Books, DVDs for performing-arts fans
A sampling of recent book and DVD releases for theater, film and dance devotees, for giving in 2012.
Seattle Times arts and theater critic
Dancers a-leaping. Life among hoity-toity Brits. Jim Henson’s fantastical musings. Barbra Streisand’s climb to fame.
You’ll find all that and more in recent books and box sets well-suited to those performing-arts lovers on your holiday-gift list (or maybe as goodies for yourself).
Here’s a selection from the best theater, dance and film-related tomes and discs released over the past year:
“Hello, Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand”(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; $30). There are many (unauthorized) biographies of Streisand, but William J. Mann’s study of the pop-diva ultima isn’t the usual patched together dish-fest. It zeros in on the teenaged, ragingly ambitious Streisand’s reinvention of herself — from talented Brooklyn misfit to couch-surfing, kooky showbiz comer to, at just 21, the toast of Broadway in the musical “Funny Girl.”The well-researched, tough yet empathetic portrait of Streisand-on-the-rise reveals as much about America’s shifting entertainment culture of the 1960s, and the mechanics of fame, as it does about a unique performer on the fast track to superstardom.
“The Chronicles of Downton Abbey”(St. Martin’s; $29.99). For the multitude of aficionados of TV’s fictional British dynasty and their stately manse, this second book complements the series’ third season on PBS (starting in January). There are abundant glossy photos and enlightening chapters on each of the main characters (written by Jessica Fellowes, niece of the show’s creator, and Matthew Sturgis) which place their stories in the social-historical context on the ’teens and 1920s. Did you know in a great estate “the best footmen” were to be no taller than the head butler? Neither did we.
“The Forsyte Saga Collection”(Acorn; $79.99). Damien Lewis ran away with an Emmy as co-star of the thrilling cable-espionage series “Homeland,” but it’s just the latest triumph among the superb British actor’s credits. This absorbing, sumptuous two-part BBC series (now collected in one 5-DVD set) is a family epic based on a series of John Galsworthy novels. Lewis is the scowling linchpin, the imperious, emotionally repressed scion of a wealthy Victorian clan who can’t win the love of the woman he weds.
“Imagination Illustrated: The Jim Henson Journal ”(Chronicle; $29.95). The late puppet master-filmmaker Henson was a nonstop genius. This heavily illustrated book, compiled by Karen Falk, is a colorful, creative scrapbook filled with Henson’s personal photos, sketches, jotted notes, press clippings and more. It’s the fascinating chronicle of an artist whose imaginative reach was not limited to his most beloved invention, the Muppets.
“Film Noir: The Directors”(Limelight; $24.99). Cinephiles drawn to the world of stark, broody, post-WW II thrillers will appreciate Alain Silver and James Ursini’sscholarly yet accessible anthology of essays about the men (and one woman, Ida Lupino) whose black-and-white films cast the American dream in a morally shadowy light. The book boasts many still photos and provides Netflix wish-lists galore of famous and obscure noir flicks.
“Dancers Among Us: A Celebration of Joy in the Everyday”(Workman; $17.95). Imagine dancers leaping and twirling all over the place — in the subway, on a fire escape, in the public library. This delightful picture book poses attractive, limber movers, who resemble beautiful birds soaring through the everyday world of cities. Intrepid photographer Jordan Matterprovides notes on each shot, some of which feature Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers.
“The Costume Drama: Classic Collection”(Acorn; $99.99). This DVD collection of engrossing historical-period series includes the illuminating first season of the original (and superior) “Upstairs, Downstairs,” and an adaptation of the Russian novel “Doctor Zhivago,” with Keira Knightley. Lesser-known, but top-shelf, are the backstage Victorian music hall epic “Lost Empires,” starring a young Colin Firth; and “Lillie,” an exquisite biography of 19th-century British actress and “it” girl Lillie Langtry, who counted the Prince of Wales among her romantic conquests. A documentary on BBC costume drama completes the set.
Misha Berson: email@example.com