One could get seriously lost within the pages of Broadway Musicals: Show by Show, and not because the book is disorganized or difficult to navigate. Quite the contrary. With multiple indexes—by composer/lyricist, show title, librettist, major cast members, and director—plus a chronological listing of the three biggest annual shows spanning the years between 1866 through 2010, this book is the clearest way to navigate an overview of Broadway history.
What makes it easy to lose one’s way is that in coming across the listing for “West Side Story,” one might be so intrigued by the promo shot of Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert shown on the sheet music cover for “Something’s Coming” on the page opposite that it may cause some curiosity about Lawrence’s other Broadway work. A trip to the performer index reveals two Lawrence listings in the book—“West Side Story” and another one called “The New Faces of 1952,” produced a few years prior to WWS and which also starred Paul Lynde. I didn’t have to look far to discover that Lynde was not the only TV actor to perform in a major Broadway production: just below the “New Faces” listing is information on a musical called “Wish You Were Here” that lists Florence Henderson as a cast member. One could try and discover if Uncle Arthur or Carol Brady had any other Broadway roles listed in the book (they each have two), but then again, one might be distracted from doing so by a photo of Rosalind Russell on the opposite page which shows that Cary Grant’s fast-talking “Girl Friday” could also sing: she was apparently in Leonard Bernstein’s “Wonderful Town.”
Although these little details—which barely scratch the surface of the wealth of info included in this book—provide a mouse-eye’s view of Broadway, there is the potential for receiving a broader look at Herald Square from this book as well (especially if one possesses more powers of concentration than this particular reviewer). The multiple prefaces included, all written by different people who all had a slightly different take on the famed NYC theater district, are very insightful. The first preface and the introduction by Stanley Green are particularly so, but I also found the preface to the latest edition, written by Cary Ginell, quite interesting as well.
With each chronological listing including the name of the composer, lyricist, writers of the “book,” producers, director, choreographer, cast, songs, synopsis, and the “New York run” (including the name of the theater and number of shows), Broadway Musicals: Show by Show is an invaluable reference tool for all those with even a remote interest in the history of Broadway.