Review by Booklist Review
A revised and updated edition of Brewer's Theatre, published in 1994, the current work includes some 3,500 articles arranged under one alphabet. Included here are not only plays, playwrights, actors, and actresses but also theater managers, directors, critics, theaters, technical terminology, and actors' slang. Characters are not neglected. Even a concessionaire, Orange Moll, who sold oranges at Drury Lane Theater during the seventeenth century, is identified. There seems to be an emphasis on the somewhat less well known. The editors briefly confirm what the reader most likely already knows, then give information and anecdotes that the reader may not know. This creates a work both more readable and more useful for reference than one that merely summarizes information readily available elsewhere. Almost as much space is given to the detractors of Shakespeare, for instance, as to the summary of his life and work, and the latter is not significantly longer than articles on much less well known playwrights. Not limited to legitimate theater, Cassell Companion discusses vaudeville, burlesque, and various folk dramas. It does, however, emphasize live performance. It rarely mentions cinema and television except as they relate to live theater; for instance, as part of the entry on an actor best known for live performance but who also worked in other media. Popular musical theater is included, but little is said about classical opera. Non-Western theater traditions are not neglected. Theatrical traditions of Japan, China, and India are included. Historical, folk, and minority theater traditions are included, such as Greco-Roman, medieval, and Yiddish theater, and several folk theater traditions of Britain and Europe. Another recent source, The Cambridge Guide to Theatre [RBB D 1 95], covers similar ground and has approximately the same number of entries. However, entries in Cambridge tend to be longer, sometimes several pages for national theaters and survey articles on such topics as stage lighting and theater design. Unlike Cassell, Cambridge has no entries for individual plays or characters. It does cover many more figures associated with the theater, including Hume Cronyn, Bob Fosse, Beth Henley, Angela Lansbury, John Malkovich, Mary Martin, and Jessica Tandy, none of whom are afforded space in Cassell. Cassell Companion to the Theatre is recommended for public, high-school, and undergraduate libraries that need another book in this area, although libraries that own Cambridge may choose not to add it if their budgets are tight.
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