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Holiday gift ideas for theater lovers

Holiday gift ideas for theater lovers
Know an aspiring musical theater lyricist? The two-volume "American Musicals" might make a nice gift. (Library of America)

Still wondering what to get your theater-obsessed nearest and dearest? Theater critic Charles McNulty shares his gift ideas for those with the right kind of histrionic nature.

For playwrights

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"Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh" (W.W. Norton & Co., $37.95)

John Lahr's psychoanalytic biography loses sight of the fact that the plays artfully transcend the author's inner conflicts, but this book provides an excellent close-up look of a working playwright who happened to be a literary genius and a character as deliciously flamboyant as any he created.

For lyricists

"American Musicals: The Complete Books and Lyrics of Sixteen Broadway Classics" (Library of America, $75)

This two-volume boxed set contains the complete libretti of such Golden Age favorites as "Oklahoma!," "Guys and Dolls" and "My Fair Lady." Your songwriter friends will wonder how he or she existed for so long without this trove.

For directors

"The Selected Letters of Elia Kazan" (Alfred A. Knopf, $40)

Kazan revolutionized American drama with his Broadway staging and subsequent movie version of "A Streetcar Named Desire" and his films "On the Waterfront" and "East of Eden." He was as complex a character as any brought to life by Marlon Brando or James Dean under his direction — and a far better writer. To be read alongside his indispensable memoir, "Elia Kazan: A Life."

For composers

The original cast recording of "Here Lies Love" (Nonesuch Records, price varies with format)

Few new musicals make you want to dance. This New York Public Theater show about the rise and fall of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos has a score by David Byrne (formerly of Talking Heads) and Fatboy Slim that not only compelled dancing but made room for the audience to show off its neo-disco moves.

For designers

"Ming Cho Lee: A Life in Design" (TCG, $75)

Whether working in theater, opera or dance, Ming Cho Lee has made an incalculable contribution to the performing arts in America. This elegant coffee table book, written by Arnold Aronson, pays tribute in prose and photographs to his singular career.

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For fans

The best gift for theater lovers is tickets.

May I suggest either Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's suddenly all-the-rage fairy tale musical "Into the Woods," running through Dec. 21 at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts ($39-$110), or Noël Coward's ghost-graced comedy "Blithe Spirit," running through Jan. 18 at the Ahmanson Theatre ($25-$115)? Both are sure to brighten any theater lover's mood this holiday season.

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