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Summer reading guide for the theater fan

We round up the books every theater nerd should pack into their beach bag this summer.

Must-read theater books

Must-read theater books "Something Wonderful"; "American Theater Wing: An Oral History"; "Unmasked." Photo Credit: Macmillan/Graphic Arts Books/HarperCollins

Now that the Broadway season and the 2018 Tony Awards are over and done with, committed theatergoers faced with the prospect of free time may want to consider the following new and upcoming theater-related book as summer reading material.

I don’t know about you, but these are the kinds of books that I bring with me to the beach.

‘The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America’

Tony Kushner’s landmark, two-part AIDS drama “Angels in America” is dissected in an expansive oral history built upon interviews with Kushner and countless theater artists about the AIDS era and the play’s journey through early workshops, the original production, the HBO film adaptation and the current Tony-winning Broadway revival.

‘All That Jazz: The Life and Times of the Musical Chicago’

Ethan Mordden (author of a decade-by-decade, gossipy history of the American musical) here focuses exclusively on “Chicago,” including its birth as a 1926 play, the original Broadway production (which was overshadowed by “A Chorus Line), its megasuccessful Broadway revival (which continues to run to this day) and the Oscar-winning film version.

‘Broadway to Main Street: How Show Tunes Enchanted America’

NYU arts professor Laurence Maslon, an authority on the history of the American musical, builds upon his weekly radio show (“Broadway to Main Street”) with a new book about how musical theater songs have historically pervaded mass media, from the time that Broadway music literally was American pop music to the popularity of the “Hamilton” cast album with digital music providers. To be released on Sept. 4.

‘Unmasked: A Memoir’

Coinciding with his 70th birthday, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber (who was just honored with a Lifetime Achievement Tony Award) has released a lengthy and lively memoir that runs from his childhood days to achieving unlikely and unparalleled success with “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Evita” and “Cats,” concluding with the first preview performance of “The Phantom of the Opera.” Lloyd Webber does not shy away from discussing his personal life and making sex jokes.

‘Fraver by Design: Five Decades of Theatre Poster Art from Broadway, Off-Broadway and Beyond’

Even if you’ve never heard of Frank “Fraver” Verlizzo, you’ve probably seen at least a few of the posters, graphics and logos that he has created for hundreds of shows over the course of five decades including “Sweeney Todd,” “The Lion King” and the notorious flop “Moose Murders.” This monograph collection provides a behind-the-scenes exploration of Fraver’s design process and the relationship between Broadway and advertising.

‘Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution’

Todd S. Purdum’s book creates an anecdotal portrait of composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist-librettist Oscar Hammerstein II and how their canonical 1940s and 1950s musicals (including “Oklahoma!,” “Carousel,” “South Pacific” and “The King and I”) ushered in the golden age of musical theater on Broadway.

‘American Theatre Wing, An Oral History: 100 Years, 100 Voices, 100 Million Miracles’

This photo-infused coffee table book (which received a shout-out during the Tony Awards from no less than Patti LuPone) covers the American Theatre Wing’s history as not just a co-presenter of the Tony Awards but also a theater support organization that operated the legendary Stage Door Canteen during World War II and now runs theater education initiatives. To be released on Aug. 28.

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