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on June 28, 2008
The Oxford Companion to the American Musical is a surprisingly detailed overview of the the American musicals of Broadway, film and television as witnessed/researched through author Thomas Hischak. The most exciting part of this book is its careful research of the television musical, until now all but glossed over in books on the subject of musical theatre. There was a point in time where television churned out musicals and it is nice to see them get their due. Holiday Specials by Rankin and Bass added much to our song lexicon and it is nice to see them so well represented.

Obviously, the book has its omissions, something that is inevitable when a book has this size and scope. But entries are lovingly chosen and carefully researched and those that are left out are judiciously put aside, or accounted for under other entries. For example: I am a big fan of the musical flop Nick and Nora. N&N does not have it's own entry, but it is mentioned in several other places such us under Joanna Gleason's entry.It is amazing, through cross referencing, just how much author Hischak has accounted for.

One special note: an earlier reviewer of this book makes mention of the musical Destry Rides Again as being named merely "Destry." This is false, as any student of Stanley Greene's Broadway Musicals: Show By Show will tell you. The musical was indeed called Destry Rides Again.

Any true fan of musical theatre will find minor quibbles with any book that may leave out the particular pieces of minutia that fascinate them. However, this book is one of the best of its kind and it is cram packed FULL of wonderful details and oft cast aside information. A must read.
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on June 29, 2008
Poor stupid me! After 60 years of seeing musicals on Broadway and myriad other theaters, in films, and on television, after directing many and even writing one, I derived infinite pleasure from wandering through the pages of Thomas Hischak's Oxford Companion. Little did I know that I should have been looking for omissions and confusions to carp about. I was just enjoying the fantastic feast of theatrical lore, trivia, and history spread out before me. I'd start reading one of the entries and find myself eagerly chasing down cross-references that usually fed me interesting facts I hadn't known or had long forgotten (and what a pleasure to have something long forgotten brought back to one's consciousness!).
For example, I had never known of Louise Beavers's career as a singer, having known her only as the perennial maid/cook roles that Hollywood put her great talent into. But I was looking at Holiday Inn, one of my favorite of all time Christmas treats, and came across that surprising cross-reference.
Oh, one could carp. Why is there no entry for James Jewel, the handsome tenor who toured the country with Nancy Walker in On the Town? Why doesn't the author list all the songs of the seminal Mask and Wig Club productions? Why doesn't he mention Richard Whiting's other daughter, Barbara?
Who cares? There is enough material there for a lifetime of pleasurable browsing. Take Marni Nixon's advice: "Simply enjoy it." I sure am.
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on June 28, 2008
THE OXFORD COMPANION TO THE AMERICAN MUSICAL by Thomas Hischak is a superior and up to date comprehensive reference book devoted to the American Musical Theatre, encompassing Film and Television as well. The research is solid, accurate and thorough; not surprising given Mr Hischak's previously published works in this area. He has become one of the foremost authorities on the American Musical experience, as this most recent volume ably demonstrates. Mr Hischak's book is a rock solid source for anyone in the profession, or any theatre lover in the audience, and a valuable addition to the bookshelf.
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on June 28, 2008
Hischak's new book is a tour de force. I own many books on the theater, including several others by Hischak. I bought this book (at a nice price through Amazon) and started flipping through, and couldn't put it down. Ronald Reagan as musical performer? Who would have guessed? The sheer ambition of this project, its extravagant cross-referencing, and wide-ranging coverage are deeply impressive. Among Hischak's many other books on the theater, this is his crown jewel.
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on June 29, 2008
This is the reference book all musical theater fans have been been waiting for. This all-inclusive guide to everything musical in film, theater and television is indispensable. If you love musicals this is THE show biz reference book!
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VINE VOICEon May 14, 2008
The great fun of a book like this, for me, anyway, is: before reading it in depth, to flip through and get a sense of its range, strengths (inclusions & obscurities), and weaknesses (omissions & errors). After spending about an hour with The OCAM, I find it an anomaly. On the one hand it is awesomely filled with nitty-gritty (How many books on the American Musical include "Follow That Bird", let alone Richard Adler's TV "Damn Yankees" rip-off "Olympus 7-0000"?), yet surprisingly incomplete. An article on opera singers on Broadway omits Cesare Siepi's turn in "Bravo Giovanni". Also, the show itself is missing (granted, neither was a major high-point, but... "Follow That Bird"?). The recent musical drama "Parade" is covered, but not Jerry Herman's earlier off-broadway musical of the same name (nor, Herman's "Mme Aphrodite" in the bio on him). The book goes out of its way to mention that the '50s TV version of "The Great Waltz" is NOT on DVD. It is, from a company called VAI. And the musical version of "Destry Rides Again", cited in an article on the "frontier" in musicals, was called, simply "Destry". Anyhow, you get the idea. Amidst some truly mind-blowing trivial "completeness" there is ALSO some surprising gaffes. Nevertheless, the completeness outweighs the gaffe by such a degree, that the book is WELL WORTH your while.
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on September 3, 2009
This book fills a giant void. It covers every major Broadway Musical (and some minor ones), most important musical movies and even most musical TV specials. It has biographies of thousands of performers, dirctors, choreographers, composers, etc. Filled with informative charts and lists. Well Done!

Is is complete? Of course not, but its still the best source I know. Does it have any mistakes? A few, but nothing important. Is it interesting? You bet, I'm reading it page by page.

I own the Oxford Companion to the Theater and this volume is far superior. Any serious fan of American Musicals has got to have it!
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on September 5, 2008
High School Musical has sparked interest in the genre of musicals once more, but "The Oxford Companion to the American Musical: Theatre, Film, and Television" is a guide to the history of the genre focusing on America's past great musicals such West Side Story, Rent, and Grease - with looks in on the great minds behind them such as Andrew Lloyd Webber. Covering anything anyone would want to know about the American musical, "The Oxford Companion to the American Musical: Theatre, Film, and Television" is a top pick for community library collections dedicated to television, movies, and theatre.
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on November 9, 2015
I love the setup of this book, everything is organized alphabetically by last name!!!
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on June 14, 2008
From the title I was expecting a definitive volume dedicated to the American musical. I already own the Oxford Companion to Wine and have seen other editions in the series and have been impressed with their completeness. This book is by no means complete and is so inconsistent in its references (and cross references)that it appears to be not so much a scholarly reference book as an extended favorites list of the author. An obscure show from the late 70's, Carmelina, is referenced in the article on Georgia Brown (Star) and in the section on Burton Lane (Composer), but there is no listing for the show. A more in depth explanation of the criteria used for inclusion in the preface might be useful in the next edition.
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