Search Broadway’s Past and Present Online

By: Charles Bowen

The Internet Movie Database (IMDB), which we covered years ago in this column, is one of those must-see sites that makes the Web a joy to use for research. I probably check into this wonderful resource at least once a week.

And now there is a site that does for Broadway productions what IMDB has done for films. Set up by the League of American Theatres and Producers’ Research Department, the Internet Broadway Database (IBDB) covers a huge pool of data about current and past Broadway shows. At the heart of the database are details gleaned by the league from its huge collection of theater programs, generally from a show’s opening night. Other information has been gathered from media reports, interviews, and the league’s archives. Says an online statement, the goal of the site is to “serve as a comprehensive history of Broadway for the benefit of League members, press, theater professionals, and enthusiasts.”

There are many sites out there that can give you information on shows currently on Broadway — and IBDB can do that too — but where this database really shines is in its comprehensive advanced search page which enables you to drill down for information on past productions. To use the database, visit the site at, where a data-entry box in the upper left of the introductory screen invites you to enter a keyword and select a category from drop-drop menus (show, people/organization, theater, season, or “all”).

Typically, the site then lists an overview for that show, including the dates it opened and closed, the type of production it was (musical, comedy, drama, etc.) and the theater. Also usually provided are links to the names of playwrights, composers, and lyricists. Depending on the information available online, more links may be provided for detailed credits, statistics on the length of the show’s run, and the cast.

For more detailed searching, click on the “Advanced Search” button in the left column of the introductory screen. A screen of forms is then provided, enabling you to search for:

* Shows, specifying name, type, setting, number of performances, and opening and closing date range. This is the option to find, for instance, how many shows played more than 300 performances in the past two years.

* People, with which you can specify a first and last name, function, gender, and date and place of birth and/or death.

* Theater, letting you indicate a theater’s name and/or New York address.

* Character. Want a list of men who have played Hamlet on the big stage? Here’s where to get it.

Other considerations for using the Internet Broadway Database in your writing and editing:

1. In using the advanced search section, if you’re unsure of the spelling or proper name of a person or if you know only part of his/her name, type in what you know (e.g. first name “Anton”). You will get a list of everyone in the database whose first name is “Anton.” And if you know the person’s function, type in as much of the name as you know (e.g. first name “Anton”) and his function (e.g. playwright). You will get a list of all playwrights with “Anton” in the name.

2. Similarly, you can use multiple fields to target unique information. For instance, if you want a list of all female playwrights, check “playwright” in the function box and “female” in the gender box. If you want to limit the search to all female playwrights born in Ireland, check “writer” and “female” as well as “Ireland” in the country of birth box. You also can get a list of all people who were born or died on a certain date by typing in the date in the date of birth or date of death fields.

3. To find a production on which two people are credited together, begin by searching for one of the people. When you are on the first person’s page, use the search box at the bottom of the page that says, “Find out where this person and ______ are credited together.” Simply type the name of the second person in the blank.

To see Bowen’s last 10 columns, click here. Previous columns may be purchased in our paid archives. Search for “Bowen” in the “Author” field.

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