Four selections for summer theater reading

Among the recent releases of theater-based publications are a smash hit show from the 2022-23 season, an actor’s first-person account of his work on a blockbuster musical, a biography of a star of the stage and screen, and a sophisticated collection of Broadway-inspired cocktail recipes.

Kimberly Akimbo – Winner of five major 2023 Tony Awards including Best Musical, with book and lyrics by Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori (the most honored female composer in Broadway history), the musical adaptation of Lindsay-Abaire’s original play recounts the funny, poignant, and uplifting adventure of a sixteen-year-old girl in 1999 suburban New Jersey, who is afflicted with a condition that causes her to age at four-and-a-half times the normal rate, while navigating high school, a dysfunctional family, and her first teenage crush.

Despite the challenges she faces and the rapidly approaching end of her life expectancy, the eternally optimistic protagonist remains determined to find happiness against all odds, without delay. It’s a life-affirming reminder for all of us, of any age, that the time to be happy is now.

Kimberly Akimbo, book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire, music by Jeanine Tesori (New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2023), 120 pages, paperback, $17.95, ISBN 978-1-63670-178-3.

Hamilton and Me – From his first audition in New York, actor Giles Terera kept a journal of his behind-the-scenes experiences and process of extensively researching and preparing, intensively rehearsing, and then masterfully performing his acclaimed role as Aaron Burr in the London production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, which opened on the West End in December 2017, and went on to win a record-tying seven Olivier Awards, including Best Actor in a Musical for Terera.

The deeply personal account also considers the emotions he felt, from excitement and camaraderie to anxiety and pride, offers reflections on the events he drew upon from his life and time to create his portrayal, and presents new first-hand insights and details into the renowned music and characters, from someone who was in the room where it happened and captured the meaning and essence of who tells his story. Illustrated with black-and-white photographs of his journey and featuring a glowing foreword by Miranda, Terera’s book is recommended reading for fans of Hamilton and for actors who aspire to his level of excellence.

Hamilton and Me by Giles Terera (New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2023), 224 pages, paperback, $17.95, ISBN 978-1-63670-107-3.

Jessica Lange: An Adventurer’s Heart – In the first full-length biography of the Tony-, Oscar-, and Emmy-winning actress, author, film historian, scholar, and journalist Anthony Uzarowski takes a meticulously researched look at Lange’s life and work. From her parents’ European ancestry, her childhood in Minnesota, and her early interests in fine art, photography, and mime to her illustrious career on the stage and screen, glimpses into her professional and private relationships, and recognition of her determination to succeed in her chosen craft through her finely honed talent and emotionally charged performances, not just her looks, Uzarowski creates a sensitive and readable portrait of the star.

In addition to her famous films, including King Kong (1976), Tootsie (1982), Blue Sky (1994), and more, and her award-winning television work in Grey Gardens (2009) and the American Horror Story series (2011-14), which garnered her the following of a new generation, of special interest for theatergoers are her appearances on Broadway in such stage classics as Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie, and Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night (2016), for which she received the Tony for Best Actress in a Play, thereby becoming one of the elite group of ‘Triple Crown’ winners. And much attention is given to her long-time relationship with Pulitzer Prize winner Sam Shepard, who, as a playwright and director, received the most Obie Awards in history, with a total of ten. Uzarowski’s text is supplemented with photos of Lange, from her youth to production photos of her famed roles.

Jessica Lange: An Adventurer’s Heart, by Anthony Uzarowski (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2023), 248 pages, hardcover, $34.95, ISBN 978-0-8131-9725-8.​​​​​​

I’ll Drink to That! – Musical theater historian, professor, and radio host Laurence Maslon has compiled an intoxicating mix of 30 authentic specialty cocktail recipes that pay homage to Broadway shows, stars, and characters, with detailed introductions and informative profiles of the stage classics, luminaries, and drinks arranged in six engaging chapters. The theater-inspired concoctions include everything from the infamous Vodka Stinger from Company and Mame’s Mint Julep to the Rainbow High from Evita and the Bali Ha’i M’ai T’ai from South Pacific, to the appropriately named Dead Thing inspired by Beetlejuice. All the clever libations are indispensable to theatergoers who love to raise a glass to Broadway or to host cocktail parties that evoke their favorite plays, musicals, and characters and get the conversation going.

Along with the text, the book is illustrated with vintage liquor ads, posters, and drawings, cast and production photos, and original images by Joan Marcus, one of Broadway’s leading photographers, of the cocktails as shaken and served at Sardi’s legendary restaurant, which has hosted countless opening night parties and theater events over the past hundred years, since its founding in 1921, and move to its current location in 1927.

I’ll Drink to That!, by Laurence Maslon, photography by Joan Marcus (San Rafael, CA: Weldon Owen, Insight Editions, 2023), 176 pages, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN:978-1-68188-965-8.


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