Summer is just around the corner, suckers! And before you tuck into the latest, juicy bodice ripper or terrifying who-done-it, check out 3 of my favorite books about the Great White Way! You’ll learn some fascinating info on Broadway which you can use to impress that cutie at the swim up bar! Enjoy!
The New York Times “Book of Broadway”
Ben Brantley, drama critic of The New York Times relives unforgettable Broadway and off-Broadway moments. Witness the night a star was born, a director’s brilliant debut, a play that broke new ground, a musical that redefined the genre, and even a terrible play that ran for years. This entertaining, essential volume for anyone who loves Broadway will include a foreword from a major actor, a full introduction by Ben Brantley, drama critic of The Times, and his choice of 100 other most important plays of the twentieth century. Each of the best 100 will include the full, original New York Times review by the critic of the day such as Frank Rich, Brooks Atkinson, Walter Kerr, George S. Kaufman, Alexander Woolcott and others. Cast boxes, lavish photos and statistics about the productions will complete this authoritative volume about classic Broadway theater.
Times Square Spectacular by Darcy Tell
A visual history of Times Square from the late 19th century to today, rich with rarely seen photographs of the neighborhood’s shimmering, pre-World War II electric advertising signs.
In Times Square Spectacular, Darcy Tell traces the 100-year story of Times Square using rare photographs and hand-colored lantern slides, maps, restaurant menus, theater programs, magazine covers, postcards, sheet music, and archival documents. Presenting even the most familiar elements of Times Square lore with fresh, eye-catching detail, she pays special tribute to ad man extraordinaire Douglas Leigh’s arrival in the early 1930s, which brought a stunning new era of electric brightness and innovation. Leigh dominated the Broadway streetscape for nearly 50 years, stopping traffic with special-effects billboards such as the legendary Camel cigarettes “smoke rings” sign.
Covering both Times Square’s infamous decline as well as its hard-wrought, present-day revival, Times Square Spectacular is the first pictorial history of the legendary American landmark.
“Black Broadway” African Americans on the Great White Way by Stewart F. Lane
The African-American actors and actresses whose names have shone brightly on Broadway marquees earned their place in history not only through hard work, perseverance, and talent, but also because of the legacy left by those who came before them. Like the doors of many professions, those of the theater world were shut to minorities for decades. While the Civil War may have freed the slaves, it was not until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s that the playing field began to level. In this remarkable book, theater producer and historian Stewart F. Lane uses words and pictures to capture this tumultuous century and to highlight the rocky road that black actors have travelled to reach recognition on the Great White Way.
After the Civil War, the popularity of the minstrel shows grew by leaps and bounds throughout the country. African Americans were portrayed by whites, who would entertain audiences in black face. While the depiction of blacks was highly demeaning, it opened the door to African-American performers, and by the late 1800s, a number of them were playing to full houses. By the 1920s, the Jazz Age was in full swing, allowing black musicians and composers to reach wider audiences. And in the thirties, musicals such as George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess and Eubie Blake’s Swing It opened the door a little wider.
As the years passed, black performers continued to gain ground. In the 1940s, Broadway productions of Cabin in the Sky, Carmen Jones, and St. Louis Woman enabled African Americans to demonstrate a fuller range of talents, and Paul Robeson reached national prominence in his awarding-winning portrayal of Othello. By the 1950s and ’60s, more black actors―including Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, and Sidney Poitier―had found their voices on stage, and black playwrights and directors had begun to make their marks.
Black Broadway provides an entertaining, poignant history of a Broadway of which few are aware. By focusing a spotlight on both performers long forgotten and on those whom we still hold dear, this unique book offers a story well worth telling.
Although I consider myself the hardest working hoofer to ever grace the stage, even the Mississippi Moon needs a break. So guess what, I’m taking one! If you miss me, keep in touch using all the other handy dandy social media!
Enjoy your fun in the sun! See ya in September!