Wednesday, January 25, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: The Broadway Musical Quiz Book


  1. Name five currently running shows have had more than one Playbill cover that reflect changes in the show's logo (not color vs black and white) during its original run.
  2. What was the original title of next to normal?
  3. Name the actor and actress who were originally signed to play The Green Goblin and Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.
  4. What show was the last to play the Majestic Theatre before The Phantom of the Opera opened there? (Bonus if you can name the theatre it moved to!)
  5. What theatre did Kurt and Rachel sneak into and sing on the stage of during the New York Nationals episode of Glee? (Bonus what two Glee guest stars sang the same song on the same stage, and what was the song?)

Theatre Book Review: The Broadway Musical Quiz Book.  By Laura Frankos.  Foreward by Peter Filichia.  Published by Applause Theatre and Cinema Books, an Imprint of Hal Leonard Corporation, New York.  Paperback.  Copyright 2010. 271 pages.

Grade: A+

Trivia is a fun and funny thing, especially when it centers around something you are passionate about.  Obviously, my passion is theatre - musical theatre, especially - and my friends know it.  That's why I got a really cool book for Christmas that I think you'd like, too.  It's called The Broadway Musical Quiz Book by Laura Frankos, with a foreword by one of my favorite theatre columnists, Peter Filichia.

I have one word to describe this book: HUMBLING.  Boy, I thought I knew my musical theatre - plots, songs, composers, lyricists, even a fair amount of history about many shows through the years.  But it is amazing - and humbling - to realize that there is so much out there still to fill my head with.

Ms. Frankos has done an incredible job constructing more than 80 different quizzes that cover the Broadway musical by decade (1900-2000), by major composers (Kern, Comden and Green, the usual suspects), by major theatre artists (Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse, Carol Channing, Patti LuPone and the Merm).  And she has some really fun ones that cover such varied (and specific) subjects like "Musical Theatre Addresses, the four seasons - 1 quiz, each, Jukebox Musicals, Songs with Numbers, Sports and musicals, and dozens of others.

If you are particularly well versed in musical lyrics, you will do well.  If you know the history of productions - firings, hiring, out of town changes and the like - you will do well.  There are fill in the blanks, multiple choice and some true/false. There are a great variety of quizzes here, something for everyone, as they say.  Even the cover is quiz of sorts - can you identify the famous musical theatre characters who are pictures reading the book?

But the very best part of the book is that each question is a full paragraph of facts about the show in question, BEFORE the question, AND the answers (in the back of the book, naturally) are also full of interesting tidbits and fun facts.  So even when you are stumped by a topic you thought you were an expert in, you find out a ton of truly information about your favorite topics!  PLUS, sprinkled about are "Broadway Bonus" questions, mostly things you'd never know unless you were there.  (For example, p.47 - What happened to John Gallagher, Jr. during the opening night of Spring Awakening at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre during "The Bitch of Living"?)  You'll have to get the book to find out the answer to that one!

In short, no matter how much you know, how much you think you know, or even if you are new to this business we call show, this book is a must for lovers of Broadway musicals.  It will keep you entertained from start to finish - I've had the book for almost a month and haven't even scratched the surface.

And so to those 5 questions at the top of the blog - those are mine, not the author's.  They are the kind of questions we might ask each other at a party.  Some stumpers, others really easy if you know just a little about current shows.  But no more!  Watch out, friends, I am coming armed with some REAL Broadway trivia questions!

  1. There are actually nine: The Phantom of the Opera, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, The Lion King, Chicago (Revival production), Sister Act, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, Memphis, and Mary Poppins.
  2. Feeling Electric
  3. Alan Cumming and Evan Rachel Wood
  4. The original production of 42nd Street.  BONUS: It moved across the street to the St. James Theatre.
  5. The Gershwin Theatre.  They sang "For Good," which was originally sung by Glee guest stars Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth.

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