A feast of black and white photographs and historic references brings theaters, productions, personalities and trivia to the forefront. The turn of every page offers a "wow" factor. Just when the nation was embroiled in a whirl of political issues -- "rapid industrialization, manifest destiny, slavery and ethnic diversification" -- the drama of theater in all its manifestations was gripping the imagination of people in all reaches of the continent. The book's first photograph is of Junius Brutus Booth and his son, Edwin, bursting off the page with their collective energy; they were the darlings of all classes. Another Booth, the son and brother, John Wilkes, 15 years after this 1850 image, completely altered the people's image of actors. Two hundred and fifty-four pages later, the reader is in awe of how Broadway touched lives of our predecessors over 120 years. We are left pondering what now matches the standards set during this seemingly "golden age" and who is looking after the "highest common denominator" for quality of scripts, production elements and performance. Despite some politically incorrect offerings, the story of quality shimmers throughout.