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Broadway: The American Musical
ISBN 0821229052 / 9780821229057 / 0-8212-2905-2
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If you enjoyed the PBS series Broadway: The American Musical but wanted a bit more detail and substance, try curling up with the companion book to the series. Expanded from Michael Kantor's script by Laurence Maslon, it follows the same six-part structure but its 470 pages give it more space to stretch out with the history of key musicals and the historical context behind them, or add significant trends such as revivals. What makes the book easy to pick up from the coffee table are the many subheads, the photographs (e.g., Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady) and poster art, and the sidebars and supplemental features. Occupying a page or two, the sidebars delve into such topics as original cast albums or shows that were glossed over or ignored in the series, such as Gypsy and 1776. A particularly effective use of the text is reprinting the lyrics of certain songs, examining the structure of "Soliloquy," providing historical annotations for "You're the Top," and illustrating "Broadway Baby" with pictures of Ethel Schulte on stage in Follies and 50 years earlier. Archive sections offer vintage essays from key figures (Sondheim on Kern, Hart on Rodgers), and Who's Who blurbs spotlight performers or creators (Fanny Brice, Barbara Cook, Bernadette Peters, Audra McDonald). While Broadway: The American Musical can't compete with more encyclopedic work on the subject, it's an enjoyable and worthwhile reference overall, and does provide a year-by-year list of significant shows, a selected bibliography, and maps of the theater district ca. 1928 and 2001. --David Horiuchi [via]