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Gerald Martin Bordman (September 18, 1931 – May 9, 2011) was an American theatre historian, best known for authoring the reference volume The American Musical Theatre, first published in 1978.[1][2] In reviewing an updated version of American Musical Theatre in 2011, Playbill wrote that the book had "altered the scope of American musical theatre history" and "remained the only book of its kind, and an invaluable one."[1]

Gerald Martin Bordman
Gerald Bordman circa 2005
Gerald Bordman circa 2005
Born(1931-09-18)September 18, 1931
Wynnefield, Philadelphia
DiedMay 9, 2011(2011-05-09) (aged 79)
Wynnewood, Pennsylvania
OccupationAmerican theatre historian
CitizenshipUnited States

Bordman grew up in the Wynnefield neighborhood of Philadelphia and graduated from Central High School and Lafayette College, later earning a master's degree and Ph.D. in medieval literature at the University of Pennsylvania. He published The American Musical Theatre four years after selling the family's business, Excell Chemical Products, which manufactured mothballs, among other things.[1] He went on to write over a dozen volumes on American theatre, including biographies on Jerome Kern and Vincent Youmans, despite having limited musical training.[3][4]

Bordman died of cancer in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania on May 9, 2011, at age 79.[3][5]

Partial bibliographyEdit

  • American Musical Theatre: A Chronicle (1978)
  • Jerome Kern: His Life and Music (1980)
  • American Operetta: From H.M.S. Pinafore to Sweeney Todd (1981)[6]
  • Days to Be Happy, Years to Be Sad: The Life and Music of Vincent Youmans (1982)[7]
  • American Musical Comedy: From Adonis to Dreamgirls (1982)
  • The Oxford Companion to the American Theater (1984)[8]
  • American Musical Revue: From The Passing Show to Sugar Babies (1985)


  1. ^ a b c Simonson, Robert (12 May 2011). Gerald Bordman, Theatre Scholar, Dies at 79, Playbill
  2. ^ Glover, William (11 January 1979). Showbiz addict compiles handbook on musical theater, Eugene Register-Guard (Associated Press story)
  3. ^ a b Downey, Sally A. (12 May 2011). Gerald Bordman, theater scholar, author, Philadelphia Inquirer
  4. ^ Burns, Diane Hubbard (4 September 1980). He Gives His Regards To Broadway, Palm Beach Post
  5. ^ (11 May 2011). Gerald Bordman dies at 79: Scholar wrote 'American Musical Theatre', Variety
  6. ^ Houston, Levin (30 May 1981). Singing the praises of early operettas (book review), Free Lance-Star
  7. ^ Wilson, John S. (22 August 1982). Youmans book review, Sarasota Herald-Tribune (New York Times news service story)
  8. ^ Beaufort, John (22 February 1985). Theater reference books always enjoy a long run, Palm Beach Post (Los Angeles Times syndicate story)