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In the Heights

If you love Lin-Manuel Miranda and his hit Broadway musical- Hamilton, then I think you will truly enjoy watching the musical "In the Heights" on DVD. I loved this movie! The songs and dancing tell the story of a tight knit community in Washington Heights, NY. The entire cast is so talented in telling the stories of many of the Latin American people working hard to chase their dreams. This musical is a colorful celebration of music, friends, family, neighborhood and love. The music and choreography are so cleverly done. Great movie to share with the family. I highly recommend watching more than once.




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.

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.


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 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: 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.

Hairspray

Hairspray (2007) PG
Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky), an overweight and goodhearted teenager, is able to live her dream and become a regular member of her favorite TV dance program, The Corney Collins Show,which seems to be Baltimore’s version of American Bandstand.

This lively musical is set in 1962 when segregation was prominent. The issues of prejudice and integration are dealt with in an upbeat manner. See John Travolta transformed into Tracy’s plus sized mother. I finished my viewing with a smile on my face and songs in my head, especially “You Can’t Stop the Beat” and “Big, Blonde and Beautiful” (sang by Queen Latifah).

Also costarring Amanda Bynes, Zac Efron, Allison Janney, James Marsden, Michelle Pfeiffer, Brittany Snow, and Christopher Walken.

Hairspray was based on John Waters’ cult film Hairspray (1988) which spawned a Broadway musical and this movie version. Check out the music with the CD Hairspray: original Broadway cast recording.

Sweet Charity

Sweet Charity (1968)
Charity (Shirley MacLaine) is sweet and trusting and easily used by the worthless men she keeps falling in love with. When Charity meets a young insurance clerk who doesn’t know about her life as a dance hall hostess, Charity thinks, “this could be it!”

For another movie choreographed and directed by Bob Fosse, see All That Jazz.

Moulin Rouge!

Moulin Rouge! (2001) PG-13
The opening scene of this movie is a frenetic, whirling burst of lights, colors, and music! But try and stick with it because it is one luscious movie!

As the story goes, Christian, an impoverished writer, comes to Paris and falls in with Toulouse-Lautrec and the Bohemians of Montmartre, which leads us all to a merry romp at the Moulin Rouge. Christian meets Satine, the club's star and a beautiful courtesan. When he falls head-over-heels in love with her, a dangerous love triangle begins!

Ewan McGregor is terrific as Christian, Nicole Kidman is perfect as Satine, and they sing and dance! Visit About.com to find more about the movie, the stars, and the music.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
This funny and entertaining musical just might be Marilyn Monroe’s best movie. In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Monroe and costar Jane Russell are superb. To publicize the movie, the actresses put their handprints in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre – and they both wrote “gentlemen prefer blondes.”

For more fun facts about the movie, visit the TCM website. And enjoy this video of the leading ladies at Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

Bells are Ringing

Bells are Ringing (1960)
Telephone operator Ella Peterson (Judy Holliday) becomes involved with the lives of all the customers at Susanswerphone, including handsome playwright Jeffrey Moss (Dean Martin). When Ella finally meets Jeffrey, its love at first sight, but she can't tell him who she really is--the motherly voice on the phone who has been listening to his problems and giving him advice. Includes the songs "Just in Time" and "The Party's Over." Also with Jean Stapleton (of All in the Family) and directed by Vincente Minnelli. See it at the library on Friday, December 5 at 7:00.

Lubitsch Musicals

Lubitsch Musicals (2008)

For anyone with an interest in classic movies, this collection of four very early Ernst Lubitsch musicals is for you. The movies – Love Parade (1929), Monte Carlo (1930), The Smiling Lieutenant (1931), and One Hour With You (1932) – star Maurice Chavlalier, Jeanette MacDonald, a very young Claudette Colbert, Miriam Hopkins, and Charles Ruggles. These “pre-code” movies will surprise you with their wink wink nod nod innuendo and slinky negligees. Although not to everyone’s tastes, there are many delightful moments in these charming treasures.

Get information about each of the movies, as well as links to reviews in national newspapers and magazines, at the Criterion Collection site. You can also listen to an NPR review of the collection.