I was in Barnes and Noble and had watched Broadway the American Musical the week before, I saw this on the shelf and started leafing through it. Before long I had to take the thing home.
I took it to the counter and the lady asked if it was a gift for somebody I knew, and I said "Heavens No!, this is for me!" She asked if I was going to go see The Phantom of the Opera (the movie) when it came to theaters, and I said "Are you kidding me?! of course" and because she was a Broadway buff too, we had a wonderful little conversation about our enduring love for musicals, it was "Loverly" to say the least.
Now about this stunning book.
Each chapter contains all of the following-
1. A Spotlight on a musical that revolutionized theater in some way, or defined the times in which it was created. The surounding shows are described, and their beloved artist as well.
2. Handfulls of biographies on the directors, producers, writers, composers, performers, and stars, that were most influential in their time on the Broadway stage.
3. Excerpts from some of the most popular songs or influential show scripts are included.
4. Pages of archives filled with commentary by artists on other artists, on choreographers, directors, producers, writers, and so on.
5. To top it all off! Each chapter is filled to the brim with pictures from the shows, and artist, that shaped Broadway, and revolutionized musical theater until the year of Wicked and Avenue Q.
There is a beautiful page called EXIT MUSIC which closes the book, leaving any Broadway fan in tears, I myself was no exception.
I did notice that, for the most part, the musicals that got more attention were not the ones that made lots of money, they were the shows that were more influential in changing the content of musical theater, as a result of this Stephen Sondheim gets more attention than say, Andrew Lloyd Webber, who caters more to popular music.
The latter parts of the book do talk a lot about Cameron Mackintosh's influence of helping to move Broadway into the modern world of business.
The Gay influence is talked about some, in the small section on La Cage Aux Folles, although it is not capitalized on.
There is one thing that really thrills me about this book. We know from experience, with few exceptions, that movie musicals slaughter their Broadway roots.
Some examples of film musicals of which Broadway fans disagree with their film adaptions are.
Damn Yankees, On the Town, My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof, Gypsy, Camelot, Cabaret, A Chorus Line, Mame, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Sound of Music, Annie, Evita, Chicago, and yes, The Phantom of the Opera.
Despite the dazzle of movie sets, filming, costumes, and even dances, these films have either featured stars who were not suitable to their roles, (this is embarrassingly true in certain cases, might I mention Camelot), or did not feature the complete score(A Funny Thing...), or the score was cut to pieces to feature other less worthy songs (Damn Yankees). Either way, in all the movie musicals above, changes were made, either songs were cut, or original stars were removed, but in this book we are back to the original versions of each musical, where the scores are complete, where Julie Andrews plays Eliza (My Fair Lady) and Guenevere (Camelot), where Michael Crawford is the Phantom of the Opera, among other legendary performers that films cannot push into the shadows. I think it is fabulous that there is a record of these great stage performances, accompanied by color rich photographs and commentary, justice has been served.
In the back of the book is a map of Broadway in 1928, and a map of the current Broadway next to it.
The other great thing in the back of the book is that there are lists of musicals season by season, the ones that won Tony for best musical are highlighted in red, to show what has been going on in Broadway.
There is a memorial page for Al Hirschfeld, who passed away a year or so ago.
Four pages are dedicated to the 9/11 victims; two of these pages are a double page spread of 42nd street with some of Broadway's greatest stars and complete casts showing their affection for the "Great White Way" after the 9/11 tragedy.
There is a section on The Producers, Miss Saigon, Wicked, Rent, The Lion King, Les Mise'rables, Aida, not to mention the beginning years of this entertainment capital.
Everything I can possibly think of is in here.
If there is any Broadway book to own,
look no further,
THIS IS IT.