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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading List

27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading List

Summer is here and there is no better time of year to soak up the sun and dive into a new book. You’re in luck, because Broadway’s best have put pen to paper to turn out theatre page-turners of every kind. From theatre biographies to theatre fiction; theatre books for kids to theatre history; check out our collection of 27 new Broadway books for every theatre lover’s Summer reading list.

Check out recent releases and view upcoming books for later this year!


27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListDance on the American Musical Theatre Stage: A History

by Ray Miller
Available now

Dance on the American Musical Theatre Stage: A History chronicles the development of dance, with an emphasis on musicals and the Broadway stage, in the United States from its colonial beginnings to performances of the present day. This book explores the fascinating tug-and-pull between the European classical, folk, and social dance imports and America’s indigenous dance forms as they met and collided on the popular musical theatre stage. This historical background influenced a specific musical theatre movement vocabulary and a unique choreographic approach that is recognizable today as Broadway-style dancing. Throughout the book, a cultural context is woven into the history to reveal how the competing values within American culture, and its attempts as a nation to define and redefine itself, played out through developments in dance on the musical theatre stage.

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListHere for the Hearing: Analyzing the Music in Musical Theater

by Michael Buchler and Gregory John Decker
Available now

This book offers a series of essays that show the integrated role that musical structure (including harmony, melody, rhythm, meter, form, and musical association) plays in making sense of what transpires onstage in musicals. Written by a group of music analysts who care deeply about musical theater, this collection provides new understanding of how musicals are put together, how composers and lyricists structure words and music to complement one another, and how music helps us understand the human relationships and historical and social contexts. Using a wide range of musical examples, representing the history of musical theater from the 1920s to the present day, the book explores how music interacts with dramatic elements within individual shows and other pieces within and outside of the genre. These essays invite readers to consider issues that are fundamental both to our understanding of musical theater and to the multiple ways we engage with music.

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListI’ll Drink to That!: Broadway’s Legendary Stars, Classic Shows, and the Cocktails They Inspired

by Laurence Maslon
Available now

We’d like to propose a toast…to Broadway! Learn the spirited history of drinking on stage (and off) and how to make cocktails inspired by the most iconic shows from Broadway. Broadway has always raised a glass to celebrate itself-what’s an opening night without popping the cork of a bottle of Champagne? I’ll Drink to That! Broadway’s Legendary Stars, Classic Shows, and the Cocktails They Inspired is a celebration of theatrical tradition, a souvenir of magic moments on stage, and a practical guide to concocting one-of-a-kind craft cocktail recipes inspired by the classics of the American stage.

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListA Fine Romance: Adapting Broadway to Hollywood in the Studio System Era

by Geoffrey Block
Available now

How do we compare a Broadway musical to its Hollywood counterpart? A Fine Romance: Adapting Broadway to Hollywood in the Studio System Era answers this question by exploring the symbiotic relationship between a dozen Broadway musicals and their Hollywood film adaptations. From enduring classics like Oklahoma!, Brigadoon, and West Side Story to lesser-known gems such as Cabin in the Sky, Call Me Madam, and Silk Stockings, author Geoffrey Block examines some of the best loved stage and screen musicals of all time as well as neglected works that deserve our attention and respect.

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListGays on Broadway

by Ethan Mordden
Available now

From the genteel female impersonators of the 1910s to the raucous drag queens of La Cage Aux Folles, from the men of The Normal Heart to the women of Fun Home, and from Eva Le Gallienne and Tallulah Bankhead to Tennessee Williams and Nathan Lane, Gays On Broadway deftly chronicles the plays and people that brought gay culture to Broadway. Writing with his customary verve and wit, author Ethan Mordden follows the steady liberation of gay themes on the American stage. The story begins in the early twentieth century, when gay characters were virtually banned from productions. The 1920s saw a flurry of plays closed on moral grounds as well as the Wales Padlock Act, which forbade representation of “sex degeneracy”. While authorities made consistent attempts to shutter the movement, the public remained curious, and after a few decades of war making, a truce broke out when The Boys In the Band became a national smash hit. From this point on, gay theatre proved simply too popular to abolish.

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListWhen the British Musical Ruled the World

by Robert Sellers
Available now

In this revealing behind-the-scenes narrative, journalist and author Robert Sellers gives a definitive account of how Evita, Cats, Starlight Express, Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera, Chess, and Miss Saigon changed the business of musical theater in the 1980s. These mega productions of the were larger than life, colorful, and spectacular. Sellers collects insightful, personal stories from cast members, set designers, musical supervisors, dancers, lighting designers, production managers, singers, and choreographers from the shows that finally put Broadway on its back foot. He also describes the backstage drama, production nightmares, and financial woes that threatened to derail the shows at multiple points. Whatever obstacles they faced, though, these productions swept the world and transformed the face of musical theater in ways that still resound today.

