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La La Land

La La Land (2016, rated PG-13) was the best musical I've seen in years, and so of course I think the soundtrack is great too. As I listen to each song, I can see the scene in the movie in my memory. I have a cousin whose daughter is a dancer and whenever I hear the opening song, "Another day of Sun," I see those kids dancing on those cars on that bottle-necked freeway in Los Angeles and it reminds me of her.

While it may be true that La La Land would be a terrific rom/com even without a great musical score, having fabulous music makes it the great movie that it is. I think it should have won the Oscar for Best Picture, but what do I know? Check out the soundtrack on Hoopla today.

My Fair Lady

One of the most interesting, well-directed, and well-performed movies is My Fair Lady (1964, rated G). I have seen it more than 10 times, and I like to watch it over and over again. It rejuvenates me. The songs are great and the language used is superior. This classic stars Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison.

It is a wonderful movie that demonstrates the progress in human development in some classes of society while some sectors of society languish in ignorance. Above all, it's the score, that incredible score, that always leaves me amazed.

Check out the DVD or place a hold on the soundtrack.

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Spotlight: Musicals

You can't go wrong with Julie Andrews singing and acting in these classic movie musicals.

The Sound of Music (1965, rated G) is such a great romantic and comedic movie! This is a movie for all ages. It's one I enjoy watching over again even though I first watched it at a very young age. The underlying music is quite enlightening. The young children in the movie were superb in their performances.

Mary Poppins (1964, rated G) is a childhood classic that you will remember when you grow up. The story is great, the music is wonderful, and this movie is amazing. Listen to the soundtrack on Hoopla.

Watch both films on Disney+ by borrowing one of the library's Family Rokus with Disney Plus or placing a hold on the DVDs or Blu-rays today. Want more Julie Andrews? Listen to her sing her favorite Broadway showtunes on Hoopla today.


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Hamilton: One Shot to Broadway

What an amazing journey to see how genius Lin-Manuel Miranda created the Broadway hit Hamilton. He was inspired to write an updated, contemporary, hip-hop musical that reignited New York City's Times Square. After writing the story and music, Miranda starred as the title character (and won a lot of Tony Awards).

After reading a biography on an obscure founding father, Miranda was inspired to write this musical. Side note: Alexander Hamilton (2008)by Ron Chernow is available in Overdrive as an ebook, abridged audio (11 hours), and unabridged audio (35 hours).

Miranda brought Hamilton to life by showing his humanity and flaws. He shined light on a historical character that is self-made and rises to unexpected heights. Another groundbreaking effort was Miranda's movement to diversify roles in his musical to further diversity in musical theater.

I highly recommend this documentary to see the inspiration behind the creator of the hit musical Hamilton.Watch Hamilton: One Shot to Broadway (2017, rated TV-PG) on Hoopla today. Then, listen to the Hamilton soundtrack on Hoopla too!

And exciting news: the Broadway production will be available on Disney+ starting July 3. Reserve one of our Family Rokus today for your chance to watch the production.


Blinded by the Light

What kind of world do we want to live in? From Gurinder Chadha, director of Bend It Like Beckham, comes another feel-good film about coming of age and struggling with familial expectations.

Set in 1980s England, British Pakistani teen Javed discovers the music of Bruce Springsteen, inspiring him to change his life. Loosely based on the memoir of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, the film Blinded by the Light (2019, PG-13) features Bruce Springsteen's words and music as a character.


Aladdin

If you are a devoted Disney fan like me, you may be reluctant about the company's recent foray into live-action remakes of their classic animated movies.  In this 2019 live-action version of Aladdin (rated PG), I went in with low expectations, especially for Will Smith in the role of Genie, because Robin Williams' performance as the 1992 animated Genie was so outstanding.  Smith ultimately does not try to mimic Williams' style and interpretation, but rather adds his own flair to the part.  Genie even gets an expanded storyline in the live-action.  I also appreciated that Jasmine was a more developed character, expressing a desire to break down the oppression of her society and voice her opinions as a leader.

Composer and songwriter Alan Menken returns to score the live-action film, enhancing his original music and adding additional songs not part of the 1992 version.  So perhaps Disney can, in fact, be successful in livening up their animated classics after all!

Be sure to check out the soundtrack as well on CD or via Hoopla.

Fun Home: A New Broadway Musical (2015)

funhomeostCheck out the soundtrack to Fun Home, the 2015 Tony Award-winning Best Musical based off the graphic novel memoir by Alison Bechdel.
It tells the story of Alison's experiences growing up with her family, in college, and as a 43-year-old adult. The musical uses three different actors to play Alison.

The music ranges from funny and humorous to poignant as it conveys all three viewpoints of Alison. My favorite song is the anthem "Ring of Keys" when young Alison realizes that she recognizes herself in an older lesbian.

I definitely recommend reading the graphic novel memoir, as well as getting some insight into the musical since not every scene is on the CD. You can do that by listening to the podcast Broadway Backstory or investigating the musical's website.

