One good thing about the cold winter months is that seeing Broadway musicals is great indoor entertainment. This season, I had the opportunity to keep warm in the theaters where The Book of Mormon, Wicked, and Hamilton are performed.
Usually on this blog I compare Broadway shows I’ve seen to their movie companions (see here and here). But in the case of these shows, there are no film adaptations. (Yet? Which of these shows would translate well to the big screen? Discuss in the comments!) Instead, I will write about materials available through the library that will help recreate, or complement, the live show.
The Book of Mormon
To quote Mormon’s opening song, … “Hello!”
The Book of Mormon, which follows fresh-faced Mormon missionaries Elder Price and Elder Cunningham as they spread the word in Uganda, was created by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone. The show was a success and won the Tony for Best Musical in 2011. Did you know that on March 24 The Book of Mormon will celebrate five years on Broadway? The Empire State Building celebrated that milestone last weekend!
I laughed myself sick at this show. No musical has ever made me laugh so hard. If you are a fan of Stone and Parker’s South Park, you will enjoy Mormon’s sophomoric (yet VERY adult) humor and smart satire. And you will laugh until your belly hurts. However, if you’re not a fan of South Park this show may not be for you.
The Original Broadway Cast Recording is available to borrow from BCCLS and through Freegal. My choice tracks are “Turn It Off”, a tongue-in-cheek song about how Mormons cope with uncomfortable situations, and the double-entendre-laden “Baptize Me”.
If you want to read the script and lyrics, you can borrow The Book of Mormon: The Complete Book and Lyrics of the Broadway Musical. The Book of Mormon: A Testament of a Broadway Musical is a collection of stories from the cast and crew of the show leading up to the show’s opening night.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s South Park is still on television, and the complete season DVDs are available to borrow. The soundtrack for the film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut can be streamed on Hoopla. Robert Lopez wrote music for Disney’s Frozen, including a little song called “Let It Go”, and that soundtrack is on Hoopla as well.
Wicked captures the points of view of Glinda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West Elphaba, and their friendship as young witches. Earlier in this post I said that these musicals don’t have film adaptations–Wicked may be an exception as the show is considered a prequel to The Wizard of Oz.
Finding the musical’s connections to the classic film (namely, the origins of the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow) made watching the show more fun for me.
Wicked has been on Broadway since 2003 and is an institution. Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel originated the roles of Glinda and Elphaba, respectively. I have long been a fan of Idina Menzel since she played Maureen in Rent, a soundtrack I listened to a lot in the late 1990s. (My theater geek roots run deep.)
The Wicked Original Broadway Cast recording is available to borrow on CD through BCCLS and to stream through Hoopla Digital. A piano tribute (among other varieties) of the soundtrack are on Hoopla too. My favorite songs are “Defying Gravity”, which gives me goosebumps, and “For Good”, a beautiful duet between Glinda and Elphaba about how their friendship has positively impacted them. That song reminded me of my friendships that I treasure.
When my friend Trish, a high school history teacher, proposed getting tickets to Hamilton I jumped at the chance. All the hype made me curious. The musical delivered on its promises, and it was unlike anything I have ever seen on Broadway or in live theater. Seeing the show with a history teacher was helpful, as it’s been years since I studied the American Revolution and the founding of the United States, and she filled in the gaps for me. She also pointed out instances where liberties were taken with the history. Gasp!
Hamilton is the creation of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who read Ron Chernow’s biography Alexander Hamilton (now on my TBR list, and perhaps yours too) and was inspired to write a rap. The rap eventually grew into a full-fledged musical that is captivating audiences, and renewing interest in America’s Founding Fathers, since it opened on Broadway last summer.
If you just can’t wait to see the show (if you’re in the NYC area, try the lottery!) and want to hear the soundtrack, it is streaming on Hoopla. The CD is also available to borrow. Tracks I recommend listening to are “Alexander Hamilton” and “My Shot”.
Debates between Hamilton and political rival Thomas Jefferson are depicted as rap battles, which I loved as someone who dreams about having a drop-the-mic moment in my life. And I have been fascinated by Thomas Jefferson since I learned that his personal library consisted of 7,000 volumes (!!!) on a wide array of topics, which he sold to the Library of Congress after it was burned down by the British in 1814. His books are still on exhibit at the LoC.
I have now become a Hamilton obsessive, and spent several unproductive hours this past weekend analyzing the lyrics to “Satisfied” (an Act I stunner) on Genius and falling down research rabbit holes about Alexander Hamilton–usually under Trish’s teacherly influence. Look for Hamilton to win ALL the Tonys this June.
Have you seen any good shows lately? Have you seen The Book of Mormon, Wicked, and/or Hamilton?
-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian