Books on Musical Theatre Craft & Analysis

August 24th, 2018

David Ball: Backwards and Forwards
A Technical Manual for Reading Plays

This guide to play-reading for students and practitioners of both theater and literature complements, rather than contradicts or repeats, traditional methods of literary analysis of scripts.

 

 

 

 

 

Christopher Booker: The Seven Basic Plots
Why We Tell Stories

This remarkable and monumental book at last provides a comprehensive answer to the age-old riddle of whether there are only a small number of ‘basic stories’ in the world. Using a wealth of examples, from ancient myths and folk tales via the plays and novels of great literature to the popular movies and TV soap operas of today, it shows that there are seven archetypal themes which recur throughout every kind of storytelling. But this is only the prelude to an investigation into how and why we are ‘programmed’ to imagine stories in these ways, and how they relate to the inmost patterns of human psychology. Drawing on a vast array of examples, from Proust to detective stories, from the Marquis de Sade to E.T., Christopher Booker then leads us through the extraordinary changes in the nature of storytelling over the past 200 years, and why so many stories have ‘lost the plot’ by losing touch with their underlying archetypal purpose. Booker analyses why evolution has given us the need to tell stories and illustrates how storytelling has provided a uniquely revealing mirror to mankind’s psychological development over the past 5000 years. This seminal book opens up in an entirely new way our understanding of the real purpose storytelling plays in our lives, and will be a talking point for years to come.

 

Steve Cuden: Beating Broadway
How to Create Stories for Musicals That Get Standing Ovations

The popularity of musicals has reached an all-time high leading to the development of numerous original shows. In this comprehensive new guide, Beating Broadway: How to Create Stories for Musicals That Get Standing Ovations, written by veteran storyteller and successful creator of musicals Steve Cuden, readers learn how the plots and stories behind musicals are developed and honed. With a breezy, lighthearted approach, creators at all levels are provided key advice for building winning musical stories.

Cuden, who has been there, done that, offers writers the know-how and encouragement to construct brilliant, attention-grabbing musical storylines. Beating Broadway provides readers with practical, down-to-earth advice for crafting successful musical theater stories that will reach audiences everywhere. This complete, two-part manual also guides aspiring writers in what it takes to develop shows that can attract Broadway producers. By showing writers the ins and outs of storytelling required for today’s commercial musical theater, Beating Broadway places success firmly within grasp. Readers also gain insight into how stories function in forty of the world’s most beloved stage and movie musicals as Cuden breaks down each one into key narrative beats and plot points.

“Beating Broadway is a take-you-by-the-hand guided tutorial written by a seasoned professional who really knows his stuff. This book feeds your mind with how stories for musicals are made. If you are interested in creating or producing a musical, Steve’s insights will be helpful and inspiring to you. JEFF MARX, Tony winning Composer/Lyricist of Avenue Q
“Beating Broadway digs deep to the core of how stories for successful musicals are created. This is a must-have book for anyone who wants to write exceptional musicals or is just a fan.” SCOTT WITTMAN, Tony Winning Lyricist of Hairspray and Co-Lyricist and Executive Producer for the Hit TV Series, Smash
“Beat-by-beat, Steve Cuden breaks down story, structure, and song spotting so you can beat the Broadway musical before it beats you!” CHERI STEINKELLNER, Emmy-winning Writer/Producer of Cheers and Teacher’s Pet, Tony-nominated Writer of Sister Act

 

Joe Deer: Directing in Musical Theatre
An Essential Guide

This comprehensive guide, from the author of Acting in Musical Theatre, will equip aspiring directors with all of the skills that they will need in order to guide a production from beginning to end. From the very first conception and collaborations with crew and cast, through rehearsals and technical production all the way to the final performance, Joe Deer covers the full range.

