The fall season has arrived, and with it two annual volumes celebrating Broadway and non-Broadway theatre: "Theatre World Volume 68: 2011-2012" by Ben Hodges and Scott Denny [TW Media/Applause] and "The Playbill Broadway Yearbook: Ninth Annual Edition," 2012-2013 edited by Robert Viagas [Playbill/Applause].
Both are indispensable to those of us who need intensive information about the shows and the people. With "Best Plays" seemingly extinct — the last published edition covered the 2007-08 season — readers should be all the more supportive of the two, newer series.
"Theatre World" has been chugging along since the 1945-46 season; the first cover girl was Laurette Taylor, from the original production of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie. It is my most-used reference source; I've got the full run on three shelves above my desktop, and woe to me should they ever tumble down. As with "Best Plays," the annual ran into serious economic problems a dozen years ago and faced grim prospects. Under the direction of Ben Hodges, though, "Theatre World" has rebounded. The new edition — with James Corden of One Man, Two Guvnors on the spine — is the handsomest yet, and the 16-page section of color photos is especially tasty. (Loyal fans of the series will be glad to hear that the technological problems which marred last year's volume have pretty much disappeared.)
The heart of the book, as always, are the Broadway and Off-Broadway listings featuring credits, casts and production photos, which are supplemented by Off-Off-Broadway and Regional sections. There is also an Awards section, listings of longest-running shows, theatre obituaries, and a comprehensive index.
It seems like only yesterday that the "Playbill Broadway Yearbook" came along, although they tell us that this is already the ninth edition. The book sees itself as something of a high school yearbook for Broadway. Each show has its own section, including not only credits and photos, but individual photos of the cast and staff, as well as group photos of backstage workers and front-of-house staff. Most shows include a scrapbook section, compiled by a "correspondent" from the show (usually a cast member). These give us a sense of the backstage world of each, individual show, and you'll come across plenty of amusing material therein.
The new edition details 81 shows, including holdovers. (Here's the place to find information on cast replacements in long-running musicals.) Every show gets equal treatment, and the book is crammed with color and black-and-white photos in an eye-catching layout. This is the season of Matilda The Musical, Kinky Boots, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and Pippin; but in the "Broadway Yearbook," every show is a hit.
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