Hailed as "absolutely the best reference book on its subject" by Newsweek, American Musical Theatre: A Chronicle covers more than 250 years of musical theatre in the United States, from a 1735 South Carolina production of Flora, or Hob in the Well to The Addams Family in 2010. Authors Gerald Bordman and Richard Norton write an engaging narrative blending history, critical analysis, and lively description to illustrate the transformation of American musical theatre through such incarnations as the ballad opera, revue, Golden Age musical, rock musical, Disney musical, and, with 2010's American Idiot, even the punk musical. The Chronicle is arranged chronologically and is fully indexed according to names of shows, songs, and people involved, for easy searching and browsing. Chapters range from the "Prologue", which traces the origins of American musical theater to 1866, through several "intermissions" (for instance, "Broadway's Response to the Swing Era, 1937-1942") and up to "Act Seven", the theatre of the twenty-first century.
This last chapter covers the dramatic changes in musical theatre since the last edition published-whereas Fosse, a choreography-heavy revue, won the 1999 Tony for Best Musical, the 2008 award went to In the Heights, which combines hip-hop, rap, meringue and salsa unlike any musical before it. Other groundbreaking and/or box-office-breaking shows covered for the first time include Avenue Q, The Producers, Billy Elliot, Jersey Boys, Monty Python's Spamalot, Wicked, Hairspray, Urinetown the Musical, and Spring Awakening. Discussion of these shows incorporates plot synopses, names of principal players, descriptions of scenery and costumes, and critical reactions. In addition, short biographies interspersed throughout the text colorfully depict the creative minds that shaped the most influential musicals. Collectively, these elements create the most comprehensive, authoritative history of musical theatre in this country and make this an essential resource for students, scholars, performers, dramaturges, and musical enthusiasts.