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Posts from the Billy Rose Theatre Division

Metamorphosis of a Song: “What Do the Simple Folk Do?”

I've blogged before about my joy in finding something I never knew existed in the richly varied archival holdings of the New York Public Library, but while processing the James Barton Papers, I had an epiphany of another color: finding something I've wanted to get my hands on for nearly twenty years.

Bear with me while I set the scene for this discovery with some personal history. It would be an understatement to say that I'm a fan of lyricist and librettist Alan Jay Lerner.

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A Cold Night's Death: The Allure of Scandinavian Crime Fiction

Cubiculo Theatre: What’s in a Name?

Every neighborhood, street, and building in New York has a history. Sometimes all that is left is an obscure name. That is what has become of the Cubiculo Condominium at 414 West 51st Street, which is described on a real estate site as a fabulous brownstone penthouse duplex with 4 bedrooms, 3 full baths "right out of La Bohème but without all the coughing and the poverty." The condo in 

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"It's Great! But Why is it Here?" Musical Revue Research Guide, Part 2

In the Research Guide, Part I, I advised that the easiest way to find information at LPA is by name or title. I advised that the research can benefit by compiling a list of every person in or involved in a production and serendipity can come your way. That third dancer from the left can become a star and/or obsessive collector or just happen to have the right piece of information in a clipping file. Sometimes, however, you can do your research prep and be looking in a 

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Dorothy Loudon and Annie

Dorothy Loudon wasn't working. Neither was Annie.

Loudon, by the mid-1970s, had gone into a semi-voluntary semi-retirement. The Women, in 1973, was the last of a half-dozen promising Broadway shows (if you count Lolita, My Love, which never quite made it to New York) that closed in less than three months. She had enjoyed more success touring — Paul Zindel's The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, in 1971-1972, had been her favorite stage role — but Loudon was tired of the road, and hated leaving New York.

She turned down 

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The Lost Musicals: Redhead

Musicals are often most associated with women, or at least with divas: the larger than life stars that musicals are built around. To get a show produced you want to have a decent score and story, but another thing that sells the backers — and the audience — is having a name attached. You need Ethel Merman, Gertrude Lawrence, Mary Martin, Julie Andrews, Chita Rivera, Angela Lansbury, Carol Channing, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, or last but not least, the star of our show, that improbably sexy, brittle but strong, mercurial, redheaded dancer, Gwen 

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You Never Can Tell: Musical Revue Research Guide, Part 1

Visitors to the exhibition and blog channel The Great American Revue have peppered me with questions that can be summarized as: "where do you find that stuff?" Substitute artifacts for "stuff" and it becomes a request for a research guide.

The New York Public Library has been collecting performing arts content since the 1880s and online cataloging since the 1980s. Most of the material in the Revues 

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Martin Pakledinaz for "The Pajama Game" (2006)

Legendary Broadway composer and lyricist Richard Adler passed away this year on June 21st. His seamless partnership with friend and composer Jerry Ross in the 1950s led to the hit musical scores and lyrics for The Pajama Game in its original Broadway run in 1954. Directed by George Abbott and Jerome Robbins, the show went on to win a Tony Award for best musical.

Fast forward to 2006, and we find Broadway director and choreographer Kathleen Marshall guiding and choreographing a 21st century revival of The Pajama Game with the Roundabout Theatre Company. Marshall 

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How Not to Succeed in Business

The idea of late blooming was essential to Dorothy Loudon's mythology.

Although she admitted to being 44 at the time of Annie (a fiction that many internet sites, including the Internet Movie Database, presently maintain), Loudon was actually 52. Prior to Annie, Loudon had been through nearly three decades of supper clubs, television, and touring companies, and a series of near misses on Broadway — projects that collapsed before they went on (including a musical version of Casablanca and

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Robot Dawn: The Stage Origins of a Sci-Fi Idol

Nothing is more strange to man than his own image. —Dr. Alquist, sole survivor of the robot rebellion.

It's standard sci-fi melodrama now: The robots evolve and become indistinguishable from their creators. They rise up and in their revolt decide to eradicate the human race. Sound familiar? Well, before you start looking for Arnold Schwarzenegger, it's not 1984 and we're not in a movie theatre. The year is 1922 and it's all happening live on stage in an Off-Broadway 

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Remembering Martin Pakledinaz, 1953-2012

Costume designer Martin Pakledinaz in his New York office in 2005 with costume bibles he donated this year to New York Public Library for Performing Arts. Photo Credit: Diane Bondareff for The New York Times.