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListHistorical Dictionary of Vaudeville (Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts)

by James Fisher
Available now

Vaudeville, as it is commonly known today, began as a response to scandalous variety performances appealing mostly to adult, male patrons. When former minstrel performer and balladeer Tony Pastor opened the Fourteenth Street Theatre in New York in 1881, he was guided by a mission to provide family-friendly variety shows in hopes of drawing in that portion of the audience – women and children – otherwise inherently excluded from variety bills prior to 1881. There he perfected a framework for family-oriented amusements of the highest obtainable quality and style.

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListWeill, Blitzstein, and Bernstein: A Study of Influence

by Professor Rebecca Schmid
Available now

Weill, Blitzstein, and Bernstein: A Study of Influence focuses on works that represent different phases of Weill’s mission to renew the genre of opera, evolving from Die Dreigroschenoper to the musical play Lady in the Dark and the Broadway Opera Street Scene. Blitzstein and Bernstein in turn defied formal boundaries with The Cradle Will Rock, Regina, Trouble in Tahiti, Candide, and West Side Story – part of a short-lived movement in mid-twentieth century America that coincided with a renaissance for Weill’s German-period works following the premiere of Blitzstein’s translation, The Threepenny Opera, under Bernstein’s baton. The unpublished A Pray by Blecht, for which Bernstein rejoined Stephen Sondheim and Jerome Robbins, his collaborators on West Side Story, deepens the connection of Bernstein’s aesthetic to Weill.

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListQueer Approaches in Musical Theatre 

by Ryan Donovan
Available on June 29

Queer Approaches in Musical Theatre introduces readers to a facet of musicals often assumed but misunderstood: how queer approaches in musical theatre extend deeper than fabulosity. Queerness in musicals challenges their typical heteronormativity but also sometimes simultaneously reinforces it. Featuring four case studies centered around musicals such as The Book of Mormon, Cabaret, Fun Home, La Cage aux Folles and Rent, this concise study examines the stakes of representation in the theatrical genre most often presumed to be openly queer.

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListMilestones in Musical Theatre 

by Mary Jo Lodge
Available on July 3, 2023

Milestones in Musical Theatre tracks ten of the most significant moments in musical theatre history, from some of its earliest incarnations, especially those crafted by Black creators, to its rise as a global phenomenon. Designed for weekly use in musical theatre courses, these ten chosen snapshots chart the development of this unique art form and move through its history chronologically, tracking the earliest operettas through the mid-century Golden Age classics, as well as the creative explosion in directing talent, which reshaped the form and the movement toward inclusivity that has recast its creators. Each chapter explores how the musical and its history have been deeply influenced by a variety of factors, including race, gender, and nationality, and examines how each milestone represents a significant turning point for this beloved art form.

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListVows, Veils, and Masks: The Performance of Marriage in the Plays of Eugene O’Neill

by Beth Wynstra
Available on July 7, 2023

Vows, Veils, and Masks offers a bold and timely approach to the plays of Eugene O’Neill with its attention to the engagements, weddings, and marriages so crucial to the tragic action in O’Neill’s works. Specifically, the book examines the culturally sanctioned traditions and gender roles that underscored marital life in the early twentieth century, and that still haunt and define love and partnership in the modern age.

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListThe Proof Stage: How Theater Reveals the Human Truth of Mathematics

by Stephen Abbott
Available on July 11, 2023

The discovery of alternate geometries, paradoxes of the infinite, incompleteness, and chaos theory revealed that, despite its reputation for certainty, mathematical truth is not immutable, perfect, or even perfectible. Beginning in the last century, a handful of adventurous playwrights took inspiration from the fractures of modern mathematics to expand their own artistic boundaries. Originating in the early avant-garde, mathematics-infused theater reached a popular apex in Tom Stoppard’s 1993 play Arcadia. In The Proof Stage, mathematician Stephen Abbott explores this unlikely collaboration of theater and mathematics. He probes the impact of mathematics on such influential writers as Alfred Jarry, Samuel Beckett, Bertolt Brecht, and Stoppard, and delves into the life and mathematics of Alan Turing as they are rendered onstage. The result is an unexpected story about the mutually illuminating relationship between proofs and plays―from Euclid and Euripides to Gödel and Godot.

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListRacing the Great White Way: Black Performance, Eugene O’Neill, and the Transformation of Broadway

by Katie N. Johnson
Available on July 19, 2023

Challenging the widely accepted idea that Broadway was the white-hot creative engine of U.S. theater during the early 20th century, author Katie N. Johnson reveals a far more complex system of exchanges between the Broadway establishment and a vibrant Black theater scene in New York and beyond to chart a new history of American and transnational theater.  In spite of their dichotomous (and at times problematic) representation of Blackness, O’Neill’s plays such as The Emperor Jones and All God’s Chillun Got Wings make ideal case studies because of the way these works stimulated traffic between Broadway and Harlem—and between white and Black America. These investigations of O’Neill and Broadway productions are enriched by the vibrant transnational exchange found in early to mid-20th century artistic production. Anchored in archival research, Racing the Great White Way recovers not only vital lost performance histories, but also the layered contexts for performing bodies across the Black Atlantic and the Circum-Atlantic. 

