Top 5 performing-arts gift books: Hollywood glam, ‘Fiddler’
Seattle Times theater critic Misha Berson recommends books for theater, dance and movie fans about the ill-fated “Spider-Man” musical, “Fiddler on the Roof” and Bob Fosse.
This year, a taste of Hollywood glam, hefty biographies of Broadway and film legends, studies of a beloved musical and a notorious Spidey tuner are good bets for the showbiz mavens on your gift list.
1. “George Hurrell’s Hollywood,” (Running Press, $60). If you're going to pop for one starstruck coffee-table book, this is it: Mark A. Viera’s immaculately reproduced collection of glamour portraits by the masterful photographer Hurrell. Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, Carole Lombard, Marlene Dietrich — to paraphrase Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard,” they had faces then.
2. “Song of Spider-Man” by Glen Berger, (Simon & Schuster, $25). Playwright-screenwriter Berger, who began his career at Seattle’s Annex Theatre, gives a tell-all, often ruefully funny account of his six years cowriting (with demanding genius Julie Taymor) the star-crossed $75 million Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” — delays, actor injuries, director firing, U-2 hobnobbing, his own chronic insecurities and all.
3. “Wonder of Wonders” by Alisa Soloman, (Metropolitan Books, $32). In this thoroughly researched and fascinating book about the making, ethnic and historical context, and ongoing resonance of “Fiddler on the Roof,” author Soloman does justice to a great Broadway musical and makes a case for it as an important cultural touchstone.
4. “Fosse” by Sam Wasson, (Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt, $32). With talent to burn, haunted by internal demons, and the originator of a snazzily influential dance vocabulary, director-choreographer Bob Fosse was an American original. In jazzy prose, Wasson’s biography balances the artist’s self-destructive impulses (women, amphetamines, tobacco) with his important contributions to Broadway (“Pippin,” “Sweet Charity,” “Chicago”) and film (“Cabaret,” ”All That Jazz” ).
5. “A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True, 1907-1940” by Victoria Wilson, (Simon & Schuster, $40). At more than 900 pages and covering only half a life (Part 2 comes later), this meticulous biography will appeal most to dedicated cinephiles. Along with a superb actress’ rise from hard-knock youth to a glittering screen career, Wasson gives insights into the making of more than 30 Stanwyck movies, including classics directed by her mentor, Frank Capra.
Misha Berson, Seattle times theater critic