Deer’s accessible and compellingly practical approach uses proven, repeatable methods for addressing all aspects of a production. The focus at every stage is on working with others, using insights from experienced, successful directors to tackle common problems and devise solutions. Each section uses the same structure, to stimulate creative thinking:

Timetables: detailed instructions on what to do and when, to provide a flexible organization template

Prompts and Investigations: addressing conceptual questions about style, characterization and design

Skills Workshops: Exercises and ‘how-to’ guides to essential skills

Essential Forms and Formats: Including staging notation, script annotation and rehearsal checklists

Case Studies: Well-known productions show how to apply each chapter’s ideas

Directing in Musical Theatre not only provides all of the essential skills, but explains when and how to put them to use; how to think like a director.

 

Zachary Dunbar: ‘Music Theatre and Musical Theatre’
in the Cambridge Companion to Theatre History (eds. David Wiles & Chris Dymkowski)

Scholars, amateur historians and actors have shaped theatre history in different ways at different times and in different places. This Companion offers students and general readers a series of accessible and engaging essays on the key aspects of studying and writing theatre history. The diverse international team of contributors investigates how theatre history has been constructed, showing how historical facts are tied to political and artistic agendas and explaining why history matters to us. Beginning with an introduction to the central narrative that traditionally informs our understanding of what theatre is, the book then turns to alternative points of view – from other parts of the world and from the perspective of performers in fields such as music-theatre and circus. It concludes by looking at how history is written in the ‘democratic’ age of the Internet and offers a new perspective on theatre history in our globalised world.

 

David Edgar: How Plays Work

In How Plays Work, distinguished playwright David Edgar examines the mechanisms and techniques which dramatists throughout the ages have employed to structure their plays and express what they want to say about the human condition. Whether we are playwrights or audience members, Edgar takes us on an exploration that starts with the building-blocks of whole plays structure, plot, genre and on through the construction of scenes and characters to the tiniest devices in the playwright s toolkit. He shows how plays share a common architecture without which the uniqueness of their authors vision would be invisible. What does Jaws have in common with Ibsen? What does Hamlet owe to Aeschylus? And how does a play like Top Girls really work? How Plays Work is a masterclass for playwrights and all theatre practitioners, but also a fascinating guide to the anatomy of drama.

 

Lehman Engel: Words with Music
Creating the Broadway Musical Libretto
(updated and revised by Howard Kissel)

The dean of Broadway musical directors examines the dynamics of how the book, music and lyrics work together to create such hits as My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof, Guys and Dolls, Hair, Pal Joey, West Side Story, Company, South Pacific, Threepenny Opera and Porgy and Bess. Howard Kissel, chief theater critic for the New York Daily News, extends the reach of Engel’s subjects by bringing them up to date with commentary on such shows as A Chorus Line, Nine, Sunday in the Park with George, Rent, Working and Falsettos. Kissel offers a thoughtful history on how musical theater has evolved in the three decades since Engel wrote Words with Music (1972) and how Engel’s classic work remains vital and illuminating today.

 

Robert Gordon, Olaf Jubin & Mille Taylor:
British Musical Theatre since 1950

This critical introduction to British musical theatre since 1950 is the first book to discuss its post-war developments from the perspective of British – as opposed to American – popular culture. The genre is situated within the historical context of post-war British society in order to explore the range of forms through which significant sociocultural moments are represented.

Introductory chapters analyse the way British musicals have responded to social change, the forms of popular theatre and music from which they have developed and their originality in elaborating new narrative strategies since the seventies. A key feature of the book is its close readings of twelve key works, from Salad Days (1954) and Oliver! (1960) to global smash hits such as Les Misérables (1985) and The Phantom of the Opera (1986) and beyond, including the latest critical and box-office success Matilda (2011). Also analysed are British favourites (Blood Brothers, 1983), cult shows (The Rocky Horror Show, 1975) and musicals with a pre-existing fan-base, such as Mamma Mia! (1999).

 

Oscar Hammerstein: The Complete Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II

From every “beautiful mornin'” to “some enchanted evening,” the songs of Oscar Hammerstein II are part of our daily lives, his words part of our national fabric.
Born into a theatrical dynasty headed by his grandfather and namesake, Oscar Hammerstein II breathed new life into the moribund art form of operetta by writing lyrics and libretti for such classics as Rose-Marie (music by Rudolf Friml), The Desert Song (Sigmund Romberg), The New Moon (Romberg) and Song of the Flame (George Gershwin). Hammerstein and Jerome Kern wrote eight musicals together, including Sweet Adeline, Music in the Air, and their masterpiece, Show Boat. The vibrant Carmen Jones was Hammerstein’s all-black adaptation of the tragic opera by Georges Bizet.

