Want to know how many times Cats was performed on the Great White Way? How many Tony awards James Naughton '67 has won? How many current Broadway shows have sets designed by John Lee Beatty '70, '73 MFA?*
As media director for the League of American Theatres and Producers, Inc., Broadway's national trade association, Karen Hauser used to field questions like these every day. Now journalists, historians, and theater buffs turn to her creation, IBDB.com (Internet Broadway Database). It's the Broadway equivalent of the movie world's virtual Bible, IMDb.com (Internet Movie Database).
When Hauser began her job eight years ago, she researched queries the hard way. "I inherited a filing cabinet full of records someone had been keeping since the early twentieth century," she says. She knew the files represented a treasure waiting to be mined - and that the data would be handy online. Still, getting funding and creating the database took two years. The site launched in 2001 and has grown from an initial "couple hundred" to ten million hits a month, she says.
IBDB.com currently details 12,445 productions, dating to a 1750 production of The Beggar's Opera. While the oldest entries are sometimes sparse, listings on newer shows include the full opening-night program. There are also biographical entries, theater histories, and information on awards and production companies; users can search the site by show, theater, season, or person. "It's been slow going, but we recently added song lists for musicals and hope to add synopses in the future," says Hauser. "Our next step may be road shows, and after that we'll worry about off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway."
* Cats ran for 7,485 shows between 1982 and 2000. James Naughton won two Tonys as best actor in a musical - for Chicago (1997) and City of Angels (1990). As of December 1, Beatty had five shows running on Broadway: The Odd Couple, The Color Purple, Absurd Person Singular, A Naked Girl on the Appian Way, and Doubt.
Mary Jo Curtis is a freelance writer in Bristol, Rhode Island.