The Playbill Broadway Yearbook
Edited by Robert Viagas
Playbill Books / Applause Theatre and Cinema Books
Despite a continuing recession and show cancellations due to Hurricane Sandy, The Playbill Broadway Yearbook reports that the 2012-13 season had more shows running on Broadway than during any year since it began publication in 2004.
Those 81 shows are described in great detail in the ninth edition of this handsome book, ranging from long-running shows such as Wicked, The Lion King, Chicago and Jersey Boys to brand new shows and short runs of performances by people ranging from original Jersey boy Frankie Valli to boxer Mike Tyson.
There are plenty of shows in here that originated in UK subsidised and commercial theatres, including War Horse, One Man, Two Guvnors, Ghost the Musical, Matilda the Musical, Mary Poppins and National Theatre of Scotland's Macbeth with Alan Cumming.
Playbill is a monthly theatre magazine given away free at most Broadway theatres that contains the full programme details of the current show—nothing similar exists in the UK—and so it has an enviable database of production details for every show running.
For each production in the yearbook, there is a full cast, production team and crew list, production photos, headshots, informal group shots of cast, crew, backstage departments and even front-of-house teams and stage door keepers, lists of awards, programme notes and a "scrapbook", which is a series of anecdotes and items of backstage gossip from one or more of the cast and crew.
What you don't get is any kind of serious analysis, reactions of critics and audiences, box office figures or statistics—I found myself consulting Wikipedia to find out why some shows had such short runs—but that isn't the function of this book. It's a handy compilation of important production details from theatre programmes with a very good index if you are looking for something or someone in particular (unlike my large, scattered collection of UK theatre programmes).
There is little in here that you couldn't have got from your collection of free Playbills if you had attended all 81 shows, but the book is quite a lot cheaper and more accessible to those of us out of easy reach of New York.
For any Broadway enthusiasts or people who want to keep informed of what is happening on the Great White Way, this hefty but attractive book has plenty of information for you to keep dipping into until volume 10 comes along later this year.
Reviewer: David Chadderton