The 416-page tome, listed at $19.95, advertises itself as "the first and only comprehensive guide to cast albums and soundtrack recordings of musical theater scores from the early years of the 20th century to the present day."
In an introduction, editor Michael Portantiere says he got the idea for the book while paging through the "Metropolitan Opera Guide to Recorded Opera." "I found myself wondering: Why hasn't anyone done a book of this sort devoted to musical theatre recordings?"
More than 1,000 recordings are given capsule reviews and rated by way a five-star system, five being the highest score. Earning that accolade are such items as the original cast recordings of "A Chorus Line," "Gypsy" and "West Side Story," among others.
Manning the task of reviewing is an army of 16 critics: Gerald Alessandrini, David Barbour, Richard Barrios, Ken Bloom, Seth Christenfeld, Jeffrey Dunn, Peter Filichia, David Finkle, Marc Miller, Matthew Murray, Brooke Pierce, Portantiere, Robert Sandla, Morgan Sills, David Wolf and Charles Wright.
The volume also contains "Ten All-Time Favorite Musicals" lists from such musical theatre figures as Barbara Cook, John Raitt, Kristin Chenoweth, Betty Comden, the late Fred Ebb, Jason Robert Brown, Michael John LaChiusa and Stephen Flaherty. Needless the say, the work of these men and women is reviewed between the book's covers. Jerry Herman has contributed a forward. An index is handily ordered by composers' and lyricists' last names. A second index lists all the recordings which rated five stars.
Portantiere is the editor-in-chief the theatre website TheaterMania. Before that, he was managing editor of the now defunct magazine InTheater.