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The Musical Theatre Writer's Survival Guide [Paperback]

David Spencer , Spencer , Robert Lopez

List Price: CDN$ 23.56
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Book Description

July 1 2005

David Spencer has written a book full of truths a young writer will not find articulated anywhere else. Most of us in the theatre gained our "experience" by making mistakes and learning from them. David's book lets you gain the "experience" and skip the mistakes part. Anyone maneuvering the treacherous waters of musicals will find it not nearly so lonely or baffling with this remarkable volume as a companion.
- Richard Maltby, Jr., Director/Lyricist, Miss Saigon, Ain't Misbehavin', Baby

Consider The Musical Theatre Writer's Survival Guide your new best friend in the business.
- Alan Menken, Oscar recipient and Tony-Award nominee, composer, Little Shop of Horrors and Beauty and the Beast

At long last: a how-to book written by someone who actually knows how to. It hits so many nails on the head I could barely get through it for the sound of all that hammering.
- Larry Gelbart, Award-winning co-librettist, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and librettist, City of Angels

For its practitioners, musical theatre is an art, a passion, and a lifelong love. But it's also a complex landscape involving not merely principles of craft about book, music and lyrics, but also principles of collaboration, script/demo presentation, project/production development, venue, business, and - everybody's area of uncertainty - politics.

In The Musical Theatre Writer's Survival Guide, award-winning musical dramatist and teacher David Spencer provides a guide-to-the-game that helps you negotiate all those aspects of the business and more. This professional handbook will walk you through:

  • getting your name and your projects into the hands of producers, instead of the rejection pile
  • choosing the right producer, agent, or director, instead of surrounding yourself with people uninterested in your work and your career-or interested for the wrong reasons
  • bringing your vision to life through stage-savvy writing, instead of watching it sputter due to flaws in craft
  • living a happy, healthy life in musicals, instead of dying a slow, showbiz death.
If you're taking your first steps, Spencer's counsel, anecdotes, and instructions will save you years of blindly stumbling about without results. Likewise, if you've been around the block a few times, The Musical Theatre Writer's Survival Guide can rescue you from the kinds of career-stalling traps, bad habits, and false assumptions that lead to dead ends.


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About the Author

David Spencer won a 2002 Richard Rodgers Development Award (as composer-lyricist for his current project, The Fabulist), a 2000 Kleban lyrics award, and two Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Theatre Foundation grants. He has been the lyricist-librettist for two musicals with composer Alan Menken: Weird Romance and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. He made his professional debut in 1984 with the English adaptation of La Boheme at the Public Theatre and has since written music and lyrics for Theatreworks/USA's all-new, award-winning TYA versions of The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables and penned the original Alien Nation novel, Passing Fancy. He is on faculty at the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop and is webmaster and principal New York drama critic for Aisle Say (www.aislesay.com).

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  26 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable! Sept. 18 2005
By M. Feinsinger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Musical Theatre Writer's Survival Guide is invaluable from the instant you're hit by the "Hey, let's make a musical!" idea, all the way to choosing the best font for your finished score. Spencer provides exhaustive practical answers to every question you might possibly have-and to questions you never even knew you should be asking: What makes a good libretto? Effective music? Lyrics? What about collaborators? Directors? Contracts? Put another way, to the budding builder of an Empire State Building confronted by a daunting pile of unsorted bricks and bolts, Spencer's the guy who tells you which brick to put where, and how-from the foundation all the way up to the spire. An amazingly comprehensive work, which should be in every writer's library.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And it's even funny! Oct. 13 2005
By Bob Gutowski - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In-between buying this book and finishing it, I auditioned for and was admitted to the BMI program of which Mr. Spencer writes (if everything goes well, I'll get the benefit of his wisdom in-person next year).

However, I can honestly say right now that this is THE book for everyone who doesn't have access to a workshop or specialized program, as well as those of us who do. Mr. Spencer apparently remembers everything he's ever learned about the art of making a musical and passes it on in this splendid, concise, and entertaining volume. A must-buy, and that's the plain, unvarnished truth.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable!!! Sept. 9 2005
By D. Hudson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
First - just to be clear - I've never met David Spencer. This review is based entirely on the book.

With that out of the way - This book is a wonderful resource, an absolute gem!

There is lots of great advice in there. Great nuts and bolts stuff, great advice on collaborations, good tips on craft... the list goes on. For me, I certainly put this on the required reading list next to Dana Singer's "Stage Writers Handbook" for books that offer sound advice on business and craft of musical theatre.

If you plan on writing musicals - get this book. If you've written musicals, and even been produced - get this book and read it any time you are starting a new musical. It's a great guide, but can also serve as a refresher course for how to do things right.

Highly recommended!

Dave Hudson
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Broadway Business Industry Feb. 6 2011
By P. Labillois - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a great book if you're interested in the Broadway Business Industry. I was more looking for tips on how to write a Broadway Musical, Character development etc... So this was not what I was looking for. The description and reviews were not that specific about this. Everybody was mostly raving about the writer, who I think, is brilliant when you're ready to get out there and shop your play around.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The BEST career guide for the Broadway-Bound writer!!! July 25 2005
By Samantha J. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I just finished this book and all I can say is "WOW". The author knows his stuff and answers so many questions you won't find in your average Music Theater Book. If you want to write musicals, if you're interested in how musicals are written and how careers are sustained, or if you want to flourish in ANY artistic career this is the book for you. As a musical theater writer, I found the articles on Agents and Submissions very helpful, particularly the sections on recording your work and formatting your scripts. There's a lot to digest here and I feel like I'll be coming back to it again and again. I think the secret of the book is that it's written FROM EXPERIENCE. It's got a lot of excellent pointers on trusting your instincts, working with directors, doing your work better and just plain sticking in there. A MUST READ for music theater composers, lyricists, and librettists! A+

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