Suggested Reading
Page III

Compiled by John Kenrick

(Copyright 1996-2004)

There are many worthwhile books and articles on musical theatre. Listed here are sources that were referred during the creation of this website, with some hopelessly biased critiques. Get in touch with a good librarian and you might be surprised at how many are hiding on a shelf near you.

Special Bibliographies:


  • Altman, Rick. The American Film Musical. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. Some useful insights get bogged down in an ongoing flurry of academic babble ("The Role of Generic Formations in Meaning Production"). Bonus: rare photos, including some multi-shot film sequences.

  • Astaire, Fred. Steps in Time: An Autobiography. New York: Cooper Square Press, 2000. Astaire was far too classy to write an unkind word about anyone, but his memories of life in vaudeville, on Broadway, and in Hollywood offer some fun first-hand insights. This was originally published in 1959.

  • Barrios, Richard. Screened Out: Playing Gay in Hollywood From Edison to Stonewall. New York: Routledge, 2003. An absorbing and entertaining look at the depiction of homosexuals in American film. A great read, witty and packed with information. 

  • Barrios, Richard. A Song in the Dark: The Birth of the Musical Film. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. Careful research and the author's obvious passion for the subject make this the best book to date on the birth and infancy of the Hollywood musical. Detailed, insightful, with rare photos and tons of great anecdotes – a must for every serious student of musical film.

  • Baxter, Joan. Television Musicals. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 1997. Gives the plots, casts and credits for over 200 musicals written for television between 1944 and 1996, with quotes from major critics. Magnificent research makes this a key resource.

  • Croce, Arlene. The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Book. New York: Galahad Books, 1972. The most popular overview of the Astaire-Rogers films, candid and well illustrated.

  • Dietz, Howard. Dancing in the Dark: Words by Howard Dietz. New York: Quadrangle-NY Times Book Co., New York, 1974. Entertaining and often blunt autobiography from a lyricist/publicist who worked with many of the biggest names in 20th Century show business.

  • Epstein, Edward and Morella, Joe. Judy: The Films and Career of Judy Garland. Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press, 1969. A must-have for Garland fans, with a detailed look at each of her films.

  • Eyman, Scott. Ernst Lubitsch: Laughter in Paradise. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993. Scott Eyman is one of the best things to happen to film history since the invention of celluloid. An enjoyable and detailed examination of Lubitsch and his remarkable career, including his delightful musicals.

  • Eyman, Scott. The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution 1926-1930. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997. A sympathetic but honest look at Hollywood's launch into sound. Amusing and detailed – a great read!

  • Feuer, Jane. The Hollywood Musical. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1982. Some perceptive insights into musical film culture, but this book is plagued by a number of obvious factual inaccuracies. You have to wonder if the author ever saw some of the films she discusses.

  • Flinn, Denny Martin. Musical!: A Grand Tour. New York: Schirmer Books, 1997. A wide ranging and eloquent look at the history of the American musical on stage and screen. Clear, informative and insightful, this is one of the best overall texts on the subject.

  • Fordin, Hugh. Getting To Know Him: Oscar Hammerstein II. New York: Ungar Publishing Company, 1977. Sensitive and superb, the definitive biography of a gentle giant. One of the best show biz biographies ever.

  • Fordin, Hugh. The World of Entertainment: Hollywood's Greatest Musicals. New York: Doubleday, 1975. (Soft cover edition - MGM's Greatest Musicals: The Arthur Freed Unit. New York: Da Capo Press, 1996.) A detailed, loving, film-by-film look at the greatest musical production team in Hollywood history. A revealing look at the workings of MGM, with countless stories and fascinating trivia. Solid research and delightful prose make this is a real treat for buffs.

  • Fricke, John, Jay Scarfone & William Stillman. The Wizard of Oz: The Official 50th Anniversary Pictorial Essay. New York: Warner Books, 1989. Three of the most dedicated and eloquent Oz fans combined their knowledge – and their formidable memorabilia collections – for this loving and informative book. Over 400 illustrations, many rare, all fascinating.

  • Gallafent, Edward. Astaire and Rogers. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000. A handsome, detailed and insightful discussion of the Astaire & Rogers films.

  • Green, Stanley. Encyclopedia of the Musical Film. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981. An excellent companion to Green's theatrical encyclopedia, laid out on the same lines.

  • Harmetz, Aljean. The Making of The Wizard of Oz. New York: Limelight Editions, 1984. Some great illustrations, but the key here is the text – a detailed and engrossing look at how MGM functioned in its glory days, and how this beloved musical made the torturous journey to the screen.

  • Larkin, Colin. The Virgin Encyclopedia of Stage and Film Musicals. London: Virgin Books, 1999. Massive and detailed, this one-volume encyclopedia gives ample coverage to both American and British musicals. A sensational reference.