In 1943, Hammerstein, pioneer in the field of operetta, joined forces with Richard Rodgers, who had for the previous twenty-five years taken great strides in the field of musical comedy with his longtime writing partner, Lorenz Hart. The first Rodgers and Hammerstein work, Oklahoma!, merged the two styles into a completely new genre–the musical play–and simultaneously launched the most successful partnership in American musical theater. Over the next seventeen years, Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote eight more Broadway musicals: Carousel, Allegro, South Pacific, The King and I, Me and Juliet, Pipe Dream, Flower Drum Song, and The Sound of Music. They also wrote a movie musical (State Fair) and one for television (Cinderella). Collectively their works have earned dozens of awards, including Pulitzers, Tonys, Oscars, Grammys, and Emmys.

Throughout his career, Hammerstein created works of lyrical beauty and universal feeling, and he continually strove–sometimes against fashion–to seek out the good and beautiful in the world. “I know the world is filled with troubles and many injustices,” he once said. “But reality is as beautiful as it is ugly . . . I just couldn’t write anything without hope in it.”
All of his lyrics are here–850, more than a quarter published for the first time–in this sixth book in the indispensable Complete Lyrics series that has also brought us the lyrics of Cole Porter, Lorenz Hart, Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Frank Loesser. From the young scribe’s earliest attempts to the old master’s final lyric–“Edelweiss”–we can see, read, and, yes, sing the words of a theatrical and lyrical genius.

 

Stephen Jeffreys: Playwriting
Structure, Character, How and What to Write

Playwriting reveals the various invisible frameworks and mechanisms that are at the heart of each and every successful play. Drawing on a huge range of sources, it deconstructs playwriting into its constituent parts, and offers illuminating insights into:

Structure an in-depth exploration of the fundamental elements of drama, enabling you to choose instinctively the most effective structure for your play
Character advice on how to generate and write credible characters by exploring their three essential dimensions: story, breadth and depth
How to Write techniques for writing great dialogue, dynamic scenes and compelling subtext, including how to improve your writing by approaching it from unfamiliar directions
What to Write how to adopt different approaches to finding your material, how to explore the fundamental ‘Nine Stories’, and how to evaluate the potential of your ideas

Written by a true master of the craft, this authoritative guide will provide playwrights at every level of experience with a rich array of tools to apply to their own work.
This edition, edited by Maeve McKeown, includes a Foreword by April De Angelis.

‘What Stephen Jeffreys doesn’t know about playwriting isn’t worth knowing’ Stephen Daldry
‘Stephen Jeffreys is as important a teacher as he is brilliant a writer… Without him, I wouldn’t have been able to write the plays that I have written’ Simon Stephens
‘An incredibly useful writing helpmeet. As witty and humane as its author’ Emma Thompson
‘What Stephen taught me has shaped my mind and I have shared this with countless writers’ Kwame Kwei-Armah
‘Stephen was a true mentor… I still draw upon much of what he taught me today’ Abi Morgan
‘Like a bird in the air, Stephen was utterly in his element as a teacher. We sat spellbound’ Phyllida Lloyd
‘I had the great pleasure of working with Stephen on his play The Libertine. Would that all playwrights had his openness, his talent, his hard-headedness, his experience, his enthusiasm, his audacity, his complexity, and perhaps best of all his talent and interest in eliciting the best in others’ John Malkovich
‘Stephen’s wit was legendary. “Wit”: from the proto-Indo-European word “weid” meaning “to see”/”to know”. Stephen “saw” clearly and “knew” profoundly; which is why we sought out the clarity of his words and learned deeply from his laughter’ Simon McBurney
‘Stephen was more than just a great bloke whose easy laugh set a room alight; he was a genuine geek, an obsessive about the craft of writing… As I read, I was reminded again of his deep connection to plays and how they work. There are gems in here, there is guidance, there is the spirit of Stephen Jeffreys’ April De Angelis

