Pros: Practical advice on becoming a musical theatre actor organised into an easily digestible question-and-answer format.
Cons: More variation in the anecdotes given by the authors would help to keep those who are not considering a career in theatre engaged.
Secrets Of Stage Success, subtitled Your Questions Answered is a joint work by established West End performers Louise Dearman (who played various lead roles in Wicked and Evita, to name a few), and Mark Evans (who played Elder Price in The Book of Mormon, and the lead in Ghost: The Musical). The content of the book is exactly what it says on the tin: fans of the two authors were invited to submit questions about working in performance. These questions are methodically answered jointly by Dearman and Evans, with personal asides from each author when they have a relevant anecdote from their experience. The questions are grouped into four rough sections: training to become a performer, breaking into the industry, doing the job and living the life.
The book is well written and easy to read: the questions form easily digestible chunks and the result is that you can dip in and out as you please. Furthermore, the sections are peppered with interesting stories about life in the industry. The risk with having two authors is that the voices of each contributor might become muddled, but this is avoided by using a different typeface for joint responses and caricatures of the relevant person when a piece of text was the opinion or experience of a particular author. In this way, having two authors becomes an advantage as the range of experiences and opinions are drawn from two people’s careers.
Secrets of Stage Success is definitely oriented chiefly towards aspiring performers, particularly in Musical Theatre. In a way, it is a career advice reference manual for actors at different stages of their careers: practical advice is offered for example in finding agents, maintaining a healthy diet when touring and reminders that even actors have to pay tax. Although this would be a supremely useful resource for hose planning a career on-stage, the technical details are maybe a little less relevant to those of us who enjoy theatre at a distance. Furthermore, since both authors became successful quite soon in their careers, I felt that many of their stories revolved around just one or two shows each (chiefly Wicked and The Book Of Mormon): more variety in the examples that the authors give (perhaps drawing more on their earlier experiences) could have been helpful to keep readers who are not pursuing a career on stage engaged.
One very nice touch to the book was a final footnote, destined to parents of aspiring performers. In a way, I found this to be one of the most interesting and authentic aspects of this work: advice to supportive parents on how to nurture the talent of their children without smothering them. Both authors agree that you should never force a kid to give up their childhood by pushing them into showbiz. Instead, they give examples of how their own parents helped them to achieve their goals through love, support and of course, allowing them to take on a myriad of extra-curricular activities.
All in all, Secrets Of Stage Success is an easily readable book which gives plenty of insight into the highs and lows of life as a musical theatre performer. It would be enjoyed most by young people thinking of getting into the industry, performers at the start of their careers or parents of kids whose enjoyment of putting on shows in the living room appears to be more than a passing phase.
Written By: Louise Dearman and Mark Evans
Published by: Nick Hern Books
Web Link: http://www.secretsofstagesuccess.com/
Publication Info: Out now, £8.99 paperback, published by Nick Hern Books.
Publisher Offer: Available for £6.74 using code SECRETSEVERY at www.nickhernbooks.co.uk/