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Books: The Making of Musicals

Behind-the-Scenes Stories

Reading books about musicals by Stephen Schwartz, Stephen Sondheim, Bock and Harnick, Kander and Ebb, Lerner and Loewe, and others, brings insights for your own writing process.


Viertel - Secret Life of the American MusicalThe Secret Life of the American Musical

In this new, popular book, Viertel offers an accessible guide for the general reader about why musicals work. Whether or not you agree with him, his commentary about opening numbers, "I Want" songs, tent pole songs, and others in the traditional "song plot" may provide valuable insights for writers. Viertel has decades of experience with audience responses to shows and explains why songs and song moments affect people.

Jack Viertel is the senior vice president of Jujamcyn Theaters, which owns and operates five Broadway theaters. He has been involved in dozens of productions presented by Jujamcyn since 1987, including multiple Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winners, from City of Angels to Angels in America


Find out how Lin-Manuel Mirada's revolutionary super hit musical Hamilton made it from page to stage. Hamilton: The Revolution. 288 pages with many photos, exclusive looks at notebooks and emails, comments on creative choices, and more.

STEPHEN SCHWARTZ - includes Creativity Notes

Defying Gravity

Writers have verified the value of reading Carol de Giere's behind-the-scenes book Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked. Here are a few comments sent to the author by readers who write musicals: "What an amazing contribution you've made to the creative process with this splendid book. Every songwriter, playwright, and author is indebted to you." Another writer comments: "I find it easy to read and I refer to it often. That you were able to pick the brain (and that he was so willing to share) of such an accomplished songwriter as Stephen Schwartz and share it is something that I am very thankful for."

Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked, includes many never-before-told stories and a series of "Creativity Notes" with Schwartz's comments on the creative process for writing musicals.


Stephen Sondheim Finishing The Hat about making musicalsFinishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes

AND the second volume: Look, I Made a Hat: Collected Lyrics (1981-2011) with Attendant Comments, Amplifications, Dogmas, Harangues, Digressions, Anecdotes and Miscellany

Stephen Sondheim comments on his process.  As Michael Feinstein comments,   “There is so much to be learned and appreciated from Finishing the Hat. It's filled with fascinating, entertaining, unique and compelling lessons from a man who encompasses the essence of what is truly great about American Musical Theatre.”

Among the many books about Sondheim and his musicals is the classic Sondheim & Companyby Craig Zadan. Product Description: Here is a lavish tribute and a candid look at the career of the much-acclaimed, much-loved Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim. Includes candid interviews with his colleagues and stars, telling of his trials, false starts and heartbreaks as well as his successes. 150 photos.

Everything Was Possible - The Birth of the Musical FolliesEverything Was Possible: The Birth of the Musical Follies (Applause Books)

From a review: In 1971 Chapin worked as a gofer for the producing team, including directors Hal Prince and Michael Bennett, book writer William Goldman, and Sondheim, involved in the premiere production of the soon-to-be landmark musical; and he kept a detailed, daily journal of the show's progress. Three decades later, he has assembled the journal entries and his memories, augmented by extensive interviews, into a fascinating narrative.

The Making of GypsyMaking of the Great Broadway Musical Mega-Hits: Gypsy (The Great Broadway Musicals). 2010. If you're a Sondheim fan, or appreciate the timeless work of Jule Styne, this petite behind-the-scenes report will be fun to read.This is part of a series by a noted theatre scholar and critic.-

See some of the other Sondheim books: Sondheim


Bock and Harnick collaboration - Making of Fiddler etcTo Broadway, To Life!: The Musical Theater of Bock and Harnick. This book, published in December 2010, is about the men who created Fiddler on the Roof, Fiorello and She Loves Me. Their musicals have won 18 Tony Awards. How did they create together? Find out here.

A reviewer says, "The book's greatest strength is in its details, documenting the changing tunestack of each Bock/Harnick show." To Broadway, To Life!: The Musical Theater of Bock and Harnick (Broadway Legacies).

The book includes discussion of songs such as "Sunrise, Sunset" and "If I Were a Rich Man" and many others.

HAMLISCH AND KLEBAN -The Making of A Chorus Line

The making of A Chorus Line - On the LineOn the Line - The Creation of A Chorus Line . In this photo-filled, 376-page book, the 19 original cast members tell how they helped shape the show that was based on their own lives. The authors created an insightful book that documents the life of this singular musical sensation of 1975. Originally published in 1990, the book has been updated.

The Longest Line book cover, coffe table book about the musical A Chorus Line.The Longest Line: Broadway's Most Singular Sensation: A Chorus Line

A coffeetable book about the making of A Chorus Line with 300 photos.


Loverly- My Fair Lady making ofLoverly: The Life and Times of My Fair Lady (Broadway Legacies)

From Oxford University Press, July 9, 2012. This latest book about the making of My Fair Lady is not based on Lerner's 1978 memoir. Dominic McHugh presents a comprehensive behind-the-scenes look at the five-year creation of the show, including the struggles.

Making of the Great Broadway Musical Mega-Hits: My Fair Lady (The Great Broadway Musicals) Lerner and Loewe scored big with My Fair Lady. Learn the ins and outs of their efforts. 2010. By Keith Garebian.


Not Since Carrie : Forty Years of Broadway Musical FlopsNot Since Carrie : Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops from Amazon.com Studying flops is like reworking the puzzle. The creative teams or producers couldn't make a show financially successful but the lessons learned will always be of value - especially for anyone writing a musical! In Not Since Carrie, Ken Mandelbaum examines what goes into the making of a Broadway "flop." He covers dozens of musicals in chapters organized by his reasons a show didn't make it.

