Give My Regards to the Musical

Article excerpt

A string of engaging theater-related books and CDs about American theater's most original art form is the focus.

"At bottom, all musicals are about themselves, a celebration of their own energy and skill." That's the astute observation of Foster Hirsch in his book, Harold Prince and the American Musical Theatre. And certainly, no one has loved the musical more or longer than director and producer Harold Prince, whose early career Hirsch covered in this indispensable 1989 book, which he has now revised to include Prince's later work. There's even an extraordinary foreword by Prince himself, in which he offers his two cents' worth about some of Hirsch's statements. Highly recommended to anyone who loves musical theater. [ISBN 1-55783-617-5, $17.95, Applause Books]

The Amazing Story of the Fantasticks: America's Longest Running Play also updates an existing work-Donald C. Farber and Robert Viagas's 1991 history of the off-Broadway musical, The Fantasticks. Most important is the fascinating story surrounding the show's closing in 2002, after more than 17,000 performances. Farber and Viagas have added new photos of the show's various productions and performers, plus interviews and anecdotes that could not be made public until after the show's closing. [ISBN 0-87910-313-2, $16.95, 0-87910-313-2, Hal Leonard]

Trivia lovers will enjoy Broadway's Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Dynamic Divas, Surefire Showstoppers and BoxOffice Busts, by Tom Shea. It's essentially a series of annotated lists compiled from 40-plus topics, some inspired ("Where Did We Go Right: 10 Surprise Hit Musicals," "10 Musicals to Scratch Your Head Over"), some not so much ("Pop Stars Who Crossed Over to Broadway," "10 Fun City Musicals") and some just plain fun ("10 Great Musical Villains," "10 Musicals About S-E-X"). [ISBN 1-57488-596-0, $12.95, Brassey's Inc.]

Darren Cohen and Michael Perilstein's The Complete Professional Audition: A Commonsense Guide to Auditioning for Plays and Musicals offers exactly what the title promises. Part one focuses on musical theater auditions, including choosing the right song, preparing for the audition, presenting the song, what to do during and after the audition, working with an accompanist, acting tips and advice on vocal and dance training. Part two covers the monologue process, including finding the right one, preparing the text, creating the scene and presenting the piece, as well as a list of monologues to avoid. Part Three provides advice on resumes, headshots, agents, joining Actors' Equity and other issues. Appendices include a song list and a helpful form for creating an audition portfolio of songs and special material. [ISBN 0-8230-7683-0, $16.95, Back Stage Books]

Recordings

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts here, for the songs by William Finn serve the material well, even if they aren't as innovative as his work on Falsettos and A New Brain. That said, this is a clever show with a heart and a promising future in regional and community theaters around the U.S. [Ghostlight Records]

The Broadway Musicals Cutouts Vol. 1. I've enjoyed all the "Broadway by the Year" concert recordings, but this is, in many ways, the best so far. These are songs that were not included on the recordings for the 1925, 1939, 1940 and 1951 concerts because of time constraints. …