 

Bruce Kirle: Unfinished Show Business
Broadway Musicals as Works in Progress

Pursues the social and historical contexts of a particularly unfinished theatrical genre. In this fresh approach to musical theatre history, Bruce Kirle challenges the commonly understood trajectory of the genre. Drawing on the notion that the world of the author stays fixed while the world of the audience is ever-changing, Kirle suggests that musicals are open, fluid products of the particular cultural moment in which they are performed. Incomplete as printed texts and scores, musicals take on unpredictable lives of their own in the complex transformation from page to stage. Using lenses borrowed from performance studies, cultural studies, queer studies, and ethnoracial studies, “”Unfinished Show Business: Broadway Musicals as Works-in-Process”” argues that musicals are as interesting for the provocative issues they raise about shifting attitudes toward American identity as for their show-stopping song and dance numbers and conveniently happy endings. Kirle illustrates how performers such as Ed Wynn, Fanny Brice, and the Marx Brothers used their charismatic personalities and quirkiness to provide insights into the struggle of marginalized ethnoracial groups to assimilate. Using examples from timeless favorites including “”Oklahomal””, “”Fiddler on the Roof””, “”A Chorus Line””, and “”Les Miserables””, Kirle demonstrates Broadway’s ability to bridge seemingly insoluble tensions in society, from economic and political anxiety surrounding World War II to generational conflict and youth counterculture to corporate America and the “”me”” generation. Enlivened by a gallery of some of Broadway’s most memorable moments – and some amusingly obscure ones as well – this study will appeal to students, scholars, and lifelong musical theater enthusiasts.

 

Raymond Knapp: The American Musical and the Formation of National Identity

The American musical has achieved and maintained relevance to more people in America than any other performance-based art. This thoughtful history of the genre, intended for readers of all stripes, offers probing discussions of how American musicals, especially through their musical numbers, advance themes related to American national identity. Written by a musicologist and supported by a wealth of illustrative audio examples (on the book’s website), the book examines key historical antecedents to the musical, including the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, nineteenth and early twentieth-century American burlesque and vaudeville, Tin Pan Alley, and other song types. It then proceeds thematically, focusing primarily on fifteen mainstream shows from the twentieth century, with discussions of such notable productions as Show Boat (1927), Porgy and Bess (1935), Oklahoma! (1943), West Side Story (1957), Hair (1967), Pacific Overtures (1976), and Assassins (1991). The shows are grouped according to their treatment of themes that include defining America, mythologies, counter-mythologies, race and ethnicity, dealing with World War II, and exoticism. Each chapter concludes with a brief consideration of available scholarship on related subjects; an extensive appendix provides information on each show discussed, including plot summaries and song lists, and a listing of important films, videos, audio recordings, published scores, and libretti associated with each musical.

 

Raymond Knapp: The American Musical and the Performance of Personal Identity

The American musical has long provided an important vehicle through which writers, performers, and audiences reimagine who they are and how they might best interact with the world around them. Musicals are especially good at this because they provide not only an opportunity for us to enact dramatic versions of alternative identities, but also the material for performing such alternatives in the real world, through songs and the characters and attitudes those songs project. This book addresses a variety of specific themes in musicals that serve this general function: fairy tale and fantasy, idealism and inspiration, gender and sexuality, and relationships, among others. It also considers three overlapping genres that are central, in quite different ways, to the projection of personal identity: operetta, movie musicals, and operatic musicals. Among the musicals discussed are Camelot, Candide; Chicago; Company; Evita; Gypsy; Into the Woods; Kiss Me, Kate; A Little Night Music; Man of La Mancha; Meet Me in St. Louis; The Merry Widow; Moulin Rouge; My Fair Lady; Passion; The Rocky Horror Picture Show; Singin’ in the Rain; Stormy Weather; Sweeney Todd; and The Wizard of Oz. Complementing the author’s earlier work, The American Musical and the Formation of National Identity, this book completes a two-volume thematic history of the genre, designed for general audiences and specialists alike.

