From Assassins to West Side Story: The Director's Guide to Musical Theatre

Overview

Musicals are the most popular form of theatre around. While straight plays struggle to survive on Broadway, musicals play to near capacity houses. They are also a favorite of school and community groups. In this smart and practical guide, New Line Theatre artistic director Scott Miller looks at twenty musicals from a director's point of view, with solid suggestions for anyone thinking of embarking on such a production. Includes discussions of Gypsy, Assassins, Into the Woods, My...

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Overview

Musicals are the most popular form of theatre around. While straight plays struggle to survive on Broadway, musicals play to near capacity houses. They are also a favorite of school and community groups. In this smart and practical guide, New Line Theatre artistic director Scott Miller looks at twenty musicals from a director's point of view, with solid suggestions for anyone thinking of embarking on such a production. Includes discussions of Gypsy, Assassins, Into the Woods, My Fair Lady, and West Side Story, as well as many others.

Visit Scott's website at http://www.geocities.com/Broadway/3164/

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Suitable for more than just directors, this look at some of the most popular and influential musicals of the past half-century -- from Carousel to Cabaret and Les Miserables -- will appeal to actors, teachers, and theater buffs alike.
From the Publisher
“Those who participate in the theater at any level as well as those with an avid interest in the subject will discover some fresh ideas here.”–Library Journal
Library Journal
The subtitle "director's guide" is somewhat misleading and could do this fine book a significant disservice. Although it will certainly assist directors in planning productions with greater depth and impact, it should also attract a much broader audience: actors, production staff, teachers, theater enthusiasts, and the like. Director, composer, and lyricist Miller offers a creative look at 16 musical icons, including Cabaret, Into the Woods, Les Miserables, Sweeny Todd, Gypsy, Carousel, and more. The result is not just a series of plot rehashes with production credits, though. Miller truly examines each show's contribution to the theatrical experience by providing character analyses, historical commentary, approaches to production, and thoughts on interpreting symbolism, themes, and musical textures. He aims at the heart of each work and reaches it with artistic insight. Those who participate in the theater at any level as well as those with an avid interest in the subject will discover some fresh ideas here. For circulating libraries with large collections in the performing arts.Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, N.J.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780435086992
  • Publisher: Heinemann
  • Publication date: 5/20/1996
  • Pages: 242
  • Sales rank: 1,361,265
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

Scott Miller
Scott Miller is the founder and artistic director of New Line Theatre, an alternative musical theatre company in St. Louis. He holds a degree in music and musical theatre from Harvard University, and he has been writing, performing in, and directing musicals since 1981. He has written four books on musical theatre for Heinemann, including Let the Sun Shine In (2003), Rebels with Applause (2001), Deconstructing Harold Hill (2000), and From Assassins to West Side Story (1996).
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Table of Contents

Overture 1
1 Assassins 9
2 Cabaret 27
3 Carousel 42
4 Company 56
5 Godspell 74
6 Gypsy 84
7 How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying 95
8 Into the Woods 109
9 Jesus Christ Superstar 123
10 Man of La Mancha 139
11 Merrily We Roll Along 150
12 Les Miserables 165
13 My Fair Lady 176
14 Pippin 189
15 Sweeney Todd 205
16 West Side Story 220
Exit Music 239
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2001

    Why do those musical theater characters act that way?

    I'm no director; I'm a produced amateur playwright currently studying creative writing at the graduate level. This book was a prime source for my term paper for my musical theater (literature) class. I found this book extremely helpful in deciphering the whys and whats of the motivations behind characters such as Maria of West Side Story, Billy Bigelow of Carousel, or the title character of Sweeney Todd. The author also points out the themes and motivations behind different musicals and the quirks that might make productions of these musicals work. I highly recommend this book to all lovers of musical theater.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2000

    From Assassins to West Side Story: The Director's Guide to Musical Theatre

    This book is quite clearly the best book on musical theater I've ever read -- smart, brave, controversial, detail-oriented, and lots of fun. This guy has an encyclopedic knowledge of musical theater and a profound understanding of and love for the art form that makes the book incredibly valuable to directors, actors, or just fans. The nasty review below by Miss Otis must be talking about some other book or she has some personal beef with the author, because she is way off base. I've never read such an intelligent, entertaining book in my life. Miller's new book, 'Deconstructing Harold Hill' is just as good.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2000

    From Assassins to West Side Story: The Director's Guide to Musical Theatre

    As a bi-continental director (London, New York, and Los Angeles), I was delighted to find that Miller doesn't have an American prejudice in his work -- in fact he highly respects the work non-American directors have done on American classics and that's quite refreshing. His books (this one and 'Deconstructing Harold Hill') are the best examples I've seen of serious considerations of important, interesting musical theatre, yet with a sense of fun and joy, and with a devilish penchant for denying conventional wisdom when it doesn't make sense. In fact, he makes cases (in both books) for changing the conventional wisdom on a number of American classics. These terrific books are must-reads for both the theatre professional and the rabid fan as well -- both are inestimable treasures.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2000

    Smart, Entertaining, and Never Pretentious

    I can't recommend this book highly enough. Cover to cover, this is the best book on musicals I've read (and I've read a lot). The hilarious review below by Miss Otis is ample evidence of what's so wonderful about this book -- it's not for stuffy academics! It's for people out in the real world, actually directing, acting in, designing, and seeing musicals. Miller doesn't indulge in over-blown, pretentious writing to prove how good a writer he is -- instead he writes so that people can understand this very complex material, making this excellent book meaty enough to be valuable to professionals and also accessible to people who've never studied theatre but just love musicals. That's a neat trick, something few writers can pull off, and Miller's done it TWICE, with this book and 'Deconstructing Harold Hill.' Let's hope he's at work on number three...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 1999

    Embarrassment to the author and the genre

    This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand why most academics have such a low opinion of musical theatre. The book is based on such little knowledge, one has to wonder why Heinemann would publish it. Surely they aren't so desperate for books on musical theatre that they need to include Miller's comments like 'The people of Germany were not rallying around a party committed to killing; they only knew the Nazis promised prosperity and the salvation of Germany. . . . They don't know the Nazis will soon be practicing genocide. People today often ask how the German people could have been so easily seduced by Hitler. The answer is that they loved their country as much as we love ours' (Page 38). Either you can ignore current events like Ethan Mordden does, or you can be knowledgeable about that which you publish. This historical apology for the wide-spread support of Hitler is one of numerous examples where the author makes wild, inaccurate assumptions. Also, if this book is for helping directors, than it should deal with some of the basic issues a director would face. Like how do you stage 'Something Just Broke' (from Assassins). The fact that it is not included in the cast album is no reason to leave it out of the book. It is the most difficult thing about staging this show, and many competent productions fall apart at this point. Finally, Miller needs to have some basic knowledge about the history of musical theatre. He treats all the earlier shows as stereotypes, but he clearly isn't familiar with them. Otherwise, how could he write things like 'a stock comic situation right out of the Cole Porter school of musical comedy' (35). This is meaningless to anyone actually knowledgeable about Porter's innovative work. Does it mean it focuses on outrageous, excessive lists, or perhaps on a butler relating the story of his Mistress being lynched for an illicit affair and unable to lunch? Stereotyping and degrading the classics is hardly the way to understand current shows. They came from a tradition and appreciating that tradition is far more helpful than dismissing it.

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