If you recall my Interview with a Broadway Buff, then you'll remember my family friend Leslie. While she was here, she gave two playbills to myself and my sister, one from 1980 and one from 1981. Here, I'm going to compare the playbills to see what has changed in the past 26-27 years.
From my personal collection, I pulled my Come From Away playbill (from the first time I saw it), my Anastasia playbill, and my Phantom of the Opera playbill. The playbills from the '80s are Amadeus and Brigadoon. One of the reasons I chose the playbills I did is because both Anastasia and Amadeus were at the Broadhurst Theatre and both Phantom of the Opera and Brigadoon were at the Majestic Theatre. I pulled out my Come From Away playbill because my other two playbills are pride playbills and I wanted a regular playbill to compare to as well.
From just looking at the covers of the playbills, it is clear to see a great deal has changed. Now, pride playbills are issued in June and there is no longer a white border around the picture and playbill logo. However the classic yellow is still there when it's not pride month.
The size of the playbills have also changed, getting smaller and thinner with less inside.
You can clearly see the size again when you look at the back of the playbills. It's also clear to see that the advertisements have changed a lot and become more fitting to society from when each is from.
Opening to the initial pages where you can see the date and a table of contents you can see that there are fewer articles now, though the way they display the month has not changed very much.
Upon looking at the pictures of the main cast, again not very much has changed. The lead actors' headshots are there with their name underneath. However in the older playbill, the role the actor is playing is put under their name, as well as it the usual cast list. Notice the younger Ian McKellan anybody?
The articles included in playbills have also changed drastically. While the older playbill contains a fashion section, almost like a magazine you would get on a newsstand, the newer playbill has articles related to shows currently running like the one seen here about casting Kinky Boots.
The "How many have you seen" section has also evolved. The older playbill shows the names of shows running all crammed onto one page while now, they are spread out across several pages. Also notice how different the show are today. Back in the '80s productions like A Chorus Line were still runing while now we have things like Come From Away and Anastasia.
Another section to have changed? The dining section. Then, dining and entertainment was organized by culture while it is now organized by location and only spans two pages. The older playbill's dining section spans several pages, giving theater-goers plenty of ideas as to where they should grab a bite after the show.
Cast photos are still shown today, though not in many playbills. Both of my older playbills display scenes from the production while the only playbill I have from my theater experience to contain cast pictures is The Phantom of the Opera.
Much like I keep my tickets with my playbills, the Brigadoon playbill arrived with a ticket stub. And what a difference. Now, a rear mezz ticket costs $49.00 while back then you could sit it the 4th row of the orchestra for $23.50. What a change!