BWW Book Reviews: THE BROADWAY MUSICALS QUIZ BOOK
Laura Frankos is an evil person.
I've fancied myself a student of musical theatre for most of my life. Post-performance parties in high school evolved into cut-throat "name that tune" games: the more obscure the musical theatre reference the better. I interviewed Bob Fosse as part of my grad school studies on the development of the director-choreographer. I've performed, directed, stage managed and been entertained by hundreds of productions over the years. An accurate count would be impossible. So I sat down to read The Broadway Musical Quiz Book by Laura Frankhos feeling pretty full of myself.
Exit stage left: feeling humbled.
Exhaustively researched and endlessly entertaining, The Broadway Musical Quiz Book is a must for musical theatre fanatics everywhere. Laid out like a Playbill, Frankhos begins with "Setting": not just musicals set in Great Britain, Italy or France, but various workplaces, colleges, imaginary places...you get the idea.
You are bound to learn a lot in the "Time" section, which takes the reader from the early 1900's thru the first decade of this century. We see the Broadway musical evolve from Ziegfeld Follies and German operettas in the early 20th century to patriotic musicals by World War II. Once Oklahoma arrives, the second half of the century seems hell-bent on redefining the genre every season.
There are matching quizzes and fill-in-the-blanks quizzes, but most are multiple choice...not that that's always helpful:
Q: In 1959's Take Me Along, Robert Morse sings of meeting his love, but when?
- "Nine O'Clock"
- "Tonight at Eight"
- "About a Quarter to Nine"
- "Sunday Morning, Breakfast Time"
If you're like me, you quickly eliminated C (Annie) and D (42nd Street) and whined over the remaining answers (It's A, just in case you didn't know).
Frankos divides the rest of the book into scenes: Act 1 has three scenes, each devoted to over a dozen composers, lyricists, choreographers, ensembles and famous performers. After an intermission devoted to food, drink and a few mini-quizzes, she moves on to Act 2.
The second act may seem less impressive. Its topics are all over the map, rather than tied together by a person or time period. But the degree of difficulty does not lessen:
Q: What do Face the Music, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Big and 70, Girls, 70 have in common?
A: All have songs about coffee.
Do you see what I mean? This is just insane.
The Broadway Musical Quiz Book could be the start of many a cocktail party or college course. It can solve mysteries, settle bets and enlighten the masses. Its contents will certainly be the subject of lively conversations and good-natured debates. But no matter the level of your knowledge, every reader can agree on the answer to one of the Jerry Orbach questions in Act 2:
Q: In 42nd Street, when Julian Marsh, played by the late, great Jerry Orbach, implores Peggy Sawyer, played by Wanda Richart, to not go back to Allentown, what does he tell her are the two most glorious words in the English language?
A: Musical comedy.
How right he was.