“Costumes have to tell you in a moment what that person is feeling, what they’re going through, what changes are happening.”                                                                   

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Ruth Chatterton: A Screen Career in Photographs (In Defense of the Fan Collection)

Ruth Chatterton, 1921This post is about a fascinating, talented and beautiful movie star of the 1930s named Ruth Chatterton. However, it's also about a dedicated fan who preserved her legacy. Yes, this is the type of collection many archivists dread: the much-maligned fan collection.

Perhaps I better explain this for any laymen reading. If the library had Ruth Chatterton's Papers, that would mean that the stage and film actress, novelist and aviatrix (!) maintained her own photographs, scripts, correspondence, programs, clippings, etc. and gave them to us (or her 

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Musical of the Month: Oh, Boy!

A guest post By Laura Frankos Oh, Boy!: Kern, Bolton, Wodehouse and the Princess Theatre Musicals The Genesis of the Series

Image ID: th-56990In 1913, the Shuberts added another theatre to their empire at 104 West 39th Street, on the edge of the theatre district. Architect William Albert Swaney, who had built the Winter Garden for the brothers, designed an intimate 299-seat house, with an understated Georgian exterior of red brick and limestone and five stories of office space for rental income. The theatre, dubbed the Princess, spent its first seasons as "the Theatre of 

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Wait for Me, World: The Kander, Ebb and Wasserman Musical that Never Was

Dale WassermanMost archivists will tell you that the best part of our job is the feeling of possibility. Every time you open a box and start digging through it, you might find that something amazing — you might be making an intellectual discovery. This can be especially exciting when you’re dealing with a subject that you thought you pretty much had down cold. Professionally, I live for these moments and I had one while processing the Dale Wasserman Papers.

After his tremendous success writing the book for 

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An Introduction to the Dorothy Loudon Papers

Dorothy Loudon would have made a fine archivist.

As it happens, Ms. Loudon chose another line of work. An acclaimed nightclub singer, television performer, and theater actress, Loudon's most famous role was that of Miss Hannigan in the original 1977 production of Annie. The Tony Award she won for that performance opened the door for leading roles in a series of Broadway 

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The Act I Finale

The Great American Revue is coming to the end of its run at the Vincent Astor Gallery, LPA. It employed Library for the Performing Arts treasures to represent the 15 revue series on Broadway, from the first Follies in 1907 — to the Pins & Needles series in 1939. The blog channel will continue and for the next few weeks, will focus on some of the treasures that we had to edit out of the exhibition.

For plotless revues 

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Finale, Part I: Curtain Calls

The Great American Revue is coming to the end of its run at the Vincent Astor Gallery, LPA. Don't worry —  all of the artifacts will be returned to the Billy Rose Theatre Division, Jerome Robbins Dance Division, or Music Division, and the 

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Welcome to the Theatre, to the Magic, to the Fun!

OK quick, what Broadway show are these words from, and who sings them? You can probably figure out from a Google search that the show is Applause, the 1970 musical version of the movie All About Eve, with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics (including the above) by Lee Adams. And a visit to YouTube will give you a taste of Lauren Bacall huskily embodying diva Margo Channing in a Tony Awards clip. But suppose you want more — suppose you want to read the complete Applause 

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Audience Participation on the Ziegfeld Roof

At the turn of the last century, as part of their effort to establish Times Square as the new entertainment center, Oscar and William Hammerstein installed a roof garden cabaret on top of their 42nd St. corner theater. Made possible by the invention of elevators and cooled air, roof gardens caught on as a temperate weather late night activity. William Hammerstein’s programming featured vaudeville stars and their imitators. You can see the logo for their Paradise Roof Garden on the Vaudeville Nation site — a young woman sipping an iced drink surrounded by Japanese lanterns. 

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The 9 Lives of Catwoman

Judging from the teasers, Batman: The Dark Knight Rises promises to be another must-see summer movie, not least for the anticipation of Anne Hathaway's being cast as Catwoman. Anne has some impressive spandex to fill, however, against such feline luminaries as Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, and and Michelle Pfeiffer, each with her own brand of Gotham catitude. Check out our treasury of vintage images of Catwomen from NYPL's Billy Rose Theatre Division and then take a sec and scratch your

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