How to Put on a Musical
Suggested Reading & Links
Commentary by John Kenrick
The materials here will be of interest to amateur production teams as well as those with professional ambitions. Most are affordable, but some are pricey and/or hard to find all can help you through the sometimes confusing process of putting on a show. If you know a book or website that should be included here, let us know. Thanks!
- Special Site Features
- Box Office
- Low Cost Musicals
- Sets, Props & Costumes
- Stage Management
Special Site Features
Suggested Performance Schedule - who does what, when
Production Timeline - week by week to opening night
Staging Basics - blocking, important terms
Jones, Ellis. Teach Yourself Acting. Teach Yourself Books: London, UK, 1998. A professional actor-director provides some basic acting techniques, plus advice for those considering a career in acting. Written from a British perspective, most of this information applies on both sides of the Atlantic.
Hagen, Uta. Respect for Acting. John Wiley & Sons: NY, 1973. This is one of the most admired books on acting ever published. A must read for those with a serious interest in acting or working with actors. She includes specific methods for approaching a role, as well as many personal experiences from her legendary stage career. There are many important books on acting this is one of the most accessible, of special value to those new to the craft.
Shurtleff, Michael. Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part. Walker & Co., 1978 (Latest paperback - Bantam: NY, 1980. The definitive book on how to audition for any form of theatre - written by a casting director who worked on many legendary Broadway musicals. Useful ideas for amateurs and professionals.
Beck, Kirsten. How to Run a Small Box Office. OOBA: New York, 1980. In sixty-eight pages, you get advice, valuable forms, checklists everything you need to run a box office with professional efficiency.
Boland, Robert and Paul Argenti. Musical!: Directing School and Community Theatre. Scarecrow Press: Lanham, MD, 1997. A well designed, practical guide -- not quite as strong as the Novak guide listed below, but easier to find.
Clurman, Harold. On Directing. Macmillan: New York, 1974. (Latest paperback edition - Fireside: NY, 1997) A veteran of the Group Theater, Broadway and "the Method," Clurman offers a solid primer on the art of directing for three decades, this has been one of the most popular texts on the subject. If you are serious about directing, grab a copy.
Cohen, Gary P. The Community Theatre Handbook. Heinemann: Portsmouth, NH, 2003. Practical advice any amateur theatre organization could profit from.
Filichia, Peter. Let's Put on a Musical: How to Choose the Right Show For Your Theater. Backstage Books: NY, 1993. Cast and production requirements for over 200 popular musicals, written by one of the most knowledgeable musical buffs on the planet.
Green, Joann. The Small Theater Guide. Harvard Common Press: Harvard, 1981. If you are thinking of starting up a community theater or nonprofit theater group, this book will give you a sane and sensible idea of what you are getting yourself into.
Grippo, Charles. The Stage Producer's Business and Legal Guide. Allworth Press, 2002. Amateur or pro will treasure this well-written guide through all sorts of potential mine fields. Rights, financing, safety issues and more are explained by a veteran attorney-producer-playwright. While nothing can replace access to live legal advice, if you are starting up a new theatre company, this may be the most grief-saving $20 you'll ever spend.
Hopkins, Bruse R. Starting and Managing a Nonprofit Organization: A Legal Guide. John Wiley & Sons: New York, 2001.If you are thinking about setting up a nonprofit theatre group, this detailed but readable book is a must-have. Not addressed exclusively to theatrical concerns, but bursting with valuable guidance the informational equivalent of a week-long seminar for a fraction of the price.
Miller, Scott. Deconstructing Harold Hill. Heinemann Publishing: Portsmouth, NH, 1999. An experienced stage director takes a fresh, insightful look at some of the most popular musicals in his series of books aimed at directors. If you don't know how to approach classic shows, these books may provide the fresh energy you need. This volume covers Camelot, Chicago, King & I, March of the Falsettos, Music Man, Passion and Ragtime.
Miller, Scott. From Assassins to West Side Story. Heinemann Publishing: Portsmouth, NH, 1996. Same as above great ideas! This volume covers Cabaret, Carousel, Company, Godspell, Gypsy, How to Succeed, Into the Woods, JC Superstar, Man of La Mancha, Merrily, Les Miz, My Fair Lady, Pippin, Sweeney Todd and West Side Story.
Mulcahy, Lisa. Building a Successful Theater Company. Allworth Press, 2002.Amateur theater people may enjoy this excellent insiders look at how professional companies survive and thrive.
Novak, Elaine A. and Deborah Novak. Staging Musical Theatre: A Complete Guide for Directors, Choreographers and Producers. Betterway Books: Cincinnati, 1996. An exhaustive, detailed and informative guide -- my choice for the best of its kind.
Peithman, Stephen and Neil Offen. The Stage Directions Guide to Musical Theatre. Heinemann: Portsmouth, NH, 2002. A concise, helpful book for budding directors or producers of amateur theatre, with guidance on picking musicals, securing rights, working with a budget and more. Based on articles from Stage Directions magazine.
