Like so many fans of musical theater, I spent many happy childhood afternoons listening to library copies of cast recordings while reading liner notes or, on the rare occasions when I could find them, musical theater libretti. Today I am very happy to nominate the first draft of a new mobile app (Android-only for now) that lets you connect the music from cast recordings to the text on a mobile device.
Because the texts of musicals are very open and sometimes exist across multiple versions (think Show Boat or Anything Goes), this app allows you compare different editions of the script as you are reading simply by swiping right or left. In the world of textual scholarship, a book that publishes multiple, differing copies of the same basic text is called a “Variorum Edition.” This app is a multimodal variorum edition because it communicates in two different modes: audio and textual. You can compare different versions of the text AND different versions of the music.
The initial release includes a variorum edition of the 1866 American melodrama, The Black Crook, which some historians may have once believed to be the first American musical. Although the extant scripts for this piece differ very little, the music that was used in its many revivals changed frequently. The e-book is bundled with 10 recordings (most with sheet music) of music associated with the first production in 1866.