A Chronology of American Musical Theater

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9780195155655: A Chronology of American Musical Theater

With an introductory chapter discussing the very earliest productions--The Beggar's Opera (1750), The Archers (1796), Tom and Jerry (1823), and The Bohemian Girl (1844)--A Chronology of American Musical Theater offers in-depth coverage of Broadway musicals from 1850-2001. The book's entries span more than 5,000 shows, including not only "book musicals" but also revivals, revues, burlesques, operettas, farce comedies, comic operas, ice skating shows, rock operas, and other musical spectacles that appeared on Broadway stages.
Drawing on primary documents--playbills, newspaper reviews, advertisements, and articles--Richard C. Norton has assembled a wealth of information in an easy-to-use format. All productions appear in chronological order by season in the first two volumes and are indexed alphabetically in volume three, allowing readers to quickly locate shows by either date or title, with variant titles also included. Entries contain the full cast, including chorus and dance ensemble (when known), composers, lyricists, book writers, choreographers, set designers, costumers, lighting designers, directors, and producers, followed by details of acts and scenes, and a comprehensive list of songs, sketches, dances, and specialties. The opening paragraph of each entry also contains information which does not appear in programs, such as opening and closing dates, change of venue, return engagements, and number of performances. In addition to the title index, complete song and principal performer indexes are also included, as well as a selected index of personal names of creators and secondary performers. No other resource--print or electronic--offers as many musicals as the Chronology of American Musical Theater.
For anyone wishing to trace the history of a Broadway musical, or to research any aspect of this vital popular art, this three-volume set is the best, and in many instances, the only place to start.

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From Booklist:

Designed as a companion to Gerald Bordman's American Musical Theatre: A Chronicle (3d ed., Oxford, 2000), this hefty set reproduces the program information for every musical, operetta, or other musical play that opened in a major New York City theater from January 1850 through May 2001. In addition, it includes selective coverage of productions from the previous 100 years, thus providing an impressive chronological record of 4,978 musicals (including revivals) produced on Broadway from 1750 to the end of the 2000-2001 season.

Norton devoted seven years to researching and preparing this compilation, relying on actual theater programs from opening nights or opening weeks, supplemented with information gleaned from Variety, Billboard, the New York Times, and other publications. Arranged by the date each musical opened, the entries provide extensive credits and cast lists, act and scene settings, the beginning and ending dates of the production's run, the total number of performances, and any changes of venue or return engagements. Most entries also include an act-by-act list of songs and other musical numbers and the performers for each. Meticulous footnotes give sources of information for material not found in the programs and additional details, such as revisions or added songs. Preceding the section for each theater season is a black-and-white photograph of a scene from one of the featured musicals. Volume 3 includes indexes to show titles, songs, and selected individuals.

In his lengthy preface, Norton provides useful historical background and detailed explanations regarding his criteria for inclusion. His interpretation of "musical theater" is quite broad, encompassing almost any entertainment with musical components, such as revues, burlesques, comic operas, and dance dramas. However, his geographical range is more confined, limited to those New York City venues generally considered to be within the Broadway theater district. As he himself regretfully notes, his exclusion of off-Broadway productions means that The Fantasticks does not appear in this set.

Although there is considerable overlap between this work and Ken Bloom's two-volume American Song: The Complete Musical Theatre Companion, 1877-1995 (2d ed., Schirmer, 1996), each compilation includes productions that are not in the other. While Bloom's work covers slightly fewer shows (4,863), it encompasses not just Broadway but off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway musicals as well as regional theater and original television productions. On the other hand, Norton's chronology covers many Broadway shows not in Bloom's work, and it also provides more extensive information for each musical. By far the most comprehensive and scholarly chronology of Broadway musicals available, A Chronology of American Musical Theater makes a substantial contribution to the history of musical theater in the U.S., and it is highly recommended for larger public, academic, and research libraries. RBB
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Theatrical producer and theater historian Norton offers a "comprehensive picture of the popular American Musical Theatre as presented on first-class stages in New York City, from 1850 to the present [2000-01 season], seen through the details of its theatre programs." The work is intended as a companion to Gerald Bordman's American Musical Theatre: A Chronicle, which provides descriptive narrative about the productions. Norton's work supplies only the production details-e.g., cast, crew, songs by act and scene, and lyricists-but with 3000 entries covers a far greater number of shows. An extensive preface clearly explains how each facet of a show is handled in the entries, and both shows and songs are cross-referenced to original and later productions. Three indexes cover show titles (including variants), approximately 100,000 people, and almost 50,000 songs. Broad criteria were used for selecting the entries, which led to the inclusion of every form of musical show, whether performed in English or in a foreign language, in a major Manhattan venue, taking into account "a number of insignificant" shows omitted by Bordman. Norton does acknowledge the limitations of selecting only major productions presented in Manhattan and hence excluding Off-Broadway, Brooklyn, etc., which means that The Fantastics, the longest-running musical in American history, does not appear here. Also omitted are the revivals of Broadway musicals presented by the Encores Series at New York City Center. However, Norton's meticulously researched information can't be found anywhere else in a publication of this size and scope. Highly recommended for all theater collections.
Laura A. Ewald, Murray State Univ., KY
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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