Musical Theatre Biographies & Memoirs

August 24th, 2018

Laurence Bergreen: As Thousands Cheer – The Life Of Irving Berlin

Irving Berlin (1888-1989) was unable to read or write music and could only play the piano in the key of F-sharp major; yet, for the first half of the twentieth century he was America’s most successful and most representative songwriter, composing such hits as “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “Let’s Face the Music and Dance,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” “White Christmas,” “Anything You Can Do,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” and “God Bless America.” As Thousands Cheer, winner of the Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award, explores with precision and sensitivity Berlin’s long, prolific career; his self-doubt and late-blooming misanthropy; and the tyrannical control he exerted over his legacy of song. From his immigrant beginnings through Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, and Hollywood to his reclusive and bitter final years, this definitive biography reveals the man who wrote 1500 songs but could never quash the fear that, for all his success, he wasn’t quite good enough.

 

Hugh Fordin: Getting to Know Him – A Biography of Oscar Hammerstein II

Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960) forged a remarkable, multifaceted career as a librettist, lyricist, playwright, director, and producer. He wrote Carmen Jones, Carousel, Show Boat , and, with longtime collabourator Richard Rodgers, Oklahoma!, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music. Hugh Fordin enjoyed complete access to the Hammerstein archives and conducted numerous interviews with family and colleagues like Rodgers, Berlin, Robbins, and Sondheim. The result is the definitive biography of a creative giant, who changed forever the texture of American theatre.

 

 

Moss Hart: Act One – An Autobiography

Moss Hart’s Act One, which Lincoln Center Theater presented in 2014 as a play written and directed by James Lapine, is one of the great American memoirs, a glorious memorial to a bygone age filled with all the wonder, drama, and heartbreak that surrounded Broadway in the early twentieth century. Hart’s story inspired a generation of theatergoers, dramatists, and readers everywhere as he eloquently chronicled his impoverished childhood and his long, determined struggle to reach the opening night of his first Broadway hit. Act One is the quintessential American success story.

 

 

Arthur Laurents: Original Story By…. A Memoir of Broadway and Hollywood

Here is the original story of a true original, the celebrated and internationally acclaimed director, playwright and screenwriter, Arthur Laurents. Laurents takes us into his world, peopled by the creative artists, directors, actors and personalities who came of age in the theatre and in Hollywood after WWII, including: Humphrey Bogart – Leonard Bernstein – Charlie Chaplin – Alfred Hitchcock – Gene Kelly – Stephen Sondheim – Barbara Streisand…and many more.

 

 

Arthur Laurents: The Rest of the Story – A Life Completed

Best known for the hit musicals West Side Story and Gypsy, Arthur Laurents began his career writing socially minded plays such as Home of the Brave and Time of the Cuckoo . He also garnered impressive credits as a screenwriter ( The Way We Were ) and stage director ( La Cage aux Folles ). Such a varied professional life makes for absorbing reading, as unleashed in his lively 2000 autobiography, Original Story By . Laurents passed away early in 2011 but not before writing The Rest of the Story, in which he revealed all that had happened in his life since Original Story By, filled with the wisdom he gained in growing older and a new perspective brought on by Laurents’ experience of deep personal loss, including the death of his longtime companion, Tom Hatcher. Laurents’ style remains engrossing and brutally honest. His voice is still highly intelligent, loving, generous, and gracious. He remained committed to his artistic vision to the very end, as captured in the epilogue, which he completed only days before his death. The book ends with a loving and insightful coda by Laurent’s good friend and the editor of this book, David Saint.

 

Ethan Mordden: Love Song

For the first time, Ethan Mordden chronicles the romance of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya in “Love Song”, a dual biography that unfolds against the background of the tumultous twentieth century, scored to music from Weil’s greatest triumphs: “Knickerbocker Holiday”, “Lost in the Stars”, “Lady in the Dark”, “Happy End”, “One Touch of Venus” and “The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny”. The romance of Weill, the Jewish cantor’s son, and Lenya, the Viennese coachman’s daughter, changed the history of Western music. With Bertolt Brecht, they created one of the definitive works of the twentieth century, The Threepenny Opera, a smash that would live on in musical theatre history. Weill, the jazz Mozart, was the creator whose work is backstage, unseen. Lenya, his epic-theatre femme fatale, was the performer who put the work into view. They heard the same unique music, but he gave it form while she gave it life. “Love Song” is ultimately the story of a great romance scored to some of the twentieth century’s greatest music.

 

Richard Rodgers: Musical Stages – An Autobiography

From Oklahoma! to Carousel , The Sound of Music to The King and I , the sights and sounds of Broadway were dominated by Richard Rodgers for the better part of the twentieth century. “A memoir worthy of one of the great names in the American theatre” ( Washington Post ), it’s packed with backstage tales of everyone’s favourite musicals, and features new material by his daughter Mary Rodgers and distinguished theatre critic John Lahr.

 

 

 

Meryle Secrest: Stephen Sondheim – A Life

Drawing on interviews with friends, family, collaborators and lovers, this biography of Stephen Sondheim looks to bring us not only the artist – as a master of modern compositional style – but also the private man.

The first and only full-scale and definitive biography of the most important composer-lyricist in musical theater today.

Drawing on personal conversations with Sondheim himself, as well as interviews with his friends, family, collaborators, and lovers, Secrest offers new insight into the enigmatic and very private Stephen Sondheim. Here, we learn about his childhood on New York’s Upper West Side, his parents’ devastating divorce, and his ascent to the peaks of the Broadway musical. Secrest vividly recreates the energy, passion, and despair that went into each beloved show, from Sondheim’s fabled collaboration with Hal Prince on Sweeney Todd and A Little Night Music, to his disagreements with co-lyricist Leonard Bernstein on West Side Story. A fascinating and remarkable portrait of the man, the music, and the genius of Stephen Sondheim: star of his own fascinating and unfinished life.

 

Sam Wasson: Fosse

The only person ever to win Oscar, Emmy, and Tony awards in the same year, Bob Fosse revolutionized nearly every facet of American entertainment. His signature style would influence generations of performing artists. Yet in spite of Fosse’s innumerable–including Cabaret, Pippin, All That Jazz, and Chicago, one of the longest-running Broadway musicals ever–his offstage life was shadowed by deep wounds and insatiable appetites.

To craft this richly detailed account, best-selling author Sam Wasson has drawn on a wealth of unpublished material and hundreds of sources: friends, enemies, lovers, and collaborators, many of them speaking publicly about Fosse for the first time. With propulsive energy and stylish prose, Fosse is the definitive biography of one of Broadway and Hollywood’s most complex and dynamic icons.

An NPR Best Book of the Year

 

Andrew Lloyd-Webber: Unmasked

One of the most successful and distinguished artists of our time, Andrew Lloyd Webber has reigned over the musical theatre world for nearly five decades. The winner of numerous awards, including multiple Tonys and an Oscar, Lloyd Webber has enchanted millions worldwide with his music and numerous hit shows, including Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Cats, The Phantom of the Opera―Broadway’s longest running show―and most recently, School of Rock. In Unmasked, written in his own inimitable, quirky voice, the revered, award-winning composer takes stock of his achievements, the twists of fate and circumstance which brought him both success and disappointment, and the passions that inspire and sustain him.