Despite an almost overwhelming propensity for bringing his personal experiences into the discussion, Lane, a four-time Tony winner, offers an extremely helpful, nuts-and-bolts guide to theatre producing.
Avoiding too much poetic waxing on the "art" of showbiz, Lane dives right in with the first chapter, listing various reasons to produce theatre in the first place—to explore the human condition, to educate, to inspire, etc. Knowing why you're getting started, he says, will impact every step you take from then on.
Following that are common-sense chapters on selecting material, assembling a creative team, finding performance and rehearsal space, casting, rehearsing, and marketing, among other topics. Throughout, Lane keeps his advice simple and clear, but he rarely skimps on details. Useful scenarios, lists, and resources abound. The sample production timeline for a musical will be helpful to any theatre group looking to work in that genre. There's a lot more involved than you might think.
Lane also values good old-fashioned traditions. He continually refers to camaraderie and teamwork—a refreshing community ideal. He also talks straight about flops, assuring the reader that they inevitably happen. "For every producer, director, and performer, there are a few disasters along the way," he writes. "Even Spielberg had his 1941."
However, Lane has a tendency to weave in personal stories too often. The book sometimes reads like a cross between how-to and autobiography, seeming a bit schizophrenic as a result. Name-dropping abounds, as do references to his own play In the Wings. By the time he writes, "For more than 25 years I've tinkered with and reworked In the Wings," you feel you already know, that you've been there every step of the way. Similarly, a lengthy chapter on playwriting seems tacked-on and out of place in a book focused on putting on the show.
Although most of his points make good sense, one note about casting is wrongheaded: "If you're doing My Fair Lady," he writes, "you'll want [the actor] to watch Rex Harrison in the role of Henry Higgins. If you're doing Cabaret, you'll want [the actor] to see Joel Grey in the role of the M.C."
Still, for anyone considering getting into producing and unsure where to begin, this is an excellent start.
>Reviewed by Scott Matthew Harris