As a musical theatre writer, your craft is both an art and a science. You need to have a strong understanding of storytelling, character development, and song structure, learning from the classics while staying up-to-date on the latest shows and styles. But honing your skills can get expensive. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 26 musical theatre books, librettos, and biographies that you can borrow for free on the Libby app, allowing you to improve your craft without breaking the bank.
Get to Know Libby
If you’re not familiar with Libby, it’s a digital library app that allows you to borrow ebooks and audiobooks from your local library for free. (P.S. Not sponsored; this is just an app we truly value and enjoy!) Once you’ve downloaded Libby and added your library card, you can borrow books for free from your computer or mobile device any time you want. Best of all, the books are automatically returned on their due date, so no need to worry about returns or late fees.
At the time of this writing, the 26 titles listed below total $468.99 on Amazon, though prices may change over time.
It’s also important to note that the availability of these texts on Libby may vary from library to library, though you should be able to do an inter-library loan to access titles that are unavailable from your home library. (My library card is with the Oklahoma City Library system, so all these musical theatre book titles are available there.) To take full advantage of Libby’s resources, readers in more rural areas may want to consider getting a library card from a large metro area library.
Prefer a hard copy? Amazon links are included as well. Full disclosure: MusicalWriters.com is an Amazon Affliliate and your purchase through these links helps support new writers.
Musical Theatre Scripts & Librettos
Looking for a script to analyze for inspiration or just read for fun? Check out these hits.
1. A Strange Loop
A Strange Loop by Michael R. Jackson – A musical about a black, queer writer working on a Broadway show who grapples with self-doubt and internalized racism.
2. Angels in America
Angels in America by Tony Kushner – A two-part play that explores AIDS and homosexuality in America during the 1980s.
3. Dear Evan Hansen
Dear Evan Hansen by Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul – A musical about a high school student who fabricates a relationship with a deceased classmate and how it affects him and his community.
4. Into the Woods
Into the Woods by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim – A musical that weaves together several classic fairy tales, exploring the consequences of our actions and the power of wishes.
5. Next to Normal
Next to Normal by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey – A musical about a family dealing with mental illness and grief.
6. Spring Awakening
Spring Awakening by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik – A musical about adolescent sexuality and the consequences of repression.
Total amount you can save by borrowing these musical theatre books from Libby: $76.01.
Musical Theatre Shows Behind-the-Scenes
Here’s a peek into how the sausage is made. Read about your favorite Broadway shows’ writers, inspiration, development, and path to production.
7. Dear Evan Hansen: Waving Through the Window
Dear Evan Hansen: Waving Through the Window by Val Emmich, Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul – A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the musical Dear Evan Hansen.
8. Hamilton: The Rev0lution
Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter – A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the musical Hamilton.
9. In the Heights: Finding Home
In the Heights: Finding Home by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Quiara Alegría Hudes, and Jeremy McCarter – A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the musical In the Heights.
10. Putting it Together: How Stephen Sondheim and I Created Sunday in the Park with George
Putting it Together: How Stephen Sondheim and I Created Sunday in the Park with George by James Lapine – A book by James Lapine about the creation of the musical Sunday in the Park with George.
11. Working on a Song: The Lyrics of Hadestown
Working on a Song: The Lyrics of Hadestown by Anaïs Mitchell – A book that explores the writing process behind the Tony-winning musical Hadestown.
Total amount you can save by borrowing these behind the scenes musical theatre books from Libby: $102.73.
Musical Theatre Sheet Music
Author’s Note: Libby does not offer much in terms of sheet music, but apparently someone in the OKC Metro Library system likes Andrew Lloyd Webber! Your library may have other options.
12. The Andrew Lloyd Webber Sheet Music Collection
The Andrew Lloyd Webber Sheet Music Collection by Andrew Lloyd Webber – A collection of sheet music for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s greatest hits.
13. Andrew Lloyd Webber Unmasked: The Platinum Collection
Andrew Lloyd Webber Unmasked: The Platinum Collection by Andrew Lloyd Webber – A biography of Andrew Lloyd Webber that includes a collection of his most famous songs.
Total amount saved by borrowing these musical theatre songbooks from Libby: $58.09.
Musical Writing Craft & Business Books
From playwriting to production, brushing up on the basics and learning tips from the pros will always help improve your craft.
14. How to Write a Song That Matters
How to Write a Song That Matters by Dar Williams – A book that provides tips on writing meaningful songs with a message.
Playwriting by William Missouri Downs, Robin U. Russin, and Ronald Lee Oliver – A book that offers a comprehensive guide to the craft of writing plays.
16. Stella Adler: On America’s Master Playwrights
Stella Adler: On America’s Master Playwrights by Stella Adler – A book that explores the work of some of America’s most influential playwrights.
17. The Secret Life of the American Musical
The Secret Life of the American Musical by Jack Viertel – A book that delves into the history and inner workings of musical theatre.
18. The Stagecraft Handbook
The Stagecraft Handbook by Daniel A. Ionazzi – A book that provides a comprehensive guide to the technical aspects of theatre production.
19. Writing Better Lyrics
Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison – A book that offers advice on how to improve your lyric writing skills.
Total amount saved by borrowing these musical theatre books from Libby = $92.81
Biographies & Memoirs
Theatre is all about story—both those we see on stage and those wrought through life experiences. Discover both in the personal memoirs of these theatre greats.
20. Fosse (biography)
Fosse (biography) by Sam Wasson – A biography of the legendary choreographer and director Bob Fosse.
21. I Was Better Last Night (Harvey Fierstein Memoir)
I Was Better Last Night (Harvey Fierstein Memoir) by Harvey Fierstein – A memoir by the actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein.
22. Master of Ceremonies (Joel Grey Memoir)
Master of Ceremonies (Joel Grey Memoir) by Joel Grey – A memoir by the actor and director Joel Grey.
23. Noel Coward: On (And In) The Theatre
Noel Coward: On (And In) The Theatre by Noel Coward – A collection of writings by the playwright and actor Noel Coward
24. Patty Lupone (Memoir)
Patty Lupone (Memoir) – A memoir by the actress Patti LuPone.
25. Shy: The Alarmingly Outspoken Memoirs of Mary Rodgers
Shy: The Alarmingly Outspoken Memoirs of Mary Rodgers – A memoir by the composer and writer Mary Rodgers.
26. Still Here: The Madcap, Singular, Nervy Life of Elaine Stritch
Still Here: The Madcap, Singular, Nervy Life of Elaine Stritch – A biography of the Tony-winning actress Elaine Stritch.
Total amount saved by borrowing these musical theatre books, biographies and memoirs from Libby: $139.95
Which brings our grand total saved, as of this writing, to a whopping $468.99!
(Of course, if you happen to end up with all that saved money burning a hole in your pocket, you might want to consider registering for our upcoming Musical Writers Festival or even consider an Academy Membership. Let us know if you have any questions … or any other suggestions for books we should add to this list!)