Sunday, November 06, 2016

Too Broad?

I just read Eric Grode's The Book Of Broadway*.  It's a coffee table book that looks at the "150 Definitive Plays And Musicals" of the Great White Way. It's worth it for the photos, though the short essays for each production tend to be negligible.

But how did Grode choose the titles?  I have to question some of his choices.

Okay, you should expect two plays from Arthur Miller (The Crucible and Death Of A Salesman--right next to each other in this alphabetically-arranged book), two from Tennessee Williams (The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire) and even two from Thornton Wilder (Our Town and The Skin Of Our Teeth) but do we really need two from William Inge (Bus Stop and Picnic), or August Wilson (Fences and Joe Turner's Come And Gone--and the second one should be The Piano Lesson anyway) or Clifford Odets (Awake And Sing! and Waiting For Lefty)? In their cases, pick one and be done with it.  Which is why Albee's Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? is a necessity, but A Delicate Balance is overdoing it. For that matter, O'Neill should get two--The Iceman Cometh and Long Day's Journey Into Night--but do we have room for A Moon For The Misbegotten?

Then there's the question of all the classics from other countries (usually the U.K.).  They may have made their mark on Broadway, but Broadway didn't make them. So what are titles like A Doll's House, H.M.S. Pinafore, Juno And The Paycock, Look Back In AngerPeter Pan (the play, though the musical also makes the book), Private Lives and Pygmalion doing here?  There's even duplication among modern British playwrights when it's questionable if they should have anything in this book--Pinter's The Caretaker and The Homecoming and Stoppard's Arcadia and Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead.

When it comes to musicals, we expect to see Rodgers And Hammerstein, but do we really need all of the Big Five--Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King And I and The Sound Of Music (not to mention their separate work in Show Boat, Babes In Arms and Pal Joey)?  Regarding Sondheim, do we need four of his collaborations with Harold Prince in the 70s--Company, Follies, A Little Night Music and Sweeney Todd (not to mention lyric work for West Side Story and Gypsy), but nothing since?  And Frank Loesser gets the two shows you expect, Guys And Dolls and How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying but did Grode need to throw in The Most Happy Fella? It's a fine show, but so are a lot that didn't make the cut.  And while we're at it, do we need two Princess Theatre shows from Jerome Kern, Oh, Boy and Very Good Eddie, especially when we also have Show Boat?

Still, a fun book to look at and argue over.

*For the second time, a coffee table book on Broadway has a picture (actually the same picture) of a friend of mine, Peter Marx, performing "There's No Business Like Show Business" with Reba McEntire.

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