 

Arthur Laurents: Mainly on Directing
Gypsy, West Side Story, and Other Musicals

From Arthur Laurents, playwright, screenwriter, director a mesmerizing book about theater, the art, the artist, the insider, the outsider and the making of two of the greatest musicals of the American stage, West Side Story and Gypsy. It is a book profoundly enriched by the author s two loves, love for the theater and love for his partner of fifty-two years, Tom Hatcher, who shared and inspired every aspect of his life and his work.

Laurents writes about the musicals he directed, I Can Get It for You Wholesale, its producer David Merrick (the Abominable Showman ), and its (very young) stars Barbra Streisand and Elliott Gould . . . He writes about Stephen Sondheim s Anyone Can Whistle, which starred Angela Lansbury and Lee Remick, marking the debut for each in musical theater. He summons up the challenges and surprises that came with the making of La Cage aux Folles, the first big Broadway musical that was gay and glad to be.

He writes in rich detail about his most recent production of Gypsy, 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.

And he talks, as well, about the works of other directors Fiddler on the Roof; Kiss Me, Kate; Spring Awakening; Street Scene; The Phantom of the Opera; LoveMusik; Sweeney Todd.

Moving, exhilarating, provocative a portrait of an artist working with other artists; a unique close-up look at today s American musical theater by a man who s been at its red-hot center for more than five decades.

 

Laura Macdonald & William A. Everett (Editors):
The Palgrave Handbook of Musical Theatre Producers

This handbook is the first to provide a systematic investigation of the various roles of producers in commercial and not-for-profit musical theatre. Featuring fifty-one essays written by international specialists in the field, it offers new insights into the world of musical theatre, its creation and its promotion. Key areas of investigation include the lives and works of producers whose work is part of a US and worldwide musical theatre legacy, as well as the largely critically-neglected role of the musical theatre producer in the making, marketing, and performance of musicals. Also explored are the shifting roles of producers in musical theatre and their popular portrayals, offering a reader-friendly collection for fans, scholars, students, and practitioners of musical theatre alike.

 

Scott McMillin: The Musical as Drama
Study of the Principles & Conventions Behind Musical Shows
from Kern to Sondheim

Derived from the colorful traditions of vaudeville, burlesque, revue, and operetta, the musical has blossomed into America’s most popular form of theater. Scott McMillin has developed a fresh aesthetic theory of this underrated art form, exploring the musical as a type of drama deserving the kind of critical and theoretical regard given to Chekhov or opera. Until recently, the musical has been considered either an “integrated” form of theater or an inferior sibling of opera. McMillin demonstrates that neither of these views is accurate, and that the musical holds true to the disjunctive and irreverent forms of popular entertainment from which it arose a century ago. Critics and composers have long held the musical to the standards applied to opera, asserting that each piece should work together to create a seamless drama. But McMillin argues that the musical is a different form of theater, requiring the suspension of the plot for song. The musical’s success lies not in the smoothness of unity, but in the crackle of difference. While disparate, the dancing, music, dialogue, and songs combine to explore different aspects of the action and the characters. Discussing composers and writers such as Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Kander and Ebb, Leonard Bernstein, and Jerome Kern, The Musical as Drama describes the continuity of this distinctively American dramatic genre, from the shows of the 1920s and 1930s to the musicals of today.

 

Dana Singer: Stage Writers Handbook

The first comprehensive guide to the business of writing for today’s stage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stephen Sondheim: Finishing the Hat
Collected Lyrics (1954-1981)

The winner of seven Tonys, seven Grammys, an Oscar, and a Pulitzer Prize, Stephen Sondheim has become synonymous with the best in musical theatre. Now, in Finishing the Hat, he has not only collected his song lyrics for the first time, he’s giving readers a rare, personal look into his extraordinary shows and life.

Along with the lyrics, both published and unpublished, for all of his productions from 1954 to 1981 – including West Side Story, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, and Sweeney Todd, which have starred some of the most famous and talented actors in the world from Johnny Depp and Catherine Zeta Jones, to Judi Dench and Alan Rickman, Finishing the Hat is a celebration of the act of creation. Sondheim discusses his relationship with his mentor, Oscar Hammerstein II, and his collaborations with legends Leonard Bernstein, Richard Rodgers, Angela Lansbury, and countless others. His anecdotes – rich with history, personal insights, and intimate details – transport us back to a time when theatre was a major pillar of American culture. And throughout the book, Sondheim analyses his work and dissects his own songs as well as those of others, offering unparalleled insight into songwriting that will be studied for years to come.