  • Mann, William J. Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969. New York: Viking, 2001. The best book yet on the homosexual presence in classic film, with ample and well-researched coverage of musical screen talents. A great read!

  • Marx, Samuel. Mayer and Thalberg: The Make-Believe Saints. New York: Random House, 1975. Anyone interested in how MGM became the "Tiffany" studio of Hollywood's golden age will love this dual bio written by Mayer and Thalberg's longtime associate. Frank without being vicious, it offers tons of anecdotes and debunks a number of false legends taken as gospel by other historians. A great read!

  • Marx, Samuel & Clayton, Jan. Rodgers & Hart: Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1976. Several books have examined Rodgers and Hammerstein – this look at Rodgers and Hart (co-authored by Carousel's original Julie) was long overdue and very well researched.

  • Mast, Gerald. Can't Help Singing: The American Musical on Stage and Screen. Overlook Press, Woodstock, 1987. Some wonderful insights can be found in this wide-ranging overview of the musical in most every form. However, the author sometimes reads far too much meaning into trivial coincidences – as a result, the text is sometimes a challenge to plod through.

  • McNeil, Alex. Total Television New York: Penguin Books, 1984. The most comprehensive single volume on American network television, covering thousands of series. The section on specials is selective, but it includes numerous musicals and was miles ahead of any book that came before it.

  • Nolan, Frederick. Lorenz Hart: A Poet On Broadway. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. This readable bio wimps out by playing the "blame Doc Bender for Hart's homosexuality" game. That's homophobic nonsense -- Hart was gay, with or without the nefarious Bender.

  • Nolan, Frederick. The Sound of Their Music: The Story of Rodgers and Hammerstein. New York: Walker and Company, 1978. The best book on the subject, with great photos and a wonderful appendix outlining the theatre history of the R&H years.

  • Porter, Cole. The Complete Lyrics of Cole Porter. New York: Vintage Books, 1984. A magnificent resource, thank the gods (and editor Robert Kimball)!

  • Rooney, Mickey. Life Is Too Short. New York: Villard Books, 1991. This often sentimental autobiography gives us a fascinating look at a long and varied career in film and theatre. What Rooney writes about one ex-wife is too tasteless for words, but he gives himself a few lumps along the way.

  • Rosenberg, Deena. Fascinating Rhythm: The Collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin. London: Lime Tree, 1991. One of the few books to examine the collaboration between lyricist and composer, this super book was based on extensive interviews with Ira. It includes a fine selection of photos.

  • Russo, Vito. The Celluloid Closet. New York: Harper Row, 1985. A well researched work. One of the landmark works in early gay cultural literature, it's still hard to beat.

  • Seacrest, Meryle. Somewhere for Me: A Biography of Richard Rodgers. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001. After the sloppy job Seacrest did on Sondheim's bio, Rodgers' two daughters selected her to air their resentment towards the father who left them millionaires. Some interesting stories, but far too much dirt gets dished up for my taste.

  • Silverman, Stephen M. Dancing on the Ceiling: Stanley Donen and His Movies. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996. Well researched, readable and fascinating, this bio is a must-read for musical film lovers. Donen shared extensive personal memories with the author, whose passion for the subject fills every page.

  • Soren, David. Vera-Ellen: The Magic and the Mystery. Baltimore: Luminary Press, 2003. This hard to find biography by a dedicated fan is worshipful but still informative, with great photos. 

  • Springer, John. All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing! New York: Cadillac Publishing, 1966. Tons of super photos, brief but very perceptive text – a pleasurable visual orgy for musical film lovers.

  • Thomas, Bob. Thalberg, Life and Legend. New York: Doubleday, 1969. Thomas, a master of entertaining showbiz bios, does not fail here. Loads of interesting film dish, all well researched.

  • Turk, Edward Baron. Hollywood Diva: A Biography of Jeanette MacDonald. Berkley: Univ. of California Press, 1998. With solid research and clear presentation, this outstanding bio debunks various myths, shedding a sympathetic but informative light on this often misunderstood star.

General History

  • Burrows, Edwin G. and Mike Wallace. Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. A magnificent one volume history that (for once!) gives substantial coverage to the role theatre played in the growth of the city.

  • Chauncey, George. Gay New York, New York: Basic Books, 1994. This landmark in gay historical research includes a look at the connections between NY's theatrical and gay communities in the early 20th century.

  • Grimes, William. Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York. New York: North Point Press, 2009. A refreshingly readable history of New York's restaurants, with extensive coverage of legendary theatre district eateries.

  • Sante, Luc. Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1991. A delicious look at the long ignored history of New York's lower, working and criminal classes. It includes fascinating coverage of the city's entertainment and night life.

