This is the "Selecting a Show" page of the "Theatre Arts 425: Advance of the American Musical" guide.
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Theatre Arts 425: Advance of the American Musical   Tags: american, music, musical theater, theater  

History, Development and Analysis of the American Musical Theatre
Last Updated: Sep 9, 2017 URL: Print Guide

Selecting a Show Print Page


Cover of the piano/vocal score to The Charlatan, c1898. Music by John Philip Sousa, Book by Charles Klein (from, score digitized by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign).

Streaming Audio

The library subscribes to several streaming audio services. These databases not only contain audio files but also many linear notes. Search here for recordings and information about your musical. Some services also include video.

  • DRAM
    This used to be known as Database of Recorded American Music. A scholarly collection of recordings, including CD quality audio, liner notes, and essays from New World, Composers Recordings, and other important labels.
  • Music & Performing Arts
    A rich collection of audio and video. The L.A. Theatre Works Collection may be in particular interest.
  • Naxos Music Library
    A streaming audio service comprised of over 1.5 million recordings, over 100,000 albums, and over 700 labels. Many works available in multiple performances, from multiple labels, and from different eras. Includes music notes, cover artwork, tracklist, cast list, and publisher information for hundreds of musicals.
  • Academic Video Online
    A collection of thousands of videos with searchable transcripts synchronized to video. The collection includes commercial and governmental newsreels, archival footage, public affairs footage, and documentaries.

Using the Library Catalog

Since you will need to examine scores, recordings and librettos, the library catalog is the first place to go to see if the library owns these.

If you don't know what you want, you may browse the shelves, keeping in mind items may be checked out.

In Advanced Search you can search subject, titles and authors, then limit to books, scores or audiovisual (sound recordings and videos.)



  • [q.] M1503 tells you this is a piano vocal score, probably including all the dance numbers and incidental music
  • [q.] M1508 tells you this is a vocal selections volume. Only a few musical numbers will be included, most likely songs and few if any dance numbers or incidental music
  • [q.] M1507 tells you this is an anthology which contains selections from musicals or operas

Several American universities have scanned piano/vocal scores of many musicals and operettas that are in the public domain. These are in and The Internet Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) and can be viewed, printed and downloaded, copyright free.

In order to avoid bitter disappointment, do not set your heart on getting a full instrumental/orchestral score of any musical. They are not available for public consumption. Only members of those performing organizations that actually perform these works ever get to handle a full instrumental/orchestral score. The one excepotion is Kiss me Kate. The library owns a full orchestral score.



  • M1508.8 indicates the recording of at least the primary musical numbers. In a lot of cases it will also include all dance numbers. Rarely, if ever, will it include the dialogue
  • M1507 is an anthology containing selections from various musicals
  • M1500 this number indicates that the entire show is included on the recording. One example is Rent
  • M1527 is a motion picture sound track recording, as opposed to a Broadway cast recording

You may also do an Advanced Search and limit to "Audiovisual" or browse these call numbers in the CD drawers.


Most musical librettos are up on the 3rd floor.  To search for them in the library catalog do a search with the title of the musical and the word "librettos" (plural.)

The series Best plays of... contains the books for many musicals, but they may not be complete.  The best way to search for these is to do a search for "burns mantle" and a few words from the title.  For example, the library does not own the libretto for Cats, but the book for the musical is contained in The Best plays of 1982-1983

Index to plays in periodicals. Dean H. Keller.
Ref. Z5781 .K43 1979 (there is also a 1971 supplement in the circulating collection)
    Some theater periodicals (e.g., Theatre Arts) contain full texts of plays and musical librettos. This handy index helps you find them. For example, the library does not own the libretto to "Once Upon a Mattress," but it can be found in the July, 1960 issue of Theatre Arts which we do own. This reference work was published in 1979, so no librettos more recent than that will be included.

There is an even older index from 1970, Plays in periodicals; an index to English language scripts in twentieth century journals in the reference collection, Z5781 .P3. There may be some overlap with Index to plays in periodicals.

If the library does not own the score, recording or libretto for the show you want, please see Antoinette about buying these for the collection.



Search multiple electronic databases and the library catalog at the same time using OneSearch. You will get items in the library plus electronic sources the library has access to such as journal articles, newspaper articles, reviews,etc. To expand your search to items for interlibrary loan, choose "" from the left side bar.


    Definitions of Terms and Abbreviations

    q. = Oversized books: interfiled in reference and scores; at end of classes in other collections

    Ref. = Reference collection, first floor

    RRef.= Ready reference, shelves behind the reference desk

    Periodicals = Level A

    GovDoc = U.S. Government Documents, second floor

    Reference Indexes = Alphabetically arranged at the end of the reference collection

    Microform Area = Reading room east of the reference desk, near microform drawers


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