Recommended for fans of RENT, In the Heights, and Spring Awakening.

 

The Greatest Showman (2017) PG

greatestshowmanFrom start to finish, The Greatest Showman mesmerizes—from the kaleidoscope of colorful costumes and sets to the catchy musical numbers. It portrays the musical story of P.T. Barnum, magnificently played by Hugh Jackman. The extravaganza starts when he is a poor orphan who falls in love and then marries a girl from a well-to-do, snobby family, Charity (Michelle Williams) and starts a family. Then, he sets out to fulfill his dream of building the greatest show on earth. Barnum hires a dwarf, Tom Thumb, and others with physical abnormalities, such as a giant to attract audiences, but treats them with respect. The moving song, “This is Me”, performed by the bearded lady, Tony nominee Keala Settle, won the 2018 Golden Globe for Best Original Song. Also, “Rewrite the Stars” sung by Barnum’s business partner (Zac Efron) and an African-American trapeze artist (Zendaya) while performing their own aerial stunts reflects their budding romance in the face of prejudices.

The Greatest Showman is pure entertainment for school-aged children and adults. There is also a sing-a-long version. Check out The Greatest Showman: original motion picture soundtrack to listen to the incredible songs again.
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The Greatest Showman (2017) PG

greatestshowmanA visually stunning original movie musical, The Greatest Showman stars Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, and Zendaya. The story follows P. T. Barnum and the origins of the circus, but at its heart, the film is about acceptance and relationships and dreams. Oscar-winning lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul wrote the show stopping Oscar-nominated anthem "This is Me" along with so much other memorable music (such as redemption song “From Now On”). After you watch the movie, you’ll definitely want to check out the soundtrack on Hoopla.

Check in next month for Mary S.’s take on the film.
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Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (2014)

Carole King fought her way into the music business as a teenager. Along with her husband Gerry Goffin, she gave us songs we still sing along to. The musical follows her career along the bumpy road to fame and fortune.

Beautiful: The Carol King Musical (original Broadway cast recording) highlights such hits as "Up on the Roof," "You've Got a Friend," "On Broadway," "Uptown," and many more. It is impossible not to want to sing along to this recording! It is a wonderful story with the bonus of exceptional music. Listen to the music CD or stream the album on Hoopla.

Bells Are Ringing (1960)

A delightfully charming musical romantic comedy, Bells Are Ringing stars Dean Martin and Judy Holliday. Ella is a kindhearted telephone answering service operator who can’t help but meddle in her customers’ lives: making love connections and arranging employment opportunities. She’s in love with one of her clients: Jeffrey, a playwright with writer’s block. The storyline is full of silliness and warmth, and the film is definitely one worth revisiting (and thanks to Debbie for the recommendation).

Directed by Vincente Minnelli (Meet Me in St. Louis, Designing Women, etc.).

Summer Stock (1950)

summerstockSummer Stock is a feel-good, corny (pun intended), let’s-put-on-a-show-in-the-barn musical starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. His unforgettable dance with a newspaper and creaky floorboards, and Garland’s show stopping “Get Happy” highlight this cheerful, old-fashioned film.

Check out Turner Classic Movies’ article on Summer Stock, then watch the film.

The Merry Widow (1934)

merrywidowJeanette MacDonald, before being paired with Nelson Eddy, made several charming musicals with Maurice Chevalier. MacDonald, as the title character, owns 52% of her homeland of Marshovia. She throws off her widow's weeds to enjoy the excitement of Paris. But what if she decides to stay in Paris? What of her 52%? Sent, for the good of the country, to woo and wed the widow is Captain Donilo, the most accomplished lady's man the country has to offer. The Merry Widow is full of delightful songs and humor.

Spotlight: Edward Norton

One actor whose films I’m always anxious to watch is Edward Norton. He is so gifted and versatile. The characters he plays are often intense and/or troubled, and always captivating and true-to-life. My favorite films are American History X (1998) and Primal Fear (1996), although I’ve also enjoyed many others. Here’s a selection of some of his movies that are available at IPPL:

Spotlight: 1930s Germany

Spotlight: 1930s GermanyIf you have just finished reading In the Garden of Beasts (Erik Larson’s portrait of Germany as the Nazis rise to power and influence), you might like one of the following movie depictions of the same time and place.

Cabaret (1972) is the popular musical starring Liza Minelli as the original “good time girl” who is oblivious to the changes happening around her. Based on The Berlin Stories of Christopher Isherwood.

Three Comrades (1938) is a poignant story of the love between fragile Margaret Sullavan and Robert Taylor. Taylor’s other two comrades are Franchot Tone and Robert Young.  Young, politically active, runs into trouble with the pro-Nazi marchers in the streets.

Mephisto (1981) is a German language movie with Klaus Maria Brandauer, as an actor who sells his soul to the devil in order to keep working in Nazi-era Germany.

The Harmonists (1997) is based on the true story of a successful German singing group that was forced to disband in 1934 because three of its members were Jewish.