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PASSING STAGES by Louis Botto

STAGE TREASURE
Theatre in America by Mary C. Henderson, former curator of the Museum of the City of New York's Theatre Collection, is one of the most beautiful stage books ever published. Dr. Henderson superbly chronicles 200 years of American plays, players, productions, producers, playwrights, directors, choreographers, designers and theatre architects in a lively, informative style. The large, lavish volume contains 125 color illustrations and 225 in duotone, many never before published, and an invaluable chronology of productions and their creative artists that ranges from 1750 to 1980. (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, N.Y., $45.00.)

ENCORE
When something's good, it's worth repeating. In 1974, Craig Zadan wrote Sondheim & Co., a unique book that detailed how Stephen Sondheim and his distinguished colleagues created some of the musical theatre's gems — from  West Side Story to A Little Night Magic. The good news is that Mr. Zadan has revised the book and added fascinating chapters that cover Sondheim's more recent shows, including a rare interview with Barbra Streisand and on her best-selling LP, The Broadway Album, that contains eight Sondheim songs. The book's great appeal is that it presents not only the joys of working on a triumph like Sweeney Todd but also the agonies of creating a failure like Merrily We Roll Along. "I didn't know what I was getting into, opening up all those cans of worms," author Zadan told PLAYBILL, "but I discovered that Steve's collaborators are so passionate about working with him that they are willing to be very honest about their experiences." Many illustrations. (Harper and Row, $25.00.)

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New books for the reading pleasure of theatre buffs

ABORTED SHOWS
An intriguing book for theatre lovers is called Broadway Bound: A Guide to Shows That Died Aborning by William Torbert Leonard. This impressively researched volume focuses on the vast number of shows (from the 1930's to the present) that were Broadway bound, but closed out-of-town. The author also includes shows that closed out of town, were rewritten, then made it to Broadway with different casts, different titles and, occasionally, entirely different plots. The book is full of surprises: hundreds of movie stars who hoped to make a comeback via a Broadway vehicle (but never made it past Pittsburgh) and famous authors whose shows died in Newark. (The Scarecrow Press, Inc., $42.50.)

A BEVY OF BIOS
As usual for the holidays, biographies and autobiographies abound. Among the best are the following. Cecil Beaton by Hugo Vickers is a huge book based on the personal and business letters and 145 diaries kept by Beaton, the world-renowned photographer and set and costume designer of such memorable Broadway shows as My Fair Lady, The Chalk Garden, Lady Windermere's Fan and Quadrille. This is an in-depth study of Beaton's affairs with both men and women (including Greta Garbo), and it vividly portrays the illustrious subjects who posed for Beaton — Queen Elizabeth, Tallulah Bankhead, the Sitwells, Audrey Hepburn, Princess Grace of Monaco, Sir John Gielgud and hundreds of others. The book is studded with black and white photos of Beaton's work and of his Blue Chip friends all over the world. (Little, Brown and Company, $25.00.)

If you loved the late Margaret Sullavan (and who didn't?), you may be shocked by Margaret Sullavan: Child of Fate by Lawrence J. Quirk. The luminous star of Broadway and Hollywood emerges in this book as an over-sexed beauty who waited at the stage door for handsome actors (whom she didn't know) and 
followed them home. The physical aspects of her first marriage to Henry Fonda are graphically detailed as are her outbursts at actors whom she felt were not giving a good performance. On the other hand, the author also depicts her radiant acting talent and her willingness to help performers who had troubles with their roles. (St. Martin's Press, $14.95.)

Sam Shepard: The Life and Work of an American Dreamer by Ellen Oumano explores the turbulent life of the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright/actor/musician/poet. The author of over 40 plays, Shepard is pictured as the undisputed king of Off-Broadway. The author also examines his personal life and his relationship with Jessica Lange in the larger context of its impact on his work. (St. Martin's Press, $12.95.)

Vera Zorina, the great beauty, Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo ballerina and the star of such stage hits asOn Your Toes in London and New York, and I Married an Angel and Louisiana Purchase on Broadway, has written a candid and fascinating autobiography called simply Zorina. In it she not only portrays her glamorous life as a ballet, stage and screen star, but offers a vivid memoir of her years as Mrs. George Balanchine. Musical comedy buffs will be interested in reading about the creation of her stage musicals by Rodgers and Hart and Irving Berlin, and moviegoers will be intrigued by the big Hollywood double-cross she suffered when she was dropped from the lead in For Whom the Bell Tolls and replaced by Ingrid Bergman. (Farrar•Straus•Giroux, $25.00.)

With so much going for him, what really went wrong with Richard Burton? Why did he leave the British stage and go to Hollywood to make a series of second rate movies? Why did he become an alcoholic? Why did he squander a talent and a magnetism that had once held audiences enthralled? These and many more questions are answered in Burton — The Man Behind the Myth by Penny Junor. (St. Martin's Press, $15.95.)

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