Tag Archives: wicked

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

Reimagination

5 Mar

You might say that no one should ever rewrite a classic book, but then we’d miss some marvelous reworked titles entirely worthy of the reader’s attention.  Among Young Adult and Children’s books, there are endless retellings of fairy and folk tales in contemporary settings or with feminist themes or with wolves being cast as the victims of onerous pigs.  However, the following books, appropriate for adults or mature teen readers, retell their tales with an entirely new approach and some somewhat different outcomes.

When She Woke, by Hillary Jordan.

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This was my favorite book of several years ago, and is an excellent selection for book groups to discuss. If anything, this reworking of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, becomes more real and frightening with each passing political season.  It is the near future.  The New Depression has ended and the latest Scourge is controlled, but people have returned to fundamentalist values with a vengeance.  In Plano, Texas, young Hannah Payne’s movements are carefully controlled by her mother and her church, a mega cathedral run by the charismatic Aiden Dale. Aiden has his sights set on a political career.  However, he also has his personal sights set on Hannah.  After he seduces her and she finds herself pregnant, she sees no alternative but an illegal abortion. Her transgression is found out and, as she won’t name the father of her child, she bears the responsibility herself and is dyed red as a visual symbol of her sin.  Cast out by her mother, she is sent to a facility that is a cross between a reprogramming center and a nunnery.  There, she and her sister sinners are abused and punished until Hannah leaves and casts her fate with a feminist group notorious for their civil disobedience and her one way to leave the restraints of the United States for the freedom of Canada. This compelling tale will make you think how stranger than fiction our current truths are, and will bring to mind in its literacy and storytelling Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, by Gregory Maguire.

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You will be most familiar with the book from its metamorphosis into a long running (although not Tony winning for Best Musical – that went to Avenue Q) Broadway show.  Winnie Holtzman, who wrote the book for the show, used Gregory Maguire’s fantasy merely as a jumping off point for her play.  The book itself is complex, detailed, darkly satirical, and very political.  As the first of a series of books told from the different viewpoints of characters in Wicked, the stories become progressively murkier and much more political, making clear the author’s feelings on everything from the Bush presidency to gay rights and unwanted, overlong wars. However, in the first book, Maguire focuses on the relationship between two young witches-in-training, Elphaba Thropp and Galinda Upland who meet at Shiz University.  Elphaba bears the green coloring of her mother’s adultery.  Her mother, wife of a provincial governor, cheated with a traveling salesman who gave her a draught that did not prevent pregnancy, but instead turned her child green.  Later, a milkweed elixir crippled a future child, Nessarose. Now, both girls are at Shiz where it is revealed that Elphaba, in particular, has great talent for magic. Elphaba also has great talent for trouble as she becomes actively involved in underground activities on behalf of talking Animals whose rights are being taken away. Another student, a handsome Winky prince named Fiyero seems fated for the bubbly Galinda, but is instead attracted to Elphaba and her lost causes. The book ends with an open-ended question of Elphaba’s survival and the possibility that she has left behind a half-Winky offspring who will carry on the family tradition of trouble and magic.  Honestly, you will either love or hate this book and its subsequent episodes. I found it magical in every sense of the word.

Love in the Time of Global Warming, by Francesca Lia Block.

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Everything old is new again as acclaimed author, Francesca Lia Block, takes the classic story of Homer’s The Odyssey and presents it as a post-apocalyptic tale that is a brilliant, contemporary dystopian novel.   The heroic story receives a “girlist” twist by making the lead character a teenage girl named Penelope.  When the great Earth Shaker hits her Los Angeles area home, Penelope doesn’t know the scope of the destruction, whether it is limited to the coastline or a worldwide catastrophe. What Penelope does know is that her family has vanished, leaving her surrounded by roiling seas in an island-bound pink house that was once her home. A heretofore unknown home invader, who is revealed to have familial ties to Penelope, gives the girl a battered VW van in which she travels through newly created wastelands and picks up a posse of young men who help her search for her family who, she believes, are still alive in Las Vegas. The group follows butterfly spirit guides that Penelope pursues, and is enticed but reimagined characters from the myth: sirens, a Medusa-like soap opera star, denizens of a lotus den, and a visionary witch. Penelope also confronts and vanquishes a giant Cyclops, one of a race of genetic aberrations created by a mad scientist whose experiments may have ended the world. As with Block’s other books, this one is LGBTQ friendly because Penelope is questioning her sexuality; her new love, Hex, is transgender; and Ez and Ash, the two other young men who complete their band, are gay. Block’s writing is pure poetry in its flow and symbolism. So many dystopian novels seem to be written by the pound, but Block is economical in her language without sacrificing storytelling or the mythological references.  This should be a companion piece for students who are reading the original myth for the first time. Yet it has the potential to be that hard-to-achieve crossover book for adults because the language and imagery is both lyrical and alarming in its descriptions of Armageddon and its sepia recollection of the world before.  This is the first in a series about Penelope’s quests.

Snow in August, by Pete Hamill.

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This is a very old book, in 2014, but I count it among my favorite coming-of-age novels.  It is based, very loosely, on an old Jewish folktale about a mud monster created by a Czech rabbi to save his people from pogroms. Built from clay, the monster is brought to life with the secret name of G-d and can only be killed when a prayer scroll is removed from his head.  Pete Hamill, an old JFK colleague and former swain of Jackie Kennedy, brings the story forward to post-war Brooklyn where Rabbi Judah Hirsch has come as a survivor of the Holocaust and settled in a primarily Catholic neighborhood.  The neighborhood is not a safe place because it is ruled by a thuggish gang of teens who have murdered a Jewish shopkeeper, an act that was witnessed by young Michael Devlin.  Michael saves his own neck by promising not to “squeal” despite repeated questioning by local police nicknamed “Abbott and Costello.”  However, Michael’s life becomes more complicated when Rabbi Hirsch asks him to do work that Jews are not permitted to do on the Sabbath, and the two develop a close relationship as Michael teaches the rabbi English and the ins and outs and baseball, and the Rabbi teaches Michael to speak Yiddish and the legend of the golem.  When Michael and the Rabbi run afoul of the gang, again, Michael takes it upon himself to create a golem who bears more than a passing resemblance to a comic book superhero (which was, not incidentally, created by Jewish artists in the World War II period).  With the golem’s arrival, Brooklyn becomes a magical place where the evildoers are brought to justice, the dead of the Holocaust return to life, and it can even snow in the middle of a sultry August night.

All four of these books combine social commentary with excellent storytelling and timeliness with themes that readers will know from the past.

-Written by Lois Rubin Gross, Senior Children’s Librarian

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