Look, I love musical theatre. It’s what I listen to in the two hours I spend in the car every work day, and I know every line of every song on my iPod.
With the 2016 Tony Awards coming up, I thought it might be the perfect time to combine my two favorite things: books and reading. After all, the only thing better than a musical is a musical combined with an even better book.
Let’s take a look at the musicals nominated for the best musical in 2016 and see if we can’t find something new to read.
Let’s start with the musical everybody is talking about: Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s masterpiece about the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton swept the Tony Awards this year, earning a record-breaking 16 nominations across the board and selling out every show. Seriously. Every show.
If you’re fan of Hamilton – and, let’s be real, who isn’t – then you probably already devoured the Ron Chernow biography the book was based on, along with the Hamiltome. But that’s okay, because as it turns out, there’s plenty of other things to read about Alexander Hamilton. Start with Chernow’s biography of George Washington and work your way through the American Revolution from there with:
– The First Congress by Fergus M. Bordewich
– The Quartet by Joseph J. Ellis
– Washington and Hamilton by Stephen E. Knott and Tony Williams
– Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
And if you have little ‘uns in the house, you can scoop up Aaron and Alexander by Don Brown, the most adorable kid’s book about Alexander Hamilton’s death that you’ll ever read.
Bright Star is a quiet little musical that most non-theatre-obsessed fans probably haven’t heard of. Based on the 2013 bluegrass album Love Has Come For You, this historical family drama inspired by real events follows literary editor Alice Murphy, whose relationship with a young soldier returned from World War II awakens her longing for her lost child and encourages her to understand her past.
Ultimately uplifting, if incredibly moving, the weirdly obvious choice based on the setting is Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. For those looking for something a little more character driven, however, you can try:
School of Rock
Okay, even if you don’t like musicals, you’ve probably heard of this one – after all, the Jack Black movie it’s based on is hilarious. School of Rock follows out of work singer Dewey Finn who pretends to be a substitute teacher at a prep school and ultimately forms a rockin’ band of fifth graders.
This musical is so much fun – but it’s also the chance to shamelessly indulge and learn a little bit about music life and rock history with books like these:
Like Bright Star, Shuffle Along is an incredible historical musical – but unlike the family-focused aspect of Bright Star, Shuffle Along tackles the Great White Way itself. In 1921, the musical Shuffle Along became the unlikeliest of hits, and this musical tackles it again in a show about making the musical and everything that followed.
While the musical tackles race relations, it focuses more on Broadway itself and offers the perfect opportunity to learn a little about both in titles like:
– Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
– The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
– Make Believe by Ethan Mordden
– Blue Collar Broadway by Timothy R. White
– Broadway: From Rent to Revolution by Drew Hodges
Like School of Rock, Waitress comes from the movie of the same name. With music and lyrics by the amazing Sara Bareilles, Waitress follows Jenna, who dreams of a way out of her loveless marriage and decides to enter a baking contest in a nearby county and hook up with the handsome new town doctor.
Waitress is a perfect chance to indulge your love of food – and your love of romance – with books like:
– The Brown Betty Cookbook by Linda Hinton Brown and Norrinda Brown Hayat
– Pies and Tarts by the Culinary Institute of America
– Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J.R. Stradal
– Relish by Lucy Knisley
– Sounds Like Me by Sarah Barielles
Which musical are you pulling to win the Tony? Pick your favorite and read away!