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

Dewey Decimal Challenge: Book 5: Irons in the Fire by John McPhee (The 000s)

8 Feb

For our fifth and last book in the 000s, I selected another title from the 080 general collections classification–specifically 081 general collections American. Irons in the Fire is a collection of essays, previously published in The New Yorker, by American writer John McPhee, the man who is referred to as the pioneer of creative nonfiction. The seven essays in this collection span a wide-range of topics from cattle rustling to assistive technology for the blind to tire recycling to forensic geology to Plymouth Rock.

Irons in the Fire by John McPhee (081 MCP)

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This has been my favorite pick of the Dewey Decimal Challenge thus far. McPhee’s writing style has been referred to as gentler, more literary journalism. There were several moments when I had to remind myself that I was even reading nonfiction! McPhee brings the characters in his writing alive with detail. While passages in the title essay on cattle rustling made me cringe, especially when McPhee explains the violent process of branding the cattle, I was completely absorbed while learning about this modern-day problem in Nevada leftover from the American Old West’s cowboy culture. I laughed out loud at the end of “Release”, a short essay about Robert Russell, a blind professor, and his unintentionally humorous talking computer. In “The Gravel Page”, McPhee takes us into the fascinating world of forensic geology, which was in its infancy during World War II. A team from the U.S. Geological Survey military geology unit became the key to unlocking the origin of a mysterious balloon offensive led by the Japanese. The Japanese used balloons propelled across the Pacific Ocean on a jet stream to bomb the United States. Out of the approximately 9,000 that are said to have been launched from the beaches of Japan, about 1,000 of these paper balloons carrying explosive devices reached North America. Only one balloon can be said to have fulfilled its mission, killing a local pastor’s pregnant wife and five children in Bly, Oregon in 1945. Incredibly enough, the U.S. Geological Survey military geology unit was able to trace the sand from one of the balloon’s ballast bags to a beach east of Tokyo! Also in “The Gravel Page”, we learn that forensic geology was used to track down the murderer of Adolph Coors III, grandson of Adolph Coors and heir to the Coors beer empire, as well as to determine the original burial location of D.E.A. agent Enrique Camarena, who was murdered while on assignment in Mexico by corrupt police officers working for an infamous drug lord. Since McPhee is a New Jerseyan, many of his essays do reference our state including his essay “In Virgin Forest”, which focuses on Hutcheson Memorial Forest in Franklin Township, New Jersey, a 500-acre nature preserve known for its untouched old growth forest. Rutgers University is permitted to study the woods and is tasked with protecting the periphery. But RU is not allowed to intervene if the woods come under attack by, say, a disease that kills native trees. Its research is purely observational.

While I admit that I may have grown a bit tired of reading about rocks by the time I came to the last essay, “Travels of the Rock”, I would highly recommend this collection of essays not only for their content but also for McPhee’s unique writing style. It is important to note that these essays were published in the 1990s, which means that technological advances may have rendered them irrelevant regarding current trends. Still worth the read though!

-Written by Sharlene Edwards, Senior Children’s Librarian

Click here to read past posts about Sharlene’s Dewey Decimal Challenge!

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