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Friday
February 28th, 2020

hamilton spotlight pageELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

My hometown of Conway Springs is about 200 miles east of Liberal on good old U.S. Highway 54 and I don’t get very many chances to go home and spend time with my family. This past weekend, however, I made the trek on the highway to go to Conway so I could meet my mom because we had plans for a girls’ night down in Oklahoma City to see a performance of the national tour of the  Tony Award-sweeping hip-hop musical “Hamilton.” I had wanted to see this show onstage ever since the first time I heard the soundtrack thanks to YouTube and Friday night, that finally came true. 

For those who haven’t heard of the show or listened to the soundtrack, it follows founding father Alexander Hamilton and focuses mostly on the period from when he immigrated to the U.S. until his (in)famous duel with Aaron Burr. Other founding fathers and historical figures are also featured in the show including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and King George III. There are moments of laughter and there are a few moments that always bring about the waterworks. 

The first thing I absolutely have to give praise to about this show is the choreography. This was a main feature of the show my mom and I  talked about after the show and the reason we couldn’t stop talking about it was because it was amazing. Every step was sharp and precise and all the dancers were also extremely graceful as they were going about the musical numbers. I can’t imagine how much blood, sweat and tears went into perfecting all of that for the national tour. I also really liked how the dancers also served as minor background characters throughout the show, almost like a Greek chorus kind of situation. I actually remarked to my mom if that’s what they have to do for the national tour performances (i.e. the stamina and strength, etc.), I can’t help but wonder how strong the performers with the show on Broadway are. 

broadway collage spotlight pageCourtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m a big musical theater fan and if I had enough money, I’d hop a plane to New York basically every weekend to catch shows. As I do not have those types of funds however, I’ve had to settle for listening to shows’ soundtracks thanks to the magic of YouTube (in fact, I’m actually listening to a musical soundtrack as I’m writing this). In the spirit of that journey I’ve taken, I thought it would be nice to share what I consider my favorite soundtracks from shows. Like always, these are just my personal favorites and I’m not slighting any shows. 

 

“Heathers”

I got introduced to this show  (which follows the same plot as the original 1980s film about the students at Westerburg High School) by some comments on a video of another cast recording I was listening to. At that time I hadn’t heard anything about it and went in basically blind and I ended up absolutely loving it. The songs are fun and catchy (once you listen to “Candy Store” one time, you’ll have it stuck in your head for life, and “Dead Girl Walking” is just awesome) and the cast on the soundtrack (which features Barrett Wilbert Weed as leading lady Veronica Sawyer) is ridiculously talented. I feel like this show is somewhat underrated and if it was given the chance on an actual Broadway stage, it would be a powerhouse. The songs are modern but have just enough of an 80s vibe to appeal to that demographic and in its own subtle way tackles some serious issues throughout the show such as bullying, abuse and school violence. 

 

“Beetlejuice”

This show is an adaptation of the Tim Burton movie of the same name from 1988 about the recently deceased couple the Maitlands, who try to scare the new inhabitants out of their former home and end up asking for help from a devious ghost named Betelgeuse (pronounced "Beetlejuice"). I wasn’t really that impressed with the movie, so I wasn’t entirely excited when I heard about the musical that had been made. But one day the soundtrack came up in my suggestions and thought “May as well see what it’s like” and I was completely blown away. Alex Brightman (who was robbed of the Best Actor in a Musical Tony for this year) gives it his all as the titular character and the rest of the cast on the recording is also super talented. The songs are also great (I catch myself humming “The Whole Being Dead Thing” and “That Beautiful Sound” all the time). And while the show is mostly a comedy, it actually tackles death in an understandable and helpful way, and you can hear that throughout the more serious songs. If you’re a fan of the movie and enjoy a more rock-oriented score, you’ll enjoy this soundtrack. 

the lion king 2019 spotlight pageCourtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

I have a very special connection with “The Lion King” that has been going on for a long time. It had its limited release the day I turned 3 years old and it was one of the movies I loved to watch when I was little, in spite of the fact that it made me cry basically every viewing. I also loved singing the songs around my house and even got to do a medley of songs in choir for a concert when I was in either elementary school or middle school. 

So when I heard not too long ago that plans were in place for a live-action remake, I was incredibly wary about it and my main thought was “How can they possibly remake something that’s already so classic and perfect?!” Well, I got to find out just that Tuesday night here after strolling to the movie theater here in town and settling myself into my theater seat. And overall, the movie surprised me in a lot of ways – some good and bad – but overall, I’m glad I put my wariness aside to see what Jon Favreau did with the project. 

For those who don’t know, the movie’s story follows follows lion cub Simba, who must embrace his role as the rightful king of his native land several years after the murder of his father, Mufasa, at the hands of his uncle Scar. 

The first thing I’ve got to give praise to is the scenery and design because they are both absoutely stunning and make you feel like you’re actually in Africa and watching the story and everything take place. Much like Disney’s remake of “The Jungle Book” back in 2016 (also directed by Favreau), the overall scenery looks lush and pretty, particularly at the Pride Rock location and the clearing where Simba lives after he runs away and is done very well. The design of all the animals is also done very well and it was astounding how realistic they looked – I actually wanted to pick up baby Simba and give him a million pets and hugs because he is so adorable! While the animated animals from the original will always have a place in my heart, I have to give credit where it’s due and say Favreau clearly put a lot of thought into how he wanted everything to look. 

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