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListOut For Blood: A Cultural History of Carrie the Musical

by Chris Adams
Available July 27, 2023

In 1988, following the success of its production of Les Misérables and in the wake of the commercial success of mega-musicals such as Cats, Phantom of the Opera and Chess, the Royal Shakespeare Company agreed to co-produce a musical based on Stephen King’s Carrie, written by the team behind Fame. The result was one of Broadway’s most infamous disasters. Plagued by technical problems, on-stage chaos and a critical savaging, Carrie would soon become the by-word for musical theatre flops. But thanks to the efforts of a vocal army of fans and the impact of bootleg trading and emerging online communities, the show reinvented itself as a mainstream success story with thousands of productions worldwide.

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListHip-Hop in Musical Theater

by Nicole Hodges Persley
Available July 27, 2023

Hip-Hop culture’s explosive arrival on the art scene of New York in the boroughs of Queens and the Bronx in the 1970s began to influence all aspects of musical theater from singing to scenic design. Hip-Hop in Musical Theatre takes an intersectional standpoint to explore Hip-Hop’s influence on musical theater practice and aesthetics by giving the reader a comprehensive map of musical theater productions that have been impacted by Hip-Hop music and culture.

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading List20 Seasons: Broadway Musicals of the 21st Century 

by Amy S. Osatinski
Avaiable August 3, 2023

This book is the first to comprehensively examine the musicals that premiered on Broadway during this important historical period, which was bookended by the 9/11 terrorist attacks on one end and the Coronavirus pandemic on the other. It begins by exploring the historical context for the first 20 years of the 21st century and how this impacted American culture and theatre. Rather than chronologically, the musicals are then organized into categories based on their source material and whether they were original musicals or revivals, painting a detailed picture of the Broadway musical in first 20 years of the 21st century. 

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListEleanor Powell: Born to Dance 

by Paula Broussard
Available on August 8, 2023

Eleanor Powell: Born to Dance by Paula Broussard and Lisa Royère is an all-encompassing work following the American dance legend from her premature birth and upbringing by a single parent in Springfield, Massachusetts, to her first Broadway performance at age fifteen, through her days as a blazing icon in the world of Hollywood, and finally, to her inspiring comeback. With access to rare documents, letters, and production files, as well as insights drawn from their own personal relationships with Powell, Broussard and Royère offer a thoroughly researched, comprehensive, and fascinating look at an incredibly talented and unforgettable woman.

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListAugust Wilson: A Life

by Patti Hartigan
Available August 15, 2023

August Wilson wrote a series of ten plays celebrating African American life in the 20th century, one play for each decade. No other American playwright has completed such an ambitious oeuvre. Two of the plays became successful films, Fences, starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis; and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, starring Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman. Fences and The Piano Lesson won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama; Fences won the Tony Award for Best Play, and years after Wilson’s death in 2005, Jitney earned a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListHow to Survive a Killer Musical: Agony and Ecstasy on the Road to Broadway

by Douglas J. Cohen
Available September 1, 2023

When the young composer-lyricist Douglas Cohen first secured the musical rights to the novel No Way to Treat a Lady by William Goldman—the acclaimed author of The Princess Bride and Marathon Man—he hoped it would be his big break, the first step on a gilt path to artistic triumph and commercial success in the form of a hit Broadway musical. What happened after that, while memorable, was anything but.

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListSong After Song: The Musical Life of Julie Andrews

by Julie Hedlund
Available September 5, 2023

Long before she starred in movies like The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, and The Princess Diaries, Julie Andrews was a little girl struggling with her parents’ divorce and the ravages of World War II. To comfort her and fill her time during the London Blitz, her stepfather taught her to sing, and Julie found her voice-one of the most extraordinary singing voices of all time. Lyrically told by Julie Hedlund and lushly illustrated by Ilaria Urbinati, this is the story of how Julie Andrews became one of the world’s most beloved performers.

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListHere’s to the Ladies: Conversations with More of the Great Women of Musical Theater

by Eddie Shapiro
Available on September 5, 2023

In Here’s to the Ladies, the follow-up to Nothing Like a Dame: Conversations with the Great Women of Musical Theater, theatre journalist Eddie Shapiro sits down for intimate, career-encompassing conversations with yet more of Broadway’s most prolific and fascinating leading women. Full of detailed stories and reflections, his conversations with such luminaries as Barbara Cook, Kelli O’Hara, Heather Headley, Faith Prince, Stephanie J. Block, Tonya Pinkins, and a host of others dig deep into each actor’s career -together, these chapters tell the story of what it means to be a leading lady on Broadway over the past fifty years.

