The Playbill Broadway Yearbook 2012-2013
Robert Viagas, Editor (Playbill Books 2013, Hardcover) 470 pages, illustrated (colour and b/w) and indexed, $39.99 cover price
From the section on the musical Rock of Ages:
Memorable Directorial Note: “Less tongue in the opening please.”
It is for the discovery of exactly that kind of perfect, naughty moment that I love theatre, review books, or for that matter choose to keep on breathing each day.
Then again, there are the wonderfully bitchy moments where someone says what you would have said when trying to drive a point home if you had the natural eloquence of say Noel Coward, or in this case George C. Wolfe, the Director of the late Nora Ephron's play Lucky Guy:
“There are two pauses in this show, and neither of them are yours.”
I'm quite sure whomever the actor was at the receiving end of that one never dared even blink between lines again.
What I did not realize when I asked to review the Playbill Broadway Yearbook is that its name perfectly describes it – it is a Yearbook as in just like your high school yearbook. There is probably some sort of awkward yet appropriate joke I could make combining the TV show Glee, yearbooks and Broadway, but I can't think of it, so do some comedy cooking for yourself for a change.
Playbill, that wonderful small magazine programme that fits just so in a gentleman's interior suit pocket, has been putting out these Yearbooks for nine seasons now. Damn I wish I had known about them sooner. For as it is, each of the (in this case) 81 shows that ran on New York's Great White Way between May 31st 2012 and June 1st 2013 are quite brilliantly summarized.
Well...not entirely summarized. The plots are condensed into a paragraph – no mean feat of writing, I might add – however there are no excerpts from the reviews and no Box Office numbers save for the length of the actual run. I say fair enough to that. You wouldn't want all your marks printed in your high school yearbook, nor would you wish to see your teachers' comments about what a lazy little shit you were either.
Instead, what one gets is the full cast list, reproduction of the Playbill Cover, all the head shots of cast and crew, other backstage and on-stage photos, the Playbill listing of absolutely everyone involved with the show and then best of all ... the Correspondent's Notes. Now that is where the delight comes into this book. Pictures are great, history is to be respected, hard work deserves its bow – but prickly gossip makes the world go round.
Each production that appears on Broadway is asked to provide a Correspondent for exactly this Yearbook. Virtually all the shows comply. Why would they? In effect Playbill is giving them a free service. These Correspondent's do seem to at their work with an impish gusto and wit that takes me back to all the great wrap parties I have been to over my own years in theatre. Playbill clearly supplies the majority of the categories to be filled, but oh what delicious filling. I have to quote a few of them. From the play Grace:
Memorable Press Encounter:
Ed Asner getting handsy with Barbara Walters on “The View.”
One can only dare to imagine.
This is a wonderful book for the theatre enthusiast and frankly, at $39.99 it is a bargain. Allow me to leave you with one last quote. From a summer remount of that wonderful comedy about an invisible rabbit named Harvey, there is this:
... One night, a man bum-rushed the stage at curtain call with a bouquet of roses. Jim (Parsons, starring as Elwood P. Dowd) accepted them, but the man said, “no! They're for Harvey!” Jim turned bright pink and said, “I'll make sure he gets them.”
Be seeing you.
5 stars out of 5