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6 Essential Books on Musical Theatre

While books have seemingly taken a backseat to everything from YouTube videos to audiobooks, they are still an invaluable resource to supplement your musical theatre education, especially when it comes to the history of the stage and the biggest names behind the biggest works.

Musical Theatre

Here are some must-read books for musical theatre performers–both informative and a great way to pass the time when you’re resting your voice. 

Broadway Babies: The People Who Made the American Musical 
by Ethan Mordden

Recounting the development of the American musical comedy genre, this history is as entertaining as the song-and-dance productions it describes. The book features musical legends including Florenz Ziegfeld, Harold Prince, Bert Lahr, Gwen Verdon, Angela Lansbury, Victor Herbert, Liza Minnelli, and Stephen Sondheim, and explores shows with staying power like Anything Goes, Show Boat, Oklahoma!, Follies, and Chicago, to offer a rich account of a beloved but often overlooked American staple.

Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops
by Ken Mandelbaum

This book explores the various how’s and why’s that led to dozens of Broadway musicals that seemed like surefire hits to flop hard at the box office. Mandlebaum is both objective and generous though, finding the positives where he can in shows whose failures could have simply been a product of bad luck and timing. Published in 1992, the book doesn’t describe the infamous Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, but after reading it, you may have an idea of why even Marvel failed on Broadway.

The Vocal Athlete
by Wendy D. Leborgne and Marci Rosenberg

Musical theatre can push the human voice to its limits, and The Vocal Athlete is written specifically to help performers meet the high demands for a sustainable career on stage, providing ideal tools and exercises to help preserve vocal wellness. When it comes to taking care your most important asset, you’ll want all the help you can.

How Sondheim Found His Sound
by Steve Swayne

This highly-praised book is a biography of one of Broadway’s biggest icons–Stephen Sondheim, the composer and lyricist behind works like Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, Follies, and Sunday in the Park with George. Knowing Sondheim’s work and what makes the artist tick is key to understanding the very nature of Broadway, and Swayne’s book is a perfect way into his world and understanding how one of the greats came to be.

The Complete Phantom of the Opera
by George Perry

The Phantom of the Opera has cemented its place in Broadway history as an iconic musical, but its roots go much farther than Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 masterpiece. This definitive account of The Phantom of the Opera recounts the history of the work from its historical origins to Gaston Leroux’s classic novel that inspired Webber’s version, as well as the story’s other incarnations in between. All of this is supplemented with beautiful photography that include images from the production itself.

Up in the Cheap Seats: A Historical Memoir of Broadway
by Ron Fassler

Up in the Cheap Seats is a truly original take on Broadway, looking at it as a fan from the ground up, or rather in Fassler’s case, from the cheap seats down. By imbuing the history of Broadway and hundreds of its productions from the personal point-of-view of an actor in his youth, along with the dozens of people he met along the way backstage, the book gives a memorable but relatable and unique take on the musical theatre scene from a heartfelt place of true love.

6 Reasons to See ‘Beetlejuice: The Musical’ 

While a lot of movies seem ripe for adapting to Broadway–like Frozen, Kinky Boots, and Once–many people were surprised when it was announced Tim Burton’s 1988 dark afterlife comedy Beetlejuice would be turned into a big-budget musical.

Though it may have been a surprise, it was certainly the right choice as Beetlejuice: The Musical has become a hit with critics and audiences alike, racking up an impressive eight Tony nominations earlier this Spring.

Beetlejuice Musical


If you haven’t already, here’s six reasons to check out
Beetlejuice: The Musical:

The creepy story

Fans of the film are well aware of the story, but it’s not one you’d normally see on Broadway:

A lonely teenage girl befriends the ghosts of a married couple after her family moves into their home. Scott Brown and Anthony King are well deserving of their Tony nominations for Best Book of a Musical.

It’s devilish fun

Director Alex Timbers (Peter and the Starcatcher, Moulin Rouge) takes a leap with this spectacular show that never takes a break from its silly energy and slapstick physical comedy. Capturing the manic energy of Michael Keaton’s original performance and Tim Burton’s direction is no small feat, so it’s no wonder the show has been Tony nominated for Best Musical.

There are visual effects, projections, and puppetry

Awarded for Best Makeup at the Oscars 1989, this visionary show lives up to the original film’s Hollywood special effects. Tony nominations for Best Lighting Design, Sound Design and Scenic Design should tell you that you’ll be in for a treat when seeing the various magical moments offered by this blockbuster musical.

Costumes straight from the film

A six-time Tony nominee for Best Costume Design, William Ivey Long obtains two more nods this year for his brilliant work in Beetlejuice and Tootsie. Original film director Tim Burton built his career on the stunning warped visuals from his own imagination, and Long’s wardrobe work both evokes the unique style while offering something new to a live theatre audience.

It is wickedly cast

Tony nominee and Broadway veteran Alex Brightman (School of Rock, Wicked, Matilda the Musical) is the perfect choice for the fast-talking wild card ghoul, Beetlejuice. After all, it’s not his first time in a Tim Burton adaptation–in 2013 he also performed in the musical adaptation of Big Fish. The stellar cast of Beetlejuice is rounded out by Anne Caruso (Blackbird), Kerry Butler (Les Miserables, Mean Girls) as Barbara, and Rob McClure (Avenue Q, Something Rotten) as Adam.

New and familiar tunes

A musical isn’t worth seeing if the music isn’t great, and the numbers offered by Beetlejuice are fantastic. In addition to new, diverse rock- and pop-based tunes written for the show (Beetlejuice also earned a Tony nomination for Best Original Score), the play also features two classics from the original film–the “Banana Boat Song (Day O)” and Harry Belafonte’s “Jump in the Line.” So if you haven’t already, now’s the time for you to jump in the line for tickets to see Beetlejuice: The Musical!