Theatre: Musical Theatre

A Research Guide for Theatre from West Chester University Libraries

Featured librettos

These librettos are owned by the library and may be checked out. They are housed in Presser Music Library in SOMPAC. Click on a title to see the book's status (available or the due date if checked out).

Reference Books

Finding musicals and songs--librettos, scores, audio & video recordings

After following these instructions, if you cannot find the libretto, score, audio or video recording you are looking for, try interlibrary loan or email me (pnewland@wcupa.edu) and I will order it for the library collection if it is available to purchase.

To find a specific libretto:

  • Library catalog
    • Start with a Title search
      • Choose Title from the drop-down list
      • Type important words in the title
      • To be more precise, choose either Starts with or Exact from the second drop-down list (the default is "Contains"--with this one you don't have to have the exact word of words in the title and you don't have to consider leading articles (e.g., "the")
    • If you get too many results, you can also add the playwright's last name to the second search box, after choosing Author from the drop-down list
  • North American Theatre Online
    • There are only a few librettos available in North American Theatre Online; even fewer are for major musicals (e.g., Weill’s Lost in the Stars and Simon and Norman’s The Secret Garden)
    • To isolate musicals with full text in North American Theater Online
      • Search for Plays (click on Plays in the list under the Quick Search box)
      • Choose Yes in the Full Text Available drop-down box under Play Title
      • Scroll down to Genre and enter Musical in the search box, then click Enter
      • You could also search by Playwright or by Play, but the result list from the search above is short enough to scan quickly

 To find a specific score for a musical:

  •  Library catalog
    • Search for the score with Title, as above for librettos
    • From the results list, choose from Scores from the list under Narrow My Results--Source Type on the left of the screen

 To find music for individual songs:

  •  Library catalog
    • Try a keyword search, using the most significant words in the title of the song (for instance, if you are looking for The Ladies Who Lunch, you could search either by ladies who lunch or “ladies who lunch”—the phase in quotation marks works well as long as you know the exact title or an exact phrase in the title of the song. Narrow your search, if you get too many results, by adding the composer's or lyricist's last name. If you are not sure of the exact title, the keyword search without quotation marks works better.
    • Limit to scores as above.
    • Sometimes the song you want is in the complete score. Sometimes there is a contents note for the individual songs in a complete score, but often there is not. So your next step, if you haven’t found the individual song doing a keyword search, is to try searching for the musical that your song is in. Search as listed in the section on searching for scores of musicals.
    • Not sure which musical your song was in? Reference books can help, in particular Dr. DeVenney’s The New Broadway Song Companion in the Presser Music Library reference collection (Music Ref 782.81 D5 2009). We also have Dr. Devenney's book online. The e-book Show Tunes also indexes the songs of major musicals. The Presser Music Library owns an earlier print edition (782.14 S964 2000) which can be checked out. The website All Musicals offers searching by song and provides the name of the show as well as the lyrics for some songs. 

Finding audio or video recordings of musicals:

Audio recordings: The library owns thousands of CDs and LPs; audio recordings of many musicals can be found in the library’s collections. Video recordings: the library has thousands of DVDs. Both the IMC and Presser Music Library own DVDs. Most music CDs are in Presser Music Library. Searching is similar for audio and video recordings.

  • Library catalog
    • Search for the show with a Title or keyword, as above
    • Follow the procedure for limiting to scores, but instead choose Audio Visual
    • The audio visual limit does not distinguish among different types of audiovisual material. If you want a physical item, a CD or DVD, for instance, the easiest way to narrow the search to a particular format is to scroll down on the left and choose the appropriate library location. You can also narrow your search by limiting to Available in Library under Show Only. Online audiovisual material has format-specific icons.
  • Music databases
    • Although most musicals will not be found in the various streaming audio collections available through the library, some will be, and individual songs may also be found in audio compilations
    • The two large audio collections are
      • Naxos Music Online
        • To browse musicals, click on Classical Music under Browse, then on Musicals
        • Search for a specific show or song in the search box at the top; to narrow search, use quotation marks around title if you know the exact title or phrase. You can also search by composer
      • Music Online
        • To browse musicals, in the search box at the right of the screen, choose Genres; type musical theatre; hit Enter
        • To find a specific musical or song, use the same search box, choose Track Title; type in the name of the show or song; hit Enter--this is a keyword search so there may be many irrelevant hits. If you're certain of the show name or song title, put it in quotation marks to narrow the search
  • Video databases
    • Although most musicals will not be found in the various streaming video collections available through the library, some will be
    • The two large video collections are
      • Theatre in Video
        • Under Browse, click on Genres
        • Scan titles under the categories Operetta, Musical, Play with Music
        • Of course, you can also search by show title, composer, etc. But because there are so few, scanning may save you time. The library catalog video search will also bring up catalog records for these videos
      • Films on Demand
        • Click on Music & Dance, then on Music for Stage & Screen under Music Appreciation
        • The result list includes a few operettas and some films about the Broadway musical
        • As with Theatre in Video, you can search by title, but scanning the titles under Music for Stage & Screen will save you time. The library catalog video-limited search will also bring up catalog records for these videos.

 

Featured scores

These scores are owned by the library and may be checked out. They are housed in Presser Music Library in SOMPAC. Click on a title to see the book's status (available or the due date if checked out).

Recent musical score additions

The attached list contains titles and call numbers of new (fall 2012) additions to the Presser Music Library collection of vocal scores for musicals. It also contains titles and call numbers of recently replaced vocal scores that had been missing.Of course the Presser Music Library has a large existing collection of scores for musicals. See the box above for suggestions about how to find scores in the library catalog.

Most of the scores are selections only; the list does contain some complete scores (e.g., Ragtime) but for most newer musicals we can't get complete scores. This list is current as of 1/27/2013.

West Chester University   ---    WCU Libraries  25 West Rosedale Avenue, West Chester, PA 19383  610-430-4400