Brilliant, poignant, scathing, and funny, Finishing the Hat is the newest production Sondheim can add to his list of classic works.

 

Stephen Sondheim: Look, I Made a Hat
Collected Lyrics (1981-2011)

As he did in the acclaimed Finishing the Hat, Sondheim richly annotates his lyrics with personal and theatre history, discussions of his collaborations, and exacting, charming dissections of his work – both the successes and the failures. Picking up where he left off in Finishing the Hat, he gives us all the lyrics, along with cutouts and early drafts, to the Pulitzer Prize-winning Sunday in the Park with George, as well as Into the Woods, Assassins, and Passion. Here too is an in-depth look at Wise Guys, subsequently transformed into Bounce, and eventually into Road Show. And we are treated to chapters on his work for television and film and his “orphan songs,” culled from parodies and special occasions over the years.

Filled with behind-the-scenes photographs and illustrations from original manuscripts, and with the same elegant design as the earlier book, Look, I Made A Hat will be devoured by Sondheim’s passionate fans today and for years to come.

 

David Spencer: The Musical Theatre Writer’s Survival Guide

David Spencer has written a book full of truths a young writer will not find articulated anywhere else. Most of us in the theatre gained our “experience” by making mistakes and learning from them. David’s book lets you gain the “experience” and skip the mistakes part. Anyone maneuvering the treacherous waters of musicals will find it not nearly so lonely or baffling with this remarkable volume as a companion. – Richard Maltby, Jr., Director/Lyricist, Miss Saigon, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Baby

Consider The Musical Theatre Writer’s Survival Guide your new best friend in the business. – Alan Menken, Oscar recipient and Tony-Award nominee, composer, Little Shop of Horrors and Beauty and the Beast

At long last: a how-to book written by someone who actually knows how to. It hits so many nails on the head I could barely get through it for the sound of all that hammering.
Larry Gelbart, Award-winning co-librettist, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and librettist, City of Angels

For its practitioners, musical theatre is an art, a passion, and a lifelong love. But it’s also a complex landscape involving not merely principles of craft about book, music and lyrics, but also principles of collaboration, script/demo presentation, project/production development, venue, business, and – everybody’s area of uncertainty – politics. In The Musical Theatre Writer’s Survival Guide, award-winning musical dramatist and teacher David Spencer provides a guide-to-the-game that helps you negotiate all those aspects of the business and more. This professional handbook will walk you through:

  • getting your name and your projects into the hands of producers, instead of the rejection pile
  • choosing the right producer, agent, or director, instead of surrounding yourself with people uninterested in your work and your career-or interested for the wrong reasons
  • bringing your vision to life through stage-savvy writing, instead of watching it sputter due to flaws in craft
  • living a happy, healthy life in musicals, instead of dying a slow, showbiz death.

If you’re taking your first steps, Spencer’s counsel, anecdotes, and instructions will save you years of blindly stumbling about without results. Likewise, if you’ve been around the block a few times, The Musical Theatre Writer’s Survival Guide can rescue you from the kinds of career-stalling traps, bad habits, and false assumptions that lead to dead ends.

 

Frances Stillman: The Poet’s Manual and Rhyming Dictionary

Here is a reference tool that no poet can afford to be without. A good rhyming dictionary is an invaluable aid to anyone composing verse. Frances Stillman’s dictionary is the most extensive available, yet it is compactly arranged and will enable verse writers to find the rhymes they need quickly and easily. It contains more terms than any other similar work and includes a wealth of slang and colloquial words, as well as numerous foreign expressions that have worked their way into the English language. Stillman begins with a long introduction on prosody, providing a clear treatment of poetic forms. The various metres and stanzas used in English are described with examples, the difference between accent and stress is explained, and the nature of sprung rhythm is dealt with. Perfect rhyme and near-rhyme are fully treated, including the near-rhyme used in contemporary poetry. There is also a comprehensive index to all the terms used.

