Book review: "Acting the Song" by Tracey Moore with Allison Bergman

About the book: published in 2012, this book is very current and makes an excellent, up-to-date guide on singing as storytelling.

About the authors: the authors make a great pair, one being primarily an actor and the other primarily a director and writer, providing a well round approach to explaining acting for singers. With one foot in the academic world and the other in the Broadway world, Moore and Bergman write oriented to technique and theory but always connect it to a practical, rock-the-audition approach.

Who is the book for? What makes this text unique is that it is primarily written for musical theater educators; however, if this isn’t you, don’t let it deter you from reading this fabulous resource. I read it from a performer’s standpoint and it made the book equally, if not more, useful to me as an actor, because reading it from a teacher’s perspective s a lot like reading it from a director’s perspective. This book includes a lot of exercises and advice for the teacher (or director), and as an actor you’ll want to know what your director is thinking, what their goals are, and what they are trying to pull out of you as a performer. If you are a musical theater teacher or director, all the better – you’ll get tons of ideas for exercises and skills for bringing the best out of your students and actors.

Review: is this book worth your time? Yes! Yes. As a performer, teaching artist, director, or student of musical theater, yes.

Why should you read this book?

  • It is comprehensive. At 300 pages, and dense at that, this bad boy is a commitment. It’s not light reading, it will demand concentration and probably note taking, but it will be well worth your time thanks to the breadth and depth of topics covered. Give it the time it needs and you won’t be sorry.
  • It includes tons of exercises and worksheets. As a teacher or director, take them into your studio. As a performer or writer, try them on yourself. Even if you don’t like all of them, there are bound to be several that you can use regardless of your status.
  • It is well organized with a sequential set of chapters, sub-headings, and an index.
  • It breaks down the “mystery” of acting songs into a technical, repeatable process. For beginners this will be a godsend.
  • It speaks to the artist wherever they are at. Like I said, although the book was written for educators, I read it as a performer and loved that there were useful materials for beginners, intermediate and advanced musical theater artists.
  • It lists references to related texts at the end of every chapter. You could probably get a year’s worth of reading material just from this one book.
  • It’s current. It cites lyrics, scenes and techniques from contemporary, trending musicals and performing artists.

What’s not to like about this book?

  • Many of the exercises are written in a voice that aims them at a teacher of high school theater. I bet only a fraction of the audience reading this book are high school theater teachers. If you’re not, don’t let this get in your way; instead take the exercises and adapt them for a younger or older audience, which should be very easy in most cases.
  • It reads a bit like an academic text. Depending on who you are, this could be a pro or a con. As I stated above, give it the time it demands and you’ll learn a ton.

Overall review, graded A-F: “Acting the Song” gets a well deserved A. I love this book, it is a top resource in my library to which I refer over and over. Buy your copy of “Acting the Song” here.

Want more info on acting techniques? Pick up our eBook, "Sensational Scenes and Songs," written especially for musical theatre performers.

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