The best books for next level Broadway fans

Who am I?

I have been a Broadway fan since I discovered the 60’s vinyl cast albums my parents collected. Seeing them in person added another level to the magic, and after every show, while still basking in the creative spark, I’m already planning my next visit! Sharing a list of books instead of a playlist is my way of sharing a deeper view of the world we Broadway fans love so much. It’s also the list I used as the basis for my research, while writing my new series (which follows the journey of a fictional Broadway musical from script to opening night)!

I wrote...

Snowmageddon (Broadway or Bust Book 1)

By Tere Michaels,

Book cover of Snowmageddon (Broadway or Bust Book 1)

What is my book about?

Come the New Year, Luca Vocci is reluctantly headed to LA to start a new life he isn't sure he wants, far away from his beloved New York City and the lights of Broadway. Until then, he’s directionless, without his spark or any idea what to do next—so, with the holiday season upon him, Luca agrees to do a favor for an old friend and his high-school theater class.

Everything goes according to plan until a snowstorm traps Luca in a house with six rather dramatic teenagers, two chaperones with relationship problems, and three unexpected guests. For Luca, the house is full of memories—and now, music. Maybe the spark he’s looking for is hiding in plain sight.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built

Why did I love this book?

What? A scholarly book about Broadway to kick things off? Absolutely. If you think you know everything about musicals, Jack Viertel (a jack-of-all-trades with a career seeped in working in and around the stage) is here to take you a step deeper. From the evolution of what is “popular” and preferred, to the aspects that make a show into a hit, Viertel leads you through the decades of American musicals for a thorough education that is equal parts analysis and a shared love of the genre. The best part is that he loves Broadway as much as you do! He pulls the curtains aside to probe how this amazing world works, in an entertaining and informative way. 

One of my favorite books on the genre, and indispensable if you’ve moved beyond show scores and behind-the-scenes anecdotes (although he has those too!).

By Jack Viertel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Secret Life of the American Musical as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Bestseller

For almost a century, Americans have been losing their hearts and losing their minds in an insatiable love affair with the American musical. It often begins in childhood in a darkened theater, grows into something more serious for high school actors, and reaches its passionate zenith when it comes time for love, marriage, and children, who will start the cycle all over again. Americans love musicals. Americans invented musicals. Americans perfected musicals. But what, exactly, is a musical?

In The Secret Life of the American Musical, Jack Viertel takes them apart, puts them back together,…

Book cover of How Musicals Work: And How to Write Your Own

Why did I love this book?

Woolford describes his book as a prenatal guide for musicals and it is indeed just that. He breaks down the process from idea to opening night for a thorough examination of what goes into each part of writing a musical. From the tickle of inspiration—and everything that went into its construction after that point, including the steps back and sideways, trying to find the right formula for success—there isn’t much left out. Warning: You might be inspired to try your hand at writing once you finish this book! 

I felt as if I’d taken a college-level theatre course at the end of How Musicals Work, with an instructor who revels in the complicated chaos that is musicals! It opens up a whole extra level to watching/experiencing a musical.

By Julian Woolford,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How Musicals Work as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Musicals are the most popular form of stage entertainment today, with the West End and Broadway dominated by numerous long-running hits. But for every Wicked or Phantom of the Opera, there are dozens of casualties that didn't fare quite so well. In this book, Julian Woolford explores the musical-theatre canon to explain why and how some musicals work, why some don't, and what you should (and shouldn't) do if you're thinking of writing your own. Drawing on his experience as a successful writer and director of musicals, and as a lecturer in writing musicals at the University of London, Woolford…

Book cover of Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway

Why did I love this book?

The true-life story of the ’70s and ’80s in New York City and the world of theatre—when the Great White Way was basically slated to become a parking lot—as it is saved by a colorful host of characters (and a boardroom coup!) is just begging for a musical of its own. Until that happens, we will have to be content with this page-turning book from a saucy and witty theatre columnist, which chronicles the entire amazing ride of how Broadway was reborn. 

Along the way, we get a thorough probing of Broadway history and the highs, lows, and everything in between including some scandal, gossip, and shocking reveals. See? How is this not a musical already?! Riedel is a dramatic and verbose writer who holds back nothing, thankfully. Recommendation: Don’t expect to be using a bookmark too often. I couldn’t put this book down.

By Michael Riedel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Razzle Dazzle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A vivid page-turner" (NPR) detailing the rise, fall, and redemption of Broadway-its stars, its biggest shows, its producers, and all the drama, intrigue, and power plays that happened behind the scenes.

"A rich, lovely, debut history of New York theater in the 1970s and eighties" (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), Razzle Dazzle is a narrative account of the people and the money and the power that turned New York's gritty back alleys and sex-shops into the glitzy, dazzling Great White Way.

In the mid-1970s Times Square was the seedy symbol of New York's economic decline. Its once shining star, the renowned…

Book cover of Tradition!: The Highly Improbable, Ultimately Triumphant Broadway-to-Hollywood Story of Fiddler on the Roof, the World's Most Beloved Musical

Why did I love this book?

Full disclosure—Fiddler of the Roof is one of my favorite musicals of all time. I love the story, the music, the stage version, the movie, the various soundtracks…all of it. So it was an absolute pleasure to read this deep dive into the history of the show and understand the trials and tribulations that went into the journey to get it made.

Warning: This will incite you to listen to the soundtrack(s) and definitely want to watch the movie version (as of the writing of this piece, it was on Netflix!). You’ll be listening and watching with a new perspective of how Fiddler was an unexpected but well-earned hit.

By Barbara Isenberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tradition! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1960, Sheldon Harnick sent a copy of Sholom Aleichem's novel, Wandering Stars, to his long-time collaborator, Jerry Bock, suggesting it might make a good musical and Fiddler on the Roof was born. Barbara Isenberg interviewed the men and women who created the original production, the film and significant revivals - Harold Prince, Sheldon Harnick, Joseph Stein, Austin Pendleton, Joanna Merlin, Norman Jewison, Topol, Jerry Zaks, Harvey Fierstein, etc. - to produce a lively, popular chronicle of the making of Fiddler. Published for the 50th anniversary of Fiddler's opening night on Broadway, Tradition! is the book for everyone who loves…

Book cover of Putting It Together: How Stephen Sondheim and I Created Sunday in the Park with George

Why did I love this book?

I don’t think I could put together a list of books for next-level Broadway lovers without a Sondheim entry. There are many books to choose from but this one sweeps you off your feet and into the world of creating a Broadway classic. “Behind the scenes” doesn’t even begin to cover this journey into not only the Pulitizer award-winning show but also the intergenerational friendship between Sondheim and Lapine. That relationship and their creative collaboration are curated through script notes, personal photos, and sketches, giving you a glimpse into genius Broadway minds. 

Sunday in the Park with George is such a layered work on its own but this book takes you another step into the mix, with a backstage view of how it came to be. My brain was firing in a million directions when I was finished with this one. This book, like the rest of this list, enhances the view of our favorite musicals and the genre we love. 

By James Lapine,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Putting It Together as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the iconic musical Sunday in the Park with George

Putting It Together chronicles the two-year odyssey of creating the iconic Broadway musical Sunday in the Park with George. In 1982, James Lapine, at the beginning of his career as a playwright and director, met Stephen Sondheim, nineteen years his senior and already a legendary Broadway composer and lyricist. Shortly thereafter, the two decided to write a musical inspired by Georges Seurat's nineteenth-century painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

Through conversations between Lapine and Sondheim, as well as most…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Broadway musicals, musical theatre, and New York State?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Broadway musicals, musical theatre, and New York State.

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