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
      • Omit initial articles "a," "an," and "the" or their foreign language equivalents
      • Type in the beginning of the title--unless the title is very generic, it is not necessary to enter the whole title
    • If you don't find the play you are looking for with a Title search, try a Keyword Boolean search (for instance, for Next to Normal, you might try the composer’s last name and normal (kitt and normal))
    • If you don't find a libretto by a Title or Keyword Boolean search, try an author search for the composer, lyricist, or librettist. In the Author search box, enter composer in last name first name order (last name may be enough). Click on name if found, then scan list of entries
  • 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 scor for a musical:

  •  Library catalog
    • Begin by choosing Musical Scores from the drop-down list under Set Single Limit
    • Search for the score with Title or Keyword Boolean search, as above for librettos
    • If you don't find the score for a musical by a Title or Keyword Boolean search, try an Author search for the composer or lyricist—the Musical Scores limit will not work with an Author search so your result list may contain catalog records for other kinds of material (e.g., CDs)
  • Check the pdf file in the box below for a list of musical scores that have been recently purchased or replaced by the library.

 To find music for individual songs:

  •  Library catalog
    • Begin by choosing Musical Scores from the drop-down list under Set Single Limit
    • Try a Keyword Boolean 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 and who and 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. If you are not sure of the exact title, the keyword search that links words with “and” is likely to work better. For example, if you were looking for the song If I Were a Bell from Guys and Dolls, and you searched as above, you would retrieve a catalog record for the compilation, The Best Broadway Scores Ever
    • But of course, the library owns the complete score for Guys and Dolls and If I Were a Bell can be found in the complete score. Why didn't it come up in your search? 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. Searching for audio recordings is similar to searching for scores.

  • Library catalog
    • Begin by choosing Sound Recordings from the drop-down list under Set Single Limit
    • Search for the show with a Title or Keyword Boolean search, as above for librettos
    • If you don't find a recording of the show you are looking for by title or keyword, try an Author search for the composer or lyricist—the Sound Recordings limit will not work with an Author search so your result list may contain catalog records for other kinds of material (e.g., scores)
      • In the Author search box, enter composer in last name first name order (last name may be enough). Click on name if found, then scan list of entries. The result list identifies the location (e.g., WCU Presser Music Library Compact Discs) so scan for a sound recording location
  • 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 recordings: The library owns many video recordings of musicals, usually the film version rather than a filmed stage production. Video recordings of musicals may be housed in either the Francis Harvey Green Library or the Presser Music Library.

  •  Library catalog
    • Begin by choosing Video from the drop-down list under Set Single Limit. This limit returns hits for DVDs, VHS tapes, and streaming video; you can also choose IMC DVDs--this will limit the search to DVDs found in Francis Harvey Green Library only
    • Search for the show with a Title or Keyword Boolean search, as above for librettos
    • If you don't find a video of the show you are looking for by a Title or Keyword Boolean search, try an Author search for the composer or lyricist—the Video limit will not work with an Author search so your result list may contain catalog records for other kinds of material (e.g., scores)
    • In the Author search box, enter composer in last name first name order (last name may be enough). Click on name if found, then scan list of entries. The result list identifies the location (e.g., WCU Presser Music Library Videos) so scan for a video location
  • 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.

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