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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

Broadway at the Hoboken Public Library: The Book of Mormon, Wicked, and Hamilton

9 Mar

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

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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

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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.

Wicked and The Wizard of Oz have gotten a lot of love on this blog before, from Aimee, Lois, and Kim. Check out their posts for their thoughts and recommendations for more Oz-related material.

Hamilton

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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

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