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListFace the Music: My Story 

by Alfie Boe
Available on September 7, 2023

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Bringing his characteristic sense of cheeky humour to the page, in this heartfelt book Alfie describes for the first time the highs and lows of over a decade singing and performing across the world. From personal dinners with Queen Elizabeth II and following in the steps of King of Rock ‘n’ Roll Elvis in Vegas to mischievous antics with Michael Ball, Alfie’s book takes us backstage to witness his brilliant career memories. But this book is also a heartfelt insight to Alfie’s unmasked truth for the first time ever. His unflinching honesty reveals not only the success stories, but also the pressures and how, through challenging times, he learned more about himself than he ever thought possible.

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListFixing the Musical: How Technologies Shaped the Broadway Repertory

by Douglas L. Reside
Available on September 11, 2023

Thousands of shows have opened on Broadway. Why do we remember some and not others? The musical theatre repertory is not composed of titles popular in the theatre but by those with successful cast recordings, movie versions, or even illegal bootlegs on YouTube. The shows audiences know, and the texts and music they expect to hear when they attend a production, are defined by media consumed at home more than by memories of performances witnessed in the theatre. For example, author Doug Reside shows that it is no accident that the serious book musical with a fixed score developed in the 1940s – when commercially pressed and marketed record albums made it possible to record most of the score of a new musical in a fixed medium. And Hamilton, a musical with dense lyrics and revolutionary musical style, would not have been as easily accessible to world audiences if most hadn’t already had the opportunity to learn the score by listening to free digital streams of the original cast recording.

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListLeading Lady: A Memoir of a Most Unusual Boy

by Charles Busch
Available on September 12, 2023

In wonderfully readable chapters, by turns comic and moving, Charles writes how ever since his mother’s death when he was seven, he has sought out surrogate mothers in his life. In his teens, Charles moved to Park Avenue in Manhattan to live with his Auntie Mame-like Aunt Lil, who encouraged and nourished Charles’ talents and dreams, and eventually he discovered his gifts for writing plays and performing as a male actress. Busch also shares his colorful and sometimes outlandish interactions with film and theatrical luminaries including the hilarious comedian Joan Rivers (who became a mother figure to Charles after Aunt Lil’s death), Angela Lansbury (who attended her first Passover seder with Charles), Rosie O’Donnell, Claudette Colbert, Valerie Harper, Kim Novak, and many others. 

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListBroadway Decoded: Musical Theatre’s Forgotten References

by Thomas S. Hishack
Available September 15, 2023

A lively guide to fifty popular musicals from the comedy classics of the 1930s and 1940s to the frequently-produced darlings of modern theater. Thomas S. Hischak the author of twenty-six books about theatre, film, and popular music, including Theatre as Human Action, The Disney Song Encyclopedia, and The 100 Greatest American Plays. He is a teacher of performing arts.

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListRight This Way: A History of the Audience

by Robert Viagas
Available September 15, 2023

When you sit down at a play, movie, or concert—or even just watch TV or scroll on your phone—you are taking part in one of the oldest and most meaningful forms of behavior. Being part of an audience is a universal experience, one that has remained a constant feature of human societies even as it has evolved from colosseums to tiny glowing screens. Right This Way is a pop history of audiences through the ages. Delving into the distinctive aspects of what he calls “audiencing,” former Playbill editor Robert Viagas renders the view from the cheap seats in energetic prose. He walks us through the different types of audiences and the history of their changing behaviors, what science has to say about how our brains respond to our experiences, how technology will continue to shape audiences, and why, during COVID-19, people risked a deadly virus to be part of a crowd.

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27 Theater Books for Your Summer 2023 Reading ListStaging a Comeback: Broadway, Hollywood, and the Disney Renaissance

by Peter C. Kunze
Available on September 15, 2023

In the early 1980s, Walt Disney Productions was struggling, largely bolstered by the success of its theme parks. Within fifteen years, however, it had become one of the most powerful entertainment conglomerates in the world. Staging a Comeback: Broadway, Hollywood, and the Disney Renaissance argues that far from an executive feat, this impressive turnaround was accomplished in no small part by the storytellers recruited during this period. Drawing from archival research, interviews, and textual analysis, Peter C. Kunze examines how the hiring of theatrically trained talent into managerial and production positions reorganized the lagging animation division and revitalized its output. By Aladdin, it was clear that animation—not live action—was the center of a veritable “renaissance” at Disney, and the animated musicals driving this revival laid the groundwork for the company’s growth into Broadway theatrical production. The Disney Renaissance not only reinvigorated the Walt Disney Company but both reflects and influenced changes in Broadway and Hollywood more broadly.

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  • June 25, 2023