The best books about musical theatre 📚

Browse the best books on musical theatre as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of The World of Musical Comedy

The World of Musical Comedy

By Stanley Green

Why this book?

An early and still one of the best works on the subject, Green's The World of Musical Comedy is the book that introduced generations of musical theatre fans to the art form. It was first published in 1960 and that first edition was my first encounter with the great songwriters and musicals of the American theatre. Green later revised and updated the book and the fourth edition stops at 1980 but the book remains in print. I still recommend it as the best way to discover the classic works in the world of musicals.

From the list:

The best books about Broadway musicals

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Book cover of Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops

Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops

By Ken Mandelbaum

Why this book?

Musical theatre fans delight in reading about the famous and not-so-famous disasters in the genre. Mandelbaum covers nearly 200 of these musical flops that opened (and often quickly closed) on Broadway between 1950 and 1990. It is a lively read, well researched, and has plenty of "what were they thinking?" attitude. Not much copy is given to one musical (except the title musical Carrie) but the coverage is comprehensive. A favorite among musical theatre fans, Not Since Carrie was the inspiration for Mark Robinson and myself when we continued Mandelbaum's chronicle with our own Musical Misfires.

From the list:

The best books about Broadway musicals

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Book cover of American Musical Theatre: A Chronicle

American Musical Theatre: A Chronicle

By Gerald Bordman, Richard Norton

Why this book?

This weighty reference book is not something to be read from cover to cover but, for browsing or looking up a plot or commentary on Broadway musicals, it is still the leader in its field. Bordman published his Chronicle in 1978 and he revised it up until his death, critic Richard Norton helping on the fourth edition. The coverage is impressive: musicals from the late 1700s up to 2010. The writing is concise and to the point. This book discusses shows you're not likely to find in any other book or website.

From the list:

The best books about Broadway musicals

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

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

By Jack Viertel

Why 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…

From the list:

The best books for next level Broadway fans

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Book cover of Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway

Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway

By Michael Riedel

Why 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…

From the list:

The best books for next level Broadway fans

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Book cover of 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

Why 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…

From the list:

The best books for next level Broadway fans

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

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