Ratliff, Gerald Lee and Suzanne Trauth. On Stage: Producing Musical Theatre. Rosen Publishing: New York, 1988. A collection of informative articles that covers acting, producing and directing.
Varley, Joy. Places Please!: An Essential Manual for High School Theatre Directors. Smith & Kraus: Hanover, NH, 2001. A great resource, custom fit to the needs of high school directors. Detailed and clear, its a blessing to "newbies" and experienced hands alike.
White, Matthew. Staging A Musical. Theatre Arts Books: New York, 1999. An experienced British director gives some solid advice -- worthwhile for directors and producers.
Young, David. How to Direct a Musical: Broadway Your Way. Routledge: New York & London, 1995. A sensational guide for first-timers, with solid advice that even the most jaded veterans might find worthwhile. The author staged more than a hundred amateur and professional productions before writing this, and brings valuable experience to every page.
Flanagan, Joan. Successful Fundraising: A Complete Handbook for Volunteers and Professionals. Contemporary Books: Chicago, IL, 1993. If your group decides to go in for some heavy-duty nonprofit fundraising (grants, corporate donations, sponsorships, etc.), this is a great introduction to a the subject.
Hamon, Norman H. Fund Raising for the Rest of Us. Lughnasa Press: Norman OK, 1997. This overview of fund raising techniques for small and emerging nonprofits has many ideas amateur theatre groups can make use of.
If your group decides to pursue grants, The Foundation Center is a vital resource. They have offices and library affiliates in various cities, and their superb website (http://fdncenter.org/) offers a virtual library of valuable information.
Amateur Stage - A great resource for British amateur theatre groups, with news, reviews and more. Pity we don't have an equivalent publication in the US! For information, write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Buchman, Herman. Stage Makeup. Backstage Books: New York, 1988. One of the most popular books on the subject, and for good reasons – practical and informative, by a veteran Broadway & TV make-up artist.
Thudium, Laura. Stage Make-up: The Actor's Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Today's Techniques and Materials. Back Stage Books: New York, 1999. Full color photos make this an easy to follow guide.
Mackowski, Chris. The PR Bible for Community Theatres. Heinemann: Portsmouth, NH, 2002. Although designed for community theatres, this compact volume has great ideas for promoting any amateur production.
Smith, Jeanette. The New Publicity Kit. John Wiley and Sons: New York, 1995. From preparing press releases to planning a PR campaign, this is one of the best self-help books for those seeking press attention on limited budgets.
Sets, Props & Costumes
Campbell, Drew. Technical Theater for Nontechnical People. Allworth Press: New York, 1999. The often bewildering technical aspects of scenery, lighting, sound, and stage management are explained in terms we mere mortals can understand.
Grovier, Jacquie. Create Your Own Stage Props. Prentice Hall: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1984. From gravestones to grandfather clocks to battle swords practical, illustrated guide to making hundreds of common stage props.
Ionazzi, Daniel. The Stagecraft Handbook. Betterway Publications: Cincinnati, 1996. A member of UCLA's Theater Department put together this detailed, illustrated guide to scenery construction. Practical how-to's make this useful for anyone with decent carpentry skills.
James, Thurston. The Theater Props Handbook. Betterway: White Hall, VA, 1987. Step-by-step illustrations for standard stage props, appropriate for pros and amateurs.
Ionazzi, Daniel. The Stage Management Handbook. Betterway Publications: Whitehall, VA, 1992. Step-by-step instructions on how to be an effective SM, with useful charts, checklists and more. A super resource!
ASCAP - The American Society of Composers and Publishers handles the rights to most classic American songs. Their site includes a great explanation of performance rights, the ACE database to determine song ownership, and contact info to help you obtain an ASCAP license.
BMI - Similar organization, with many contemporary composers.
SESAC - Another song rights organization, mostly for non-theatrical songs.
UK Theatre Web - A great place for UK amateur groups to find useful resources.
US Copyright Law - If you wonder why copyright issues can be so complicated, take a look at the text of the current law as posted by the US Copyright Office.
StageAgent.com - A useful resource for performers and producers, with info on shows, role requirements and rights availability.
Links to Low Cost Musicals
Frumi Cohen Musicals - This composer specializes in family friendly musicals based on classic stories, as well as several originals. A full production package (rights, scripts, scores & rehearsal tapes) is just $300 – worth looking into.
Hope Publishing - This well-known company carries over 30 religious & general interest musicals for children, most with pre-recorded accompaniment. Type "musicals" into their site search feature for a full list.
Gary Daverne Musicals - New Zealand company offering musicals "written by teachers for teachers."
Maverick Musicals - An Australian company with dozens of musicals for every type of performer from adults down to six year olds.