 

 

Will Storr: The Science of Storytelling

Who would we be without stories? Stories mould who we are, from our character to our cultural identity. They drive us to act out our dreams and ambitions, and shape our politics and beliefs. We use them to construct our relationships, to keep order in our law courts, to interpret events in our newspapers and social media. Storytelling is an essential part of what makes us human.

There have been many attempts to understand what makes a good story – from Joseph Campbell’s well-worn theories about myth and archetype to recent attempts to crack the ‘Bestseller Code’. But few have used a scientific approach. This is curious, for if we are to truly understand storytelling in its grandest sense, we must first come to understand the ultimate storyteller – the human brain.

In this scalpel-sharp, thought-provoking book, Will Storr demonstrates how master storytellers manipulate and compel us, leading us on a journey from the Hebrew scriptures to Mr Men, from Booker Prize-winning literature to box set TV. Applying dazzling psychological research and cutting-edge neuroscience to the foundations of our myths and archetypes, he shows how we can use these tools to tell better stories – and make sense of our chaotic modern world.

 

Steven Suskind: The Sound of Broadway Music
A Book of Orchestrators & Orchestrations
Philip J. Lang, Jonathan Tunick – are names well known to musical theatre fans, but few people understand precisely what the orchestrator does. The Sound of Broadway Music is the first book ever written about these unsung stars of the Broadway musical whose work is so vital to each show’s success. The book examines the careers of Broadway’s major orchestrators and follows the song as it travels from the composer’s piano to the orchestra pit. Steven Suskin has meticulously tracked down thousands of original orchestral scores, piecing together enigmatic notes and notations with long-forgotten documents and current interviews with dozens of composers, producers, conductors and arrangers. The information is separated into three main parts: a biographical section which gives a sense of the life and world of twelve major theatre orchestrators, as well as incorporating briefer sections on another thirty arrangers and conductors; a lively discussion of the art of orchestration, written for musical theatre enthusiasts (including those who do not read music); a biographical section which gives a sense of the life and world of twelve major theatre orchestrators, as well as incorporating briefer sections on another thirty arrangers and conductors; and an impressive show-by-show listing of more than six hundred musicals, in many cases including a song-by-song listing of precisely who orchestrated what along with relevant comments from people involved with the productions. Stocked with intriguing facts and juicy anecdotes, many of which have never before appeared in print, The Sound of Broadway Music brings fascinating and often surprising new insight into the world of musical theatre.

 

Jack Viertel: The Secret Life of the American Musical
How Broadway Shows Are Built

For almost a century, Americans have been losing their hearts and losing their minds in an insatiable love affair with the American musical. It often begins in childhood in a darkened theater, grows into something more serious for high school actors, and reaches its passionate zenith when it comes time for love, marriage, and children, who will start the cycle all over again. Americans love musicals. Americans invented musicals. Americans perfected musicals. But what, exactly, is a musical?

In The Secret Life of the American Musical, Jack Viertel takes them apart, puts them back together, sings their praises, marvels at their unflagging inventiveness, and occasionally despairs over their more embarrassing shortcomings. In the process, he invites us to fall in love all over again by showing us how musicals happen, what makes them work, how they captivate audiences, and how one landmark show leads to the next–by design or by accident, by emulation or by rebellion–from Oklahoma! to Hamilton and onward.

Structured like a musical, The Secret Life of the American Musical begins with an overture and concludes with a curtain call, with stops in between for “I Want” songs, “conditional” love songs, production numbers, star turns, and finales. The ultimate insider, Viertel has spent three decades on Broadway, working on dozens of shows old and new as a conceiver, producer, dramaturg, and general creative force; he has his own unique way of looking at the process and at the people who collaborate to make musicals a reality. He shows us patterns in the architecture of classic shows and charts the inevitable evolution that has taken place in musical theater as America itself has evolved socially and politically.

The Secret Life of the American Musical makes you feel as though you’ve been there in the rehearsal room, in the front row of the theater, and in the working offices of theater owners and producers as they pursue their own love affair with that rare and elusive beast–the Broadway hit.

