What Is a Book Musical?

Anthony (Tony) Atienza earned a BA in music (vocal performance) from the University of California, Irvine. After graduation, Tony Atienza embarked on a career as a choir conductor and musical theater director. Tony Atienza’s credits in musical theater include the book musical Les Miserables.

A book musical is one of the main types of musical theater. It features an original script as well as music and lyrics. This type of musical is often based on a book, and the story is the driving force. Often, this type of play is called a “musical play” for its capacity to tell the story through music.

The two main components of a book musical are the book (script) and the music and lyrics. The book (script) contains both dialogue and directions on delivery. Music may play in many scenes of a book musical; it can be used for both character development and plot development.

Into the Woods Musical Earns Awards

Currently the vocal music director at Lakeside Middle School in California, Anthony “Tony” Atienza earned a teaching credential in music from San Diego State University, where he fulfilled a graduate assistantship in choral music. In nearly three decades of music education, Tony Atienza directed almost 20 musicals. One of the musicals Mr. Atienza conducted was Into the Woods, a play by Stephen Sondheim.

Based on the stories of the Brothers Grimm, Into the Woods blends the stories of Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel with an additional original story. The plotline draws all of the characters into a woodland area where they interact and face unique challenges.

The play debuted on Broadway in 1987, and won three Tony awards for best score, best book, and best actress in a musical. It was produced in London in 1990, and several other productions followed in Los Angeles, Barcelona, and other locations. In 2014, a film of the musical was produced starring Meryl Streep and other well-known actors.