A lively historical tour of Broadway musicals

Broadway Musicals: Show by Show, by Stanley Green. New York: Hal Leonard Books. 361 pp. $17.95. Trust the indefatigable Stanley Green to come up with yet another lively look at one of the liveliest branches of American show business. ``Broadway Musicals: Show by Show'' summarizes the history of its chosen subject from ``The Black Crook'' (1866) to ``Big River'' (1985). Page by page, the volume catalogs all book musicals that ran more than 500 performances, plus others included for special reasons. More than 100 photos recapture scenes that have lighted stages across the decades. And there are ample indexes for people who need to settle arguments -- or who merely like to look things up.

Mr. Green (who has written extensively about Broaday musicals) details the contributions, not only of such giants as Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, and Richard Rodgers, but also of many lesser-known composers. Production credits include writers, producers, directors, choreographers, and leading actors. Green even gives the names and addresses of performing rights organizations -- handy information for producing groups.

Besides the classic authors whose works have been musicalized, such vital intelligence as the names of theater personalities commemorated in Broadway musicals is included. Green lists every Dolly Levi -- from Carol Channing to Ethel Merman -- to whom the Harmonia Gardens waiters chorused their welcoming ``Hello!'' The author also recalls that, with her success as the gold-digging girl from Little Rock in ``Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,'' Miss Channing was elevated to stardom in the course of the run. (Diamonds really are a girl's best friend -- in show biz!)

Some other tidbits from the book: Next to Gilbert and Sullivan, ``Floradora'' was the most successful early British musical staged in New York. From 1907 to 1931, the 21 ``Ziegfeld Follies'' comprised ``the most celebrated and durable series of musical revues'' in Broadway history.

Musical-comedy buffs will relish ``Broadway Musicals.'' And even theater know-it-alls may discover a thing or two.

John Beaufort covers New York theater for the Monitor.

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