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Mainly on Directing: Gypsy, West Side Story and Other Musicals

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  137 ratings  ·  18 reviews
As a playwright, screenwriter, and director, Arthur Laurents has a unique place in the history of theater. In this moving, exhilarating, and provocative account, he presents readers with a front-row look at the making of two of the greatest musicals of the American stage, West Side Story and Gypsy. He writes in rich detail about his new bilingual production of West Side ...more
Paperback, 184 pages
Published November 1st 2014 by Applause Books (first published March 10th 2009)
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Timothy Hallinan
I read this book on a sort of jag (it's not over yet) soaking up works about the Broadway stage. Laurents' name may not be familiar today but he wrote, among other things, the books for the Broadway productions "Wet Side Story" and "Gypsy" as well as the movie "The Way we Were." And many, many others.

MAINLY ON DIRECTING is an interesting book mostly because Laurents is relatively candid about what happens (both to the project and to relationships among its creators) as a show comes together,
Apr 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Laurents doesn't hold back, that's for sure. The first few chapters are spent skewering Sam Mendes and Laurents is up and down from there. The author is just as complimentary toward those he loved working with as he is critical of those he didn't (or even those he previously loved working with, but who wronged him in some way). It's refreshing that an old-school theater guy has wonderful things to say about several newer Broadway stars (Laura Benanti, Lin-Manuel Miranda). As a theater-lover, ...more
Shaun Nolan
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly informative and thoroughly enjoyable. Would recommend 100% to anyone even slightly interested in directing and criticism.
Gareth Lane
The most entertaining Laurents has written since Gypsy if only for his self-importance and shameless cattiness/pettiness.
Dec 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This covers Laurents' direction of stage classics like Gypsy (multiple productions), West Side Story, Anyone Can Whistle, I Can Get It for You Wholesale, and La Cage Aux Folles. The title is apropos in that it focuses more on Laurents' experiences as a director more than his equally esteemed career as a writer, but if you're reading it to try to gain insight for your own directing work, you won't find much here. On the other hand, there are plenty of opinions and a fair amount of behind the ...more
Feb 10, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Arthur Laurents is 90 now and this is a short book about some of the more recent shows that he has directed - a revised Gypsy with Patti Lupone in particular, where Patti ended up winning a Tony. Since he wrote the book for some of these shows as well as directing them, he really has interesting insights into how he has gone about directing them.
Scott Lewis
Jun 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Gay men who love & anone who loves the theater
Recommended to Scott by: Featued in OUT magizine & NPR
Shelves: lgbt, biography
It's been a long time since I read a book in one sitting, but this was so entertaining I couldn't help myself. A little bit gossipy, a little bit catty, funny, silly, romantic and painfully honest, this is an expose of one man's career in the Broadway musical theater! It's both breezy and insightful.
Shawn Thrasher
Mar 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mainly On Directing by Arthur Laurents was smoking hot. More than a bit of bitchier, occasionally gossipy, some meaty information about not only musicals like Gypsy and La Cage but also about directing (and mis-directing) a Broadway musical. This is also a love letter to Laurent's partner of many, many years, recently deceased. What a love story!
Ayne Ray
Jul 26, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Picking up after "Original Story By: A Memoir of Broadway and Hollywood" left off, the bulk of this book focuses on the wildly critical, financial, and social successes of the revivals of "Gypsy" and "West Side Story" and makes an impassioned plea for the role of musicals in the modern theatre. A genuine treat.
What does a director do? Who is responsible for what? I learned that along the way. I like West Side Story (though I've only seen the movie). The author sharply and shrewdly takes us through the details attendant to "putting on a show," whether concert-staged or Broadway-bound. Interesting stuff.
Jan 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theatre
Though thoroughly engrossing, this was a bit disjointed and comes across like a bitch's manifesto of the theatre. I love his take on his City Center "Encores!" experience. Gotta hand it to him for continuing to direct to sellout crowds into his 90s.
Ryan Naples
Mar 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Eileen recommended I read this while I was in between books. It was funny. This guy was tough. And knows his shit very well.
Jul 19, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very ungenerous, late in life author's tale. In short: any work he did - wonderful; any work done by others - questionable (if not outright bad). Interesting for the catty gossip.
May 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is a great book because it tells the stories of the shows he has directed. It's a great view into musical theater. I especially like the chapter where he talks about LA CAGE.
Tim Pinckney
Alternately fascinating and annoying.
Joann L
Jul 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
great theatre gossip from an iconic director
Sarah Catherine
Sep 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theatre-books
A wonderful and insightful read for those interested in theatre. It helps to have seen Gypsy or West Side Story before to understand some references, but overall a funny and beautiful memoir.
Jul 02, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fun, behind the scenes look at directing Broadway musicals, Laurents tells what he really thinks of his collaborators. Gossipy, entertaining, and enlightening all at the same time.
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Arthur Laurents was an American playwright, librettist, stage director, and screenwriter. His credits included the stage musicals West Side Story and Gypsy and the film The Way We Were.
“material is the source for everything seen or said or done on the stage.” 1 likes
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