Holiday Gift Guide: 16 Theatrical Reads That Should Be On Your List This Season

News   Holiday Gift Guide: 16 Theatrical Reads That Should Be On Your List This Season
 
From new publications to juicy industry tell-alls, historic fan favorites, singular new voices and glossy Broadway anthologies, we share our list of books that would be the perfect addition to every theatre-lover's bookshelf.

"Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway"
Unlike his New York Post columns that feature strong opinions strewn throughout, Michael Riedel takes himself out of the writing to chart the rise, fall and rise again of Broadway — not artistically, rather financially. He begins with "The Ice Age," in which unaccounted cash (falling into the wrong hands by way of bribes) was melting away like ice, and ends in the late 90s when Disney took Broadway by storm. Riedel delves into some of the most gripping duels of all time, including the Tony race of 1982 when Dreamgirls was pit against Nine for the coveted Best Musical award — a chapter of his book that was inserted into the October issue of Vanity Fair. These anecdotes, he says, functioned as "ornaments" he hung on the Christmas tree of his book — the financial empire of Broadway, a unique entity that can only be found in New York City.

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"Black Broadway: African Americans on The Great White Way"
Producer Stewart F. Lane celebrates the history of black theatre in America, documenting the groundbreaking work of performers, playwrights, songwriters, directors, choreographers and designers who changed the theatrical landscape. Explored within its pages are such productions as A Raisin in the Sun, Porgy and Bess, Dreamgirls, Fences, The Wiz, Purlie Victorious, Ain't Misbehavin', Bring in 'Da Noise Bring in 'Da Funk and The Scottsboro Boys, in addition to such talents as August Wilson, Paul Robeson, Ethel Waters, Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson, Pearl Bailey, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Audra McDonald, Denzel Washington, James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, Savion Glover, Ben Vereen, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Leslie Uggams, Tonya Pinkins, Whoopi Goldberg, Jennifer Holliday, Billy Porter and more. It features a forward by Tony winner Kenny Leon.

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"The Untold Stories of Broadway, Parts 1 & 2"
You'll be hard pressed to find a single person working on Broadway – from stage hands to theatre legend Harold Prince – who theatre historian Jennifer Ashley Tepper hasn't interviewed for her books that are chock full of Broadway lore. Written for Broadway fans, by Broadway's biggest fan, the titles are a treasure trove of first-hand accounts that capture some of Broadway's biggest hits and shows you may not know – but need to!

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"Seth's Broadway Diary, Volume 2"
Playbill.com columnist and Broadway music man Seth Rudetsky compiles the best of his "Onstage & Backstage" columns chronicling his unique life on and around the Great White Way. Featuring blow-by-blow accounts of amazing experiences like doing Kathy Griffin's reality show opposite Kristin Chenoweth and Cloris Leachman (what?), going to Disneyland with Audra McDonald (so fun!) and helping Sutton Foster star in two completely different Broadway shows (on the same night)! The second volume features non-stop behind-the-scenes stories straight from the mouths of stars like Lea Salonga, Megan Hilty, Gavin Creel, Idina Menzel, Lin-Manuel Miranda and many more.

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"Intimacy Idiot"
Playwright and author Isaac Oliver captures the eccentricities of the New York City gay experience in a series of outrageously honest and observant essays and diary entries. There are even a few dinner recipes for the lonely thrown in for good measure. Some of the book's essays have been performed at Ars Nova. Theatre references abound (Sondheim fans take note!), and droll tales from a weary box office attendant's point of view provide many of the laugh out loud moments. Critics loved the book, and theatre vets including Nathan Lane and Jesse Tyler Ferguson have also sung its praises.

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"Madeline Kahn: Being the Music, A Life"
Author William V. Madison, a former CBS news producer, interviewed Kahn's friends and family, including Lily Tomlin, Carol Burnett, Gene Wilder, Harold Prince and Eileen Brennan to create a book that examines the late actress' highs and lows on stage and screen – among them, what the publisher calls a "disastrous outing in On the Twentieth Century that wrecked her reputation on Broadway." Archival press and private writings round out the picture of the late star, who the author calls "one of the most popular comedians of her time — and one of the least understood."

