Hogg if he'd ever seen "Citizen Kane"; the boys had decided that the first video, "Paperback Writer," should look like that.)

Lindsay-Hogg went on to a career in more adult television (including "Brideshead Revisited") and as a stage director (with Normal Heart, Whose Life Is It Anyway? and Agnes of God among his credits). So the man — who has inherited his official father's title and is thus now a baronet — has quite a life to relate. But it is Welles who looms over the affair like a shadowy air balloon in the sky, obscuring the sun.


Cover art for "Broadway Musicals Show by Show: Seventh Edition"

Back when I first started writing about Broadway, the reigning king of the field — and just about the only person turning out first-rate books — was a fellow named Stanley Green. Green died in 1990; most of his work has fallen out of print. One of his final projects, though, has proven enduring; first published in 1985, it has been periodically updated until we now have "Broadway Musicals Show by Show: Seventh Edition" by Stanley Green, revised and updated by Cary Ginell [Applause]. This book is what they call an evergreen, or more properly an ever(Stanley)Green. While competing tomes discuss more musicals with more extensive information — more than you might necessarily want or need, it sometimes seems — the "Show by Show" series remains pertinent and concise, and now continues up through the musicals of 2010.


Cover art for "The Small Things and Other Plays"

Irish playwright Enda Walsh was known here until recently mostly for his 1996 play Disco Pigs, which I confess somehow passed me by. He has now, quite suddenly, burst into the New York spotlight with his fine book for the musical Once, currently at New York Theatre Workshop in the East Village but soon to open uptown at the Jacobs. (Do get your tickets.) Two nights before Once opened, Walsh had another local opening: Misterman, at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn. December 2011 truly seems to be Walsh's month, with the publication of "The Small Things and Other Plays" by Enda Walsh [TCG]. Although who can tell? Perhaps Walsh will have something special to celebrate come June. Meanwhile, this volume includes the scripts for eight plays, including The Small Things, Disco Pigs and Misterman.


Cover art for "The Book of Mormon: Sheet Music from the Hit Broadway Show"

On the sheet music front, last season's best and most ridiculously enjoyable musical is now available for your piano. We refer, needless to say, to "The Book of Mormon: Sheet Music from the Hit Broadway Show" by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone [Alfred]. All 16 musical numbers, as heard on stage. These seem to be pretty much full arrangements of said songs; if you want to do "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" in your living room, here it is! The book is handsomely designed, as has every scrap of material generated by the Mormons thus far. (The Broadway Mormons, not the ones in Utah.) Generously illustrated, of course, with eight (thick) pages of full-color shots.

(Steven Suskin is author of the recently released updated and expanded Fourth Edition of "Show Tunes" as well as "The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations," "Second Act Trouble" and the "Opening Night on Broadway" books. He also pens's On the Record and DVD Shelf columns. He can be reached at


Passionate about theatre books? See what the Playbill Store has on its shelves.