Reference Works

  • Blum, Daniel and John Willis. Theatre World (Ongoing Annual). New York: Assorted Publishers. 1944-Present. The definitive source for cast and performance statistics. Originally limited to Broadway and top-level touring productions, the series soon expanded to cover major regional theatre companies. Now two-seasons behind the calendar, this series remains a favorite for all theatre lovers.

  • Bordman, Gerald. American Musical Theatre: A Chronicle. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978. One of the definitive works on the history of the American stage musical – covers every Broadway production and more. Only drawback – incomplete performance statistics.

  • Crawford, Richard. America's Musical Life: A History. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2001. This readable and thorough volume covers the history of American music, from native tribes to the electronic beat of our time. Includes insightful coverage of the contributions made by musical theater and film.

  • Ganzl, Kurt. The Encyclopedia of Musical Theatre (3 Volumes). New York: Schirmer Books, 2001. Only serous research libraries carry this set listing thousands of shows and individuals. This expanded update of the 1995 original edition is the best source to date on European musicals, with solid coverage of Broadway too.

  • Gottlieb, Robert and Robert Kimball. Reading Lyrics. New York: Pantheon Books, 2000. A wonderful, much needed collection of lyrics for over a thousand songs penned between 1900 and 1975.

  • Green, Stanley. Encyclopedia of the Musical. London: Cassell & Company, 1976. A priceless single volume resource covering NY and London productions up to the mid-1970s. Super feature: separate chronologies allow you to review the development of careers with a glance.

  • Green, Stanley. Encyclopedia of the Musical Film. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981. An excellent companion to Green's theatrical encyclopedia, laid out on the same lines.

  • Kingman, Daniel. American Music: A Panorama. New York: Schirmer Books, 1979. One of the best texts on the history of American music, with intelligent coverage of the development of popular music, as well as musical theater and film.

  • Larkin, Colin. The Virgin Encyclopedia of Stage and Film Musicals. London: Virgin Books, 1999. This hefty volume gives ample coverage to both American and British musicals – a sensational reference.

  • Nathan, George Jean. The Theatre Book of the Year 1942-1952 (Annual). New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1943-1953. A classic series! One of Broadway's most erudite critics aims his razor-sharp pen at every production of the period. Sometimes he discusses the show in question. More often, he launches into wide ranging assessments that spread to any and every aspect of the theatre at large. Fascinating and sometime infuriating, scholars and theatre buffs won't want to overlook these volumes.

  • Norton, Richard C. A Chronology of American Musical Theater (3 Volumes). New York: Oxford, 2002. A massive season by season chronology, listing songs, casts and creative staff for every Broadway musical from 1750 to 2001. Fantastic resource!

  • Raymond, Jack. Show Music on Record: From The 1890s to the 1980s. New York: Frederick Ungar Press, 1982. A detailed catalog of commercial recordings of stage and screen musical scores up to 1981. From Robin Hood to Cats, an awesome effort.

  • Slide, Anthony. The Encyclopedia of Vaudeville. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994. The best published resource on vaudeville, period. A lifetime of love and research went into this book, which includes detailed and entertaining biographies of hundreds of performers, as well as listings for vaudeville terms, genres, major theaters, and much more.

  • Suskin, Stephen. Broadway Yearbook: A Relevant and Irrelevant Record 1999-Present (Ongoing Annual). New York: Oxford University Press, 2000-2001. Suskin, one of God's gifts to theater lovers, revives George Jean Nathan's classic Book of the Year format. Insightful and delightful overviews of the theatre, one season at a time. I hope this series runs forever!

  • Suskin, Stephen. Opening Nights On Broadway. New York: Schirmer Books, 1990. I adore this book! The original newspaper reviews for most of the musicals that opened between 1943 and 1964. Suskin slips in some perceptive and dishy commentary, and a fascinating selection of rare pre-Broadway posters. (There is a sequel – see below.)

  • Suskin, Stephen. More Opening Nights On Broadway. New York: Schirmer Books, 1997. Also superb! The original newspaper reviews for most of the musicals that opened between 1965 and 1981, with a special section for important road shows that never made it to New York,

  • Suskin, Steven. Show Tunes 1905-1991: The Songs, Shows and Careers of Broadway's Major Composers. New York: Limelight Editions, 1992. Suskin strikes again with an exhaustive catalog of who wrote what and when. Song lists and production credits for hundreds of musicals make this a spectacular resource!

  • Willis, John. Theatre World. See Blum, Daniel.

  • Wilmeth, Don B. and Tice L. Miller, editors. Cambridge Guide to American Theatre. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993 (various updated editions). The best single volume reference on the subject. There have been numerous editions over the years -- the 1993 version was used to confirm data in Musicals101.

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