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10 Holiday Books

TheaterMania offers a look at new theatrical tomes that can make the perfect gift for the theater-lover in your life.

By New York City
Holiday time is the perfect season to add a new theatrical tome to your loved one's collection (or to simply treat yourself). Here are 10 new worthy additions to anyone's bookshelf.

Look, I Made a Hat by Stephen Sondheim (Knopf)
Covering Stephen Sondheim's work from 1981 through 2011, the second volume from the master songwriter presents the definitive version of his lyrics peppered with the author's always-fascinating musings, anecdotes, and revelations. Who knew that Sondheim regularly cries while watching Animal Planet? The book is also interspersed with lengthier essays in which Sondheim shares his opinions about theatrical subjects like reviewers (useful only as publicists) and awards (completely useless unless there's cash involved).

Broadway Musical MVPs by Peter Filichia (Applause)
Filichia perfectly synthesizes the seemingly incongruous worlds of musical theater and baseball in this book, in which he has chosen the "Most Valuable Player" from each of the past 50 seasons of Broadway. In addition, when appropriate he also names a "Rookie of the Year" (1997-1998: Alan Cumming for Cabaret), "Reliever" (2001-2002: Sutton Foster for Millie), "Comeback" (1995-1996: Julie Andrews for Victor/Victoria), and "Manager" (Joe Papp and David Merrick are honored twice!). It's all great fun.

Sweat, Tears, and Jazz Hands by Colleen Hart and Mike Weaver (Hal Leonard)
Perfect for the gleek in your life, Mike Weaver and Colleen Hart's Sweat, Tears, and Jazz Hands offers an expansive history of the Show Choir, including an entire chapter dedicated to the Fox megahit Glee, which has popularized the genre for a whole new generation of Americans. A directory in the back offers a nearly complete list of current groups (although my own show choir alma mater, the Indian Hill "Premieres" was conspicuously absent). Regardless, the images are the real draw of this book; every page is adorned with gorgeous full color photographs highlighting exciting choirs from around the country.

The Journals of Spalding Gray Edited by Nell Casey (Knopf)
This invaluable book offers real insight into the life of the late playwright and actor, who revolutionized downtown theater with his intimate personal narratives. Indeed, considering his monologues were so confessional, these journal entries, spanning nearly 40 years, often read like a rough draft of Gray's work, and Casey is an expert at putting Gray's raw language into context so that it is accessible for any reader.

Sing Free Now! by Mark Bosnian (Armenoid)
Vocal coach Mark Bosnian's new book is an instruction manual for your voice and how to make it sing with gusto. According to Bosnian, everyone can sing, but fear of embarrassment has led many of us to develop vocal defense mechanisms that are deleterious to our ability to produce free and powerful sound. Beyond the basic psychology of learning to "sing free," Bosnian offers a trove of practical exercises and techniques, including audio tracks to his "Vocal Power Workout" (which are available through his website at no extra charge).

Fundamentals of Theatrical Design by Karen Brewster and Melissa Shafer (Allworth)
Karen Brewster and Melissa Shafer have created a concise yet informative handbook of the basic knowledge that should be possessed by any theatrical designer. Not only do the authors provide a wealth of practical knowledge (including appendices cataloguing fabric types and lighting instruments), they also write eloquently on less-tangible subjects like collaboration and script interpretation.

What's New at the Zoo? by Betty Comden & Adolph Green; illustrations by Travis Foster (Blue Apple)
The lyrics to Betty Comden and Adolph Green's hilarious song "What's New at the Zoo?" from the 1960 musical Do Re Mi have been turned into a children's book with whimsical illustrations by Travis Foster. Telling the story of an overcrowded zoo whose animal inhabitants demand "Let us out! Let us out," the book also features an introduction and afterword by Green's wife, Tony Award-winning actress Phyllis Newman.

Broadway Musicals Show By Show by Stanley Green and Cary Ginell (Applause)
This updated edition of the popular series is an indispensable reference for both the casual fan and connoisseur of the popular art form. Not only are there brief descriptions of every musical ever on Broadway (covering 1866's The Black Crook to 2010's Rain), but the book provides plot points, a brief history of the production, production costs, and top ticket prices when appropriate, placing a show within the context of the ever-changing business of Broadway.

Singer and Actor by Alan E. Hicks (Amadeus)
The author makes an impassioned plea for the return of actor training to the world of opera in this fascinating book, stressing that opera was always meant to be a perfect balance of drama and music. He blames the proliferation of recordings, the supremacy of the conductor, and the rise of the superstar as contributing to the "park and bark" method of performance. Hicks has created a way to bring Stanislavski acting method to operatic singing, arguing that modern productions will increasingly look for the "total package" performer who can sing and act with equal proficiency.

Theatre World Volume 66 by Ben Hodges and Scott Denny (Applause)
Covering the 2009-2010 season in New York and around the country, this volume of the long-running series is bigger than ever, chock-full of production photos and over 1,000 show listings. Time Out New York's Adam Feldman provides a particularly insightful overview of Broadway, while other contributors offer their takes on the Off Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, and regional seasons. The extensive index also allows for quick reference when looking up anyone who was connected to professional theater in 2009-2010.


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