Theatre World Volume 67: 2010-2011
June 13, 2012
I first became aware of Theatre World when I was a teenager living in Maryland in the 1970s; back then, these glorious volumes, rich with beautiful production photos of shows, were one of my few lifelines to the exciting world of New York theater (the annual Tony Awards show and the occasional touring company at the National Theatre or Kennedy Center being the only others).
As theater more and more became my avocation, I built up my Theatre World collection, and I now have every volume, save one, from the very beginning (1944-45 season) through 2004-05. (The one I’m missing is 1960-61, apparently a particularly rare edition.)
These are lavish, expensive books, and the fact that through the course of my day job nowadays I pretty much receive most of the same photos and press releases and other resources that Theatre World‘s staff culls to make their books means that investing in them doesn’t make much sense for me. The folks at Theatre World Media generously sent me a copy of the newest volume, covering the 2010-11 theatre season, for review. And so now the question is whether I can suggest to folks who don’t run a theatre website whether this book might be worth the $50 price tag to add to their libraries.
Sadly, I can’t really say yes. The new design of the book is unwelcoming right from the outset, resembling a textbook more than a collectible/coffee table book. Inside, quality control problems are frequent enough to merit mention here, starting with the first entry in the table of contents, which promises “Color Photo Highlights” devoted to the current Broadway season, when in fact all of the photos in the book, including the ones in this section, are black and white. The photos themselves–more than 800 of them, according to the press release (and I believe it; the book is filled with them)–are of variable quality, with many of them appearing pixilated as if they were incorrectly resized with the wrong resolution in Photoshop. This is disappointing: the best thing about the Theatre World series is the wealth of beautiful photos, and the inconsistency of them here is disturbing.
The book covers New York and regional U.S. theatre; the breakdown is 112 pages devoted to Broadway, 120 to off-Broadway, 72 to off-off-Broadway, 64 to regional theatres across the country,and 44 pages about theatre awards. (There are also sections in the back listing the longest-running Broadway and off-Broadway shows and the past year’s obituaries.) Each of the main areas of the book begins with an essay: Adam Feldman of Time Out-New York handles Broadway, Linda Buchwald (TDF Stages and StageGrade) writes about off-Broadway, Shay Gines of the New York Innovative Theatre Awards discusses off-off-Broadway, and Rob Weiner-Kendt (American Theatre magazine) deals with regional theater. Shay–who [disclaimer] is someone I know and respect, and believe to be a huge champion of indie theater–uses her space to talk about the dwindling number of off-off-Broadway spaces. Important as that issue is, I would have liked to see some of the artists and plays of the 2010-11 off-off-Broadway season mentioned in this volume.
Of course, its comprehensiveness notwithstanding, this isn’t a book about indie theater but instead one about Broadway and mainstream off-Broadway, and as a reminder of the season it is serviceable and pretty timely. I just wish it were as consistently well-put-together as its ancestor volumes from decades past.