The Playbill Broadway Yearbook
Ah, the yearbook! That gathering spot for RMAs ("remember me always") and BFFs ("best friends forever") that, decades later, can have us scratching our heads, thinking, "Who? What?" Nine years ago the good folks at Playbill, keeper of all data that is Broadway and beyond, decided to apply the concept to the Nation's leading theatrical season and "The Playbill Broadway Yearbook" has been an ongoing delight for theatre fans everywhere.
The newest edition, covering June 2012 to May 2013, is another handsome and hefty edition with over 470 glossy, colorful, hard-bound, 8.5" by 11" pages weighing in at near five pounds! Inside, editor Robert Viagas and his "yearbook committee" have assembled enough data about the year on the Great White Way to satisfy even Sheldon Cooper, Ph.D. (Or perhaps his alter ego, actor Jim Parsons, who is on pages 167-171, documenting his turn in a revival of "Harvey.")
It was a busy season of 81 shows, and each gets a reproduction of its Playbill cover and opening night page, full credits with headshots, list of songs for musicals, production photos and behind-the-scenes group photos of everyone from the above-the-line producers to the stage door attendants.
Every show is included from unfortunately short runs ("The Performers" only lived up to their name six times) to record-breakers ("The Phantom of the Opera" celebrated its 25th anniversary this year). Holdovers from prior seasons and shows still running at press time also include "Alumni" and "Transfer Student" sections for artists who left or joined the production during the season. The only omissions are less than a dozen titles that closed shortly after the season began and were fully documented in the prior edition.
Select shows also get a "scrapbook" of notes, awards, photos, and commentary about the company mascot, catchphrase, director's notes, unique happenings and other info bits compiled by "correspondent" from the show's company. (Emily Bergl, Lewis Black and Holland Taylor are some of the more notable scrapbookers.)
In addition to the Broadway shows, there are pages on annual events such as the sexy "Broadway Bares" fund-raising strip-a-thon (or a thong), the Easter bonnet competition, and, of course, awards, awards, awards, from the Tonys on down. Going even further behind the scenes, the "Faculty" section puts faces to names that the average Broadway fan may only have seen in passing - theatre producers, union reps, publicists, industry non-profit leaders and, naturally, Team Playbill.
Viagas and company can take a bow on compiling another great edition. While most of this data is available elsewhere, having it all in one place inspires wonderful "memory lane" page turning for those lucky enough to have "been to the prom" and seen even a few of the shows, and wistful envy plus illumination for those who haven't.
All in all, this yearbook is a keeper. You'll have to be an inveterate Stage Door Johnny or autograph hound to decorate the endpapers with hand-inscribed mementos, but think of the people you'll meet!
"The Playbill Broadway Yearbook"
Ninth Annual Edition
Robert Viagas, Editor
Hardcover, 470 pages, $39.95
by Robert Viagas, Editor