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A CurtainUp Book Review
Show Time: A Chronology of Broadway and the Broadway
Beginning to the Present
by Gene Brown
This is an exhaustively researched and immensely satisfying theater reference book. Unlike the
pre-opening hype that often loses its fizz by the time the curtain goes up on a
new Broadway show, Show Time delivers everything its title tag line and author
promises -- and then some.
Since most theater buffs are also avid movie goers, I'm adding a link to Show Time's
Time, (same author and format) below.
Besides regaling us with a motherlode of facts about the theater's historically important plays and
players, author Gene Brown also charts the industry's financial fortunes and misfortunes. In the
hands of a less capable writer, capturing data covering a century and a half of theater lore
the covers of a single book could well have turned into a mish-mash of hard-to-retrieve, dry facts.
Fortunately, Brown is not only enthusiastic about his subject but compulsively organized, with a
knack for cherry picking the most useful and interesting informational nuggets from a mass of
archival sources. What he does with these nuggets perfectly illustrates my 5-C rule of non-fiction writing: To be correct, clear, concise, comprehensive, and compelling. It makes for a
delightfully browsable compendium that compels you to keep turning the pages as a box of
Godiva chocolates lures you to keep nibbling.
The very sensible and attractive format divides the theater's history into five main sections:
Birth of Broadway, 1826-1914; Broadway Comes of Age, 1914-1924;
Broadway in Transition, 1942-1967; Inhibitions and Censorship Break Down,
1967-1982; and The Age of the Mega-Musical, 1982-1992. Within these broad
sections, each season is detailed with its own time
line chart and chatty introductory overview. These are followed by a chronology of key data
plays and musicals; business and social matters; births, deaths and marriages.
The layout is attractive and uncluttered with lots of clear and well-chosen black and white
photos scattered throughout.
To test the book's usefulness and comprehensiveness, I searched the 37-page index for more than a
dozen plays, playwrights and actors we've covered and plan to cover at CurtainUp.
Sure enough, Show Time helped me to quickly retrieve useful and often new information
each time. For
example, I learned that Eugene O'Neill's Beyond the Horizon
was initiated at the
Morosco Theatre as a series of special matinees using the cast members of Elmer Rice's For
the Defense which was already playing there. This entry led to some highly laudatory
review quotes of the play and an excerpt from a letter in which O'Neill wrote to George Jean
Nathan (a year later) "I see myself as a beginner--with prospects." In browsing through the
the 1973-74 season led to this notation: "a 16-year-old was inspired to become an
by seeing Collen Dewhurst in Moon for the Misbegotten." That sixteen year-old was
Cherry Jones (currently starring in Pride's Crossing.
I could go on and on, but I'll let you do your own browsing, as you will if you add this volume
to your own library. At $22.95, (with a 20% discount if you order it from Amazon.com), this
an excellent value and a solid addition to any theater enthusiast's library. With its cover photo
of Tommy Tune and Twiggy from My One and Only, the large and handsome volume
would look well on any coffee table where it's sure to set a hot game of theatrival pursuit
Show Time, published by Macmillan, January 1998 and available on line
, also published by MacMillan (1995) and available on line.
© January 15, 1998, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp
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