The Making of West Side StoryThe Making of West Side Story from Amazon.com Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, and Stephen Sondheim didn't just whip out the musical. Garebian explores the careful and sometimes surprising development of the show in his readible text.

The Making of CabaretThe Making of Cabaret from Amazon.com

Learn about the origins of this Kander and Ebb classic. This series is easy to read - short and not bogged down in too much detail.

The Making of Guys and Dolls (Great Broadway Musicals)The Making of Guys and Dolls (Great Broadway Musicals) from Amazon.com

The Tough Realities of Broadway Stage

The SeasonsThe Season : A Candid Look at Broadway

"Still the best book ever written about the commercial theatre. It is dated in some ways but remains invaluable"--Stephen Schwartz

Playwright/novelist/screenwriter Goldman analyzes Broadway from the perspective of the audiences, playwrights, critics, producers and actors. "William Goldman's highly opinionated, mercilessly funny, and tirelessly reported account of the 1967-68 season was, and is, the single best guide to how the theatre..."

Second Act Trouble by SuskinSECOND ACT TROUBLE: BEHIND THE SCENES AT BROADWAY'S BIG MUSICAL BOMBS by Steven Suskin (Applause Theatre & Cinema Books; $27.95). Buy Second Act Trouble : Behind the Scenes at Broadway's Big Musical Bombs

REVIEW by William Squiers: "What's more exciting than a big new Broadway musical hit?" That's the question that kicks off author Steven Suskin's 'Second Act Trouble.' And the answer is, apparently, a big fat Broadway musical flop.

Subtitled 'Behind the Scenes at Broadway's Big Musical Bombs,' this entertaining book is comprised of writings by multiple authors about twenty-five of Broadway's highest-profile fiascos. The first-hand accounts have been culled by Suskin from newspapers, magazines and theatrical memoirs and organized into subgroups such as Star Turns and Salvage Jobs. The tone of the pieces runs the gamut from snippy fun to writing that is earnest and revealing. Journalist John Gruen has a ball taking potshots at 'Holly Golightly,' the 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' tuner. A few chapters later, Richard Adler talks frankly about his marriage to Sally Ann Howes and his musical 'Kwamina' crumbling simultaneously. Suskin pulls it all together by providing each of the entries with a crisp introduction, a conclusion that places the musical in historical context, a great deal of relevant annotation and an occasional anecdote of his own.

Where Ken Mandelbaum's seminal work on the subject Broadway flopdom, 'Not Since Carrie,' offered his personal analysis of why many of these same musicals failed (along with a couple of hundred others!), Suskin's emphasis is on simply setting the record straight. Though his annotations, which are placed directly into the other writers' text, are a bit distracting and dilute some of the immediacy of the original writing, his clarifications are ultimately very helpful. And in the case of William Gibson's touching description of show-doctoring his deceased mentor Clifford Odet's musical version of 'Golden Boy,' Suskin wisely holds his comments until the conclusion of the chapter.

The book's lengthy finale is one of the all-time great pieces of theater reporting: Lewis H. Lapham's infamous Saturday Evening Post article about the making of 'Kelly.'Lapham details the show's disastrous out of town tryout "a chronicle that's dramatic enough to serve as the basis for a couple of musicals ('Say, Darling II.' anyone?). The production is still such a sore subject to book writer and lyricist Eddie Lawrence that he turned up on NPR as recently as April of this year to complain about it. He even brought the out of town reviews with him!

If 'Second Act Trouble" isn't likely to prevent fledging musical theater writers from making the same mistakes as their illustrious forerunners, it certainly hammers home the fact that no one is impervious to failure. Or as one young cast member in Mitch Leigh's 'Cry For Us All' "one of his many misfires after 'Man of La Mancha' -- puts it: "I sure hope it's a hit. My mother's had it up to here."

Making it on Broadway Making It on Broadway: Actors' Tales of Climbing to the Top Although this book focuses on actors, it is an essential read for a writer with Broadway aspirations.

From the Publisher
MAKING IT ON BROADWAY (Allworth Press) goes beyond the glitz and the glamour to show what really happens both on a Broadway stage...

Book Description: Countering the misperceptions about Broadway performers leading glamorous lives, the words of more than 150 Broadway stars provide unprecedented insight into their struggle for stardom. With an introduction by Jason Alexander and candid interviews with today's most celebrated Broadway stars, this book offers stories to entertain and astonish theater lovers, as well as serve as a sobering reality check for those considering careers on the stage. This book shares firsthand accounts of professional actors' difficult yet fulfilling journeys to Broadway: moving to New York, finding survival jobs, auditioning, landing roles, avoiding pitfalls, forging a family life, and much more.

Musical History

American Musical Theater : A ChronicleAmerican Musical Theater : A Chronicle from Amazon.com Author Gerald Bordman chronicles the art of American Musical Theatre from its origns up through the 1989-90 season.

Broadway Musicals - Show by ShowBroadway Musicals - Show by Show from Amazon.com Stanley Green provides information on over 300 shows up through the 1990's. Though this book doesn't focus on the creating of musicals, it is a great reference when looking for information on a particular show.

Broadway Musicals : The 101 Greatest Shows of All TimeBroadway Musicals : The 101 Greatest Shows of All Time from Amazon.com Author Ken Bloom examines the most popular, influencial, and enduring shows.

Musical Theater : An AppreciationMusical Theater : An Appreciation from Amazon.com


To send questions or comments, write to the website publisher Carol de Giere. See the contact page.

This book reveals stories behind Fiddler on the Roof, She Loves Me, and others.

By Sondheim. Volume 2

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