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Broadway at the Hoboken Public Library, Part 2: Waitress, The Great Comet, and Hello, Dolly!

11 Feb

It’s been awhile since I wrote about my adventures on the Great White Way! (Click here, here, and here for my past posts about Broadway.) I haven’t been to the theater as much as I would like lately (life has been busy, and the Hamilton tickets I bought last year cost beaucoup bucks and wiped out my theater budget) but these are the shows I have seen recently.

Waitress

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“Sugar, butter, flour” are the simple opening lines of this show as well as the basis of many pie recipes. This musical is based on the movie of the same name, written by Adrienne Shelly, about a waitress named Jenna with a talent for baking pies who finds herself pregnant by her deadbeat husband and longs to escape. The musical stays pretty true to the movie, but definitely stands on its own.

The show was created by a team of women, including Sara Bareilles, who wrote the music and lyrics for this show. She released an album (CD and Freegal) performing some of the show’s tunes herself. My favorite tracks from the Original Broadway Cast Recording (on CD and Hoopla) include “Bad Idea,” “I Didn’t Plan It,” and “You Matter to Me.” Ogie has to be the most memorable romantic hero on all of Broadway, who declares his love via a song called “I Love You Like a Table.”

The scent of fresh baked pie wafts through the theater, which will make you hungry. (Don’t worry, the concessions stands sell warm slices of pie for an intermission snack!) What will stick with you long after the show is over is the strong bond between the three female leads, Jenna, Becky, and Dawn. You may also remember a romantic scene that includes some epic Revolutionary War era cosplay.

The Great Comet

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The complete title of this show is Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. Certainly a mouthful to say, and a lot to type. I had no idea what this show was about going in, except that Josh Groban stars as Pierre, and I was pleasantly surprised by The Great Comet.

This is the sort of show that winks at the audience–the fourth wall is gone. The action takes place all around the theater, with the actors making use of the all the space and engaging with the audience. It was fun to anticipate where the actors will appear next, perhaps near you. If you’re lucky, the actors, along their travels, will give you a little box that contains a pierogi for a mid-show nosh. I didn’t get one, but that lady sitting next to me did.

You can hear the soundtrack on Hoopla, and borrow the CD. “Letters”, a song about email’s predecessor, includes the knowing lyric “In nineteenth century Russia, we write letters / we put down on paper what is happening in our minds.” Another standout track is “Charming.” I also recommend any track featuring Brittain Ashford, who plays Sonya. Her voice is delicate but full of emotion, particularly on “Sonya Alone.”

Hello, Dolly!

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Ok, I haven’t seen this show yet. It isn’t due to officially open on Broadway until Thursday April 20, 2017. But I am planning to see this revival, which will feature Bette Midler as Dolly Gallagher Levi and David Hyde Pierce as Horace Vandergelder. I can’t wait to see this show and these talented actors in the iconic roles.

To me, Hello, Dolly! Is one of the most classic Broadway musicals. Barbra Streisand starred in the 1969 film adaptation, but Carol Channing who originated the role on Broadway in 1964 is the best known Dolly. I love so many songs from this show. “Dancing” makes you feel as though you’re spinning with the actors. “Before the Parade Passes By” is wistful. “Elegance” is fun and upbeat. Of course, “Hello, Dolly!” is a showstopper. But my favorite has always been “It Only Takes a Moment,” which is sung in a courthouse of all places. What can I say, I’m a romantic.

Hoopla has several versions of the Hello, Dolly! soundtrack to stream. Borrow the Original Broadway Cast Recording on CD to hear “So Long Dearie”, which features one of the sickest burns to come from Broadway, when Channing as Dolly sneers to Horace Vandergelder, “snuggle up to your cash register”. Shall we adapt that one to the twenty first century, changing “cash register” to “iPhone”? Thoughts?

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

Breakout the Seedcakes and Blackberry Tarts: Celebrate the 125th Anniversary of Tolkien’s Birth!

6 Jan

January 3 is the 125th birth anniversary of J.R.R. (John Ronald Reuel) Tolkien who was born in 1892 in what is now South Africa in Bloemfontein.  Tolkien’s hobbits celebrated their byrding days (birthdays) by giving gifts to others rather than simply receiving gifts themselves.  Tolkien has clearly gifted the world with his writing; his work has been translated into over 60 languages as well as having been adapted as movies and even video games.  This is the perfect time to come in and check some out some of his writing and works he inspired today.

The Hobbit: or, There and Back Again

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The first and perhaps the most accessible of Tolkien’s novels set in middle earth, The Hobbit tells the story of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit whose life is changed when Gandalf the Wizard transforms his safe ordinary life into one of adventure.  My first encounter with it was the cartoon from the late 1970’s, which is available at some BCCLS libraries.  Also available to check out is Tolkien’s epic Lord of the Rings published as three volumes (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King) which continue to be influential on many contemporary writers and is the archetype of High Fantasy.  If you would like to start listening to them right now visit Hoopla for digital audiobook copies.

The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Films Directed by Peter Jackson

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You can borrow several of the ambitious films that Peter Jackson directed including The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey from HPL.  I saw The Lord of the Rings trilogy with my father who was overjoyed with the special effects laden and visually stunning adaptations of books he had loved as a teenager.  The Hobbit movies were a bit controversial with some fans due to the addition of new characters and plot lines to allow for three films; check them out and see what you think.

Video Games Set in Middle Earth

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Not satisfied with merely reading or watching about Middle Earth, immerse yourself in the epic battles with Lego The Lord of the Rings for the Xbox 360 or PS3.  The game allows you to unlock over 80 playable Lego versions of Middle Earth characters.   This game is rated E 10+.  For those looking for a more adult game check out Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor for the PS3, PS4, Xbox One, or Xbox 360 rated M; you play as Talion, a Ranger of the Black Gate and is set prior to the events in Lord of the Rings.  Also available is the rated M game The Lord of the Rings. War in the North for Xbox 360.

The Story of Kullervo

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If you are already a fan of Tolkien and looking for something new then you might be intrigued by The Story of Kullervo.  Although only recently published, The Story of Kullervo is an early short story from circa 1915, which is based on part of the Finnish epic Kalevala.   Also included are transcripts of Tolkien’s talks on Kalevala.

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski

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Tolkien was part of a literary club in 1932 called the Inklings, who first met at Oxford University. The Inklings critiqued each other’s works and debated the hot topics of the time.  The Fellowship focuses on four of the groups most famous members and it is an interesting look at some of the forces that shaped Tolkien and his work.  Looking for more in-depth insight into Tolkien’s work?  You can also borrow from HPL The Tolkien Companion by J. E. A. Tyler and Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit by Corey Olsen.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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