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Theatre 240: Music and the Theatre

Stephanie Dean, Winter 2022

Where to Start

While much of the background information you need to find for this project will be discoverable on the open internet, the following two encyclopedias are more credible sources of information than Wikipedia.

If your show or information about the creators or performers is not in one of the listed encyclopedias, try searching more broadly. If your show was created by or starred notable African American performers, the Oxford African American Studies Center is a great place the search.

News and Reviews

Finding contemporary news about and reviews of musicals is one of the best ways to see how they were received when they were first produced, along with any revivals, or films that they are connected to. The New York Times is a great place to start because it has very robust theater reporting and will review most shows premiering in New York both on and off Broadway.

The Performing Arts Periodical database contains popular, industry, and some scholarly publications related to theater, dance, and music. Title include VarietyRolling Stone, and The Stage, and many will have news about shows in production as well as interviews and reviews with performers and creators.

Publications created by and for specific minority groups may have different perspectives on a musical or play than the main stream press. For example, Dreamgirls was not reviewed favorably in many publications when it premiered in 1981, but publications like Ebony were more favorable towards it and commented on the coverage by other press. Ethnic NewsWatch is a database that focuses on news sources created by and for minority and ethnic groups.

Credible Sources Outside the Library

The following websites are good sources for news about what is happening on Broadway, though they may not contain much historical content and their search options are not very robust. 

Search Tips

Here are some tips to help you find sources through the library's databases.

  • "Re-search" means to search again, so you may have to do several searches to find related sources.
  • If your show has multiple words in the title, put quotation marks around them, so that you search for that phrase rather than anytime the words appear in the full text of an article or abstract, e.g. "In the Heights" instead of In the Heights.
  • If your show's title is a very common words, like "waitress," add a search term like "musical" will help weed out results that are not about the show.
  • Search for the director, choreographer, actors and other creators to find information about their careers beyond the show.
  • Combine the show's title with creator's names to find relevant sources.
  • Filter by date range to around the time when the show or revival premiered to find article and reviews that are contemporary.
  • Search in publication geared toward specific minority groups, e.g. Ebony or The Village Voice, to see if points of view regarding the shows. Use Journal Search to see what access we have to specific publications, though some are accessed through the Performing Arts Periodicals Database.

See the library's Research Process guide for more search tips and check out our YouTube channel for video tutorials.