I give you nostalgia, history, fashion, hairstyles and music - the timeline markers that ensure "period" shows will always rank among Broadway's most prized possessions. As it happens, the summer of 2010 is remarkably rich when it comes to plays and musicals set in various decades of the 20th century (particularly the 1950s, with five productions that take place during the Eisenhower era). Toss in a little trivia - and the ultimate source material for these shows - and the past becomes your theatrical present.
A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC (Musical Revival)
Point of Origin: Ingmar Bergman's 1955 film Smiles of a Summer Night. On Celluloid: 1977 with Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Rigg and Hermione Gingold.
MARY POPPINS (Musical)
Point of Origin: Aussie author P.L. Travers' popular children's books. On Celluloid: Disney's 1964 Oscar-winning film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.
CHICAGO (Musical Revival)
Point of Origin: 1926 play by Chicago Tribune reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, who covered the trials of two high-profile murderesses a couple of years earlier. On Celluloid: 2002 (Best Picture Oscar) with Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere.
LEND ME A TENOR (Comedy)
Point of Origin: Ken Ludwig's 1986 farce set in 1934 and originally titled Opera Buffa. FYI: A musical adaptation of Lend Me a Tenor was presented at the Utah Shakespearean Festival during the summer of 2007.
SOUTH PACIFIC (Musical Revival)
Point of Origin: James Michener's Tales of the South Pacific. On Celluloid: 1958, starring Mitzi Gaynor and Rossano Brazzi. FYI: The Tony-winning revival with Paulo Szot back in the role of Emile de Becque will play its final Broadway performance on August 22.
Point of Origin: The sixth play in August Wilson's 10-part Pittsburgh Cycle. FYI: Fences netted Wilson both a Pulitzer Prize and a Best Play Tony in 1987. The revival - headed by Denzel Washington and Viola Davis - will end its 13-week limited run on July 11.
Point of Origin: Based loosely on real-life Memphis disc jockey Dewey Phillips, one of the first white DJs to play black music in the 1950s. FYI: The Broadway musical was created by Bon Jovi founding member David Bryan (music and lyrics) and Joe DiPietro (book and lyrics).
MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET (Jukebox Musical)
Point of Origin: The legendary impromptu jam session between Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash at Sun Record Studios on Tuesday, December 4th, 1956. FYI: In 1986, Perkins, Cash, Lewis and Roy Orbison (another Sun alum) returned to Sun Studios to record Class of '55, an album tribute to the 1956 jam session.
Point of Origin: Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko's commission to paint a series of murals for The Four Seasons Restaurant in NYC's Seagram Building. FYI: The playwright, John Logan, is the screenwriter for the films Gladiator and The Aviator.
WEST SIDE STORY (Musical Revival)
Point of Origin: William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. On Celluloid: 1961 starring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer as star-crossed lovers Maria and Tony. FYI: The film adaptation holds the record for most Academy Awards - 10; the current cast album won the 2009 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.
HAIR (Musical Revival)
Point of Origin: The late '60s as seen through the eyes and observations of creators James Rado and Gerome Ragni. On Celluloid: 1979, directed by Milos Forman. Cast included Treat Williams, John Savage, Beverly D'Angelo, Nell Carter and Charlotte Rae.
PROMISES, PROMISES (Musical Revival)
Point of Origin: Billy Wilder's Oscar-winning film The Apartment starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. FYI: Two of Dionne Warwick's most iconic hit singles came from the show's Burt Bacharach-Hal David score: "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" and "Promises, Promises."
Point of Origin: Actual events from the life of the Nigerian composer and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
FYI: The music for Fela! was arranged and is performed by Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, a group modeled after Kuti's Africa 70 band.
LA CAGE AUX FOLLES (Musical Revival)
Point of Origin: French playwright Jean Poiret's 1973 play of the same name. FYI: While the musical was never made into a movie, the 1978 French film based on the play was so popular it spawned two sequels and the 1996 American version (The Birdcage) with Nathan Lane and Robin Williams.
BILLY ELLIOT (Musical)
Point of Origin: The Stars Look Down, a 1935 novel by A. J. Cronin, loosely inspired the 2000 British film Billy Elliot on which the musical was based. FYI: Lee Hall, who wrote the film's screenplay, provided book and lyrics to Sir Elton John's music. The musical's opening sequence is titled "The Stars Look Down" in recognition of Cronin's work.
ROCK OF AGES (Jukebox Musical)
Point of Origin: Rock music hits from the 1980s by artists like Pat Benatar, Styx, Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister, Journey, Poison and Asia, which make up the score. FYI: Ironically, Def Leppard's "Rock of Ages" isn't part of the score: Universal Music Group wouldn't grant licensing.
COLLECTED STORIES (Drama)
Point of Origin: The South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, California, commissioned Donald Margulies to write the play for a debut production that took place in October, 1996 starring Maria Tucci and Debra Messing. FYI: Both
Collected Stories and Sight Unseen, its predecessor at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.