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"The Book of Broadway: The 150 Definitive Plays and Musicals"
New York Times theatre contributor Eric Grode penned the sleek and engaging book that profiles his selection of 150 of the "best, biggest, most influential, and most fascinating Broadway musicals and plays ever produced, spanning the mid-nineteenth century to the twenty-first century." Ranging from The Black Crook to Clybourne Park, Grode's book is laid out with factoids and historic photos that make this a must-have for all theatre-lovers.

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"The Hirschfeld Century: Portrait of an Artist and His Age"
Edited by David Leopold, "The Hirschfeld Century" captures the legendary artists 82-year career with more than 360 of his iconic drawings. Hirschfeld's life is documented in biographical text that accompanies the dazzling illustrations of Ethel Merman, Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Katharine Hepburn, Barbra Streisand, Elia Kazan, Mick Jagger, Ella Fitzgerald, Laurence Olivier, and casts of Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, Rent, Guys and Dolls and many, many more.

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"Alexander Hamilton"
You've already memorized the cast album, and hopefully snagged tickets to see the Broadway hit, so why not pick up the Ron Chernow biography that set Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton in motion? You can only fit so much history into a two-and-a-half hour musical, and there are a lot of fascinating details of the life of the "Ten Dollar Founding Father" to be explored in Chernow's book.

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"Joy Ride: Show People and Their Shows"
New Yorker columnist John Lahr takes readers inside the personal and creative lives of playwrights such as Arthur Miller, Tony Kushner, Wallace Shawn, Harold Pinter, David Rabe, David Mamet, Mike Nichols and August Wilson in this book that will transport readers to the cabin in the woods Miller built in order to write Death of a Salesman and the streets of Wilson's hometown – Pittsburgh, PA.

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"Blue-Collar Broadway: The Craft and Industry of American Theater"
Timothy R. White focuses on the businesses and tradespeople behind the creation of the shows that adorn Times Square, the folks that rarely command the spotlight and get little credit beyond the lines of small type found within the Playbill. The research and writing that went into creating the book took White five years. He explores the work of set builders, costumers, wig makers, shoe makers, lighting hangers and just about every other niche theatre trade you can think of.

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"Musicals: The Definitive Illustrated Story"
Featuring a forward by Olivier Award winner Elaine Paige, DK Publishing's glossy coffee table book takes readers on a Broadway adventure up through the 2013-14 season. Broadway favorites such as Chicago, Les Misérables, The Lion King, The Phantom of the Opera, The Sound of Music and more are chronicled alongside memorabilia, artifacts and behind-the-scenes gossip.

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Perfect page turners for young readers and the young at heart:

"The Marvels"
The latest book from Caldecott Award-winning best-selling author and illustrator Brian Selznick is designed to enchant and engross readers of all ages. Best known for his works "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," "The Marvels" reveals the author to be a devoted theatre fan. Presented as two seemingly unrelated tales, one beginning in 1766 and the other in 1990, "The Marvels" begins with 400 pages of drawings that depict the adventurous history of a revered British theatrical family. Then Selznick smash cuts 90 years into the future with his written manuscript about a young runaway attempting to excavate his own family history in the Spitalfields area of London. The book's final moments, which feel like an inevitable montage of action and emotion, revert back to drawings — in essence, a coups de théâtre on the page. Beautifully illustrated and handsomely packaged, this would be a treat to unwrap.

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"Better Nate Than Ever"
The debut novel from Broadway actor-turned-author Tim Federle isn't just for kids, we promise. Published in 2013, "Nate" tells the story of 13-year-old musical theatre fanatic Nate Foster who ditches his boring Pennsylvania life for a chance to star in the new Broadway production of E.T. The Musical. The 304-page book is rich with insider jokes for fans of musical theatre and professionals working in the biz. It's also a heartwarming story of love and self acceptance as young Nate begins to wonder if tap shoes aren't the only thing that makes his heart melt. Could it be boys?

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"Five, Six, Seven, Nate!"
You'll want to know what happens next in Nate's life. Trust us. And in case you haven't yet read the first "Nate," we won't spoil what happens next in his NYC adventure, but the author promises "secret admirers, surprise reunions, and twice the drama of middle school...with a lot more glitter." Besides, don't you want to know if E.T. The Musical is the next Carrie or Cats? The 304-page sequel was just published earlier this year.

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