Noël Coward On (and In) Theatre

Readers who relished the wit and verve of “The Letters of Noël Coward,” a delightful epistolary chronicle of the actor-playwright-composer-lyricist-director’s life on and off the stage, will seize eagerly on a new volume of Coward’s writings. “Noël Coward On (and In) Theatre” celebrates the art form that claimed Coward’s devotion from the time he was, by his own admission, “a brazen, odious little prodigy” of 10. London’s Little Theatre and a children’s musical called “The Goldfish” were “the theater where I was born and the play in which I was born,” Coward declared; 37 years after making his professional acting debut in 1910, he could still recall “the unforgettable, indescribable dressing room smell — greasepaint, face powder, new clothes and cold cream.” His passion for theater, from its grubbiest particulars to its headiest heights, is the thread that binds together a slightly miscellaneous collection. It has a somewhat more serious tone than its predecessor, though Coward’s nimble way with words ensures that even the sternest pieces have a light touch.

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