 

Christopher Vogler: The Writer’s Journey
Mythic Structure for Writers

The updated and revised third edition provides new insights and observations from Vogler’s ongoing work on mythology’s influence on stories, movies, and man himself. The previous two editions of this book have sold over 180,000 units, making this book a ‘classic’ for screenwriters, writers, and novelists.

 

 

 

 

Fredric B. Vogel & Ben Hodges (Editors):
The Commercial Theatre Institute Guide to Producing Plays & Musicals

The Commercial Theatre Institute, now in its 25th year, runs the world’s foremost course for those interested in producing or investing in the theatre. “The CTI Guide to Producing Plays and Musicals” provides the very best advice on all aspects of theatre production, from publicity and advertising, through various legal aspects, to the actual role of a producer. With interviews and contributions from 30 top theatre professionals – including agents, directors, managers, fundraisers and production designers – this is the definitive resource for anyone interested in theatre production.

 

Clement Wood: The Complete Rhyming Dictionary

This authoritative, comprehensive handbook contains virtually all the rhyming words possible in the English language and is a must for anyoe who works with words. Updated to meet the needs of today’s wordsmiths, this reference work is easy to use.

This is the one Sondheim uses!

 

 

 

 

Julian Woolford: How Musicals Work
And How to Write Your Own

Musicals are the most popular form of stage entertainment today, with the West End and Broadway dominated by numerous long-running hits. They can be gloriously life-affirming spectaculars, swelling both the hearts of audiences, and the wallets of their writers. But for every Wicked or Phantom of the Opera, there are dozens of casualties that didn’t fare quite so well. In this book, Julian Woolford explores the musical theatre canon to explain why and how some musicals work, why some don’t, and what you should (and shouldn’t) do if you’re thinking of writing your own.

Drawing on his experience as a successful writer and director of musicals, and as a lecturer in writing musicals at the University of London, Woolford outlines every step of the creative process, from hatching the initial idea and developing a structure for the work, through creating the book, the music and the lyrics, and on to the crucial process of rewriting (as Sondheim said, Musical comedies aren’t written, they are rewritten ). He then guides the reader through getting a musical produced, with invaluable advice about generating future productions and sustaining a career.

The book includes dozens of exercises to assist the novice writer in developing their craft, and detailed case studies of well-known musicals such as Les Misérables, The Sound of Music, Miss Saigon, Little Shop of Horrors, Godspell and Evita.

An essential guide for anyone writing or wanting to write a musical, How Musicals Work is a fascinating insight for anyone interested in the art form or who has ever wondered what it takes to get from first idea to first night.

 

John Yorke: Into The Woods
How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them

We all love stories. But why do we tell them? And why do all stories function in an eerily similar way? John Yorke, creator of the BBC Writers’ Academy, has brought a vast array of drama to British screens. Here he takes us on a journey to the heart of storytelling, revealing that there truly is a unifying shape to narrative forms – one that echoes the fairytale journey into the woods and, like any great art, comes from deep within. From ancient myths to big-budget blockbusters, he gets to the root of the stories that are all around us, every day.

 

 

 

David Young: How To Direct A Musical

How to Direct a Musical is a lively and practical guide to the seemingly overwhelming task of directing a musical. David Young brings to this handbook his extensive experience as a director of over 100 productions and more than 250 workshops in the US, China, Senegal and Brazil. Young takes a pragmatic, do-it-yourself approach, guiding the reader from planning to casting, rehearsal to opening night. Topics covered include script analysis, collaboration with designers, musical directors, choreographers and crew, eliminating lengthy pauses between scenes, dress rehearsals and curtain calls.

 

Sue Young: The New Comprehensive American Rhyming Dictionary

“The New Comprehensive American Rhyming Dictionary” is, by far, the sassiest, most fun, complete and up-to-date book of its kind on the market. This remarkable compendium contains over 65,000 words, phrases, and colloquialisms – a gold mine of rhyme certain to aid and delight everyone who works with language, from the amateur poet to the professional wordsmith.

Remember the American accent!