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Monday
December 06th, 2021

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. 

stuber spotlight pageCourtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

Uber drivers face their share of weird/crazy every day as they go about their jobs and the recently released movie “Stuber” explores just how crazy one day can get. The film follows meek Uber driver Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) who becomes part of LAPD detective Vic Manning’s (Dave Bautista) arrest/sting operation against the drug lord who murdered his partner.

The only knowledge I had about this movie was a trailer I had seen before another video I’d been watching on YouTube and this past weekend, a trip to the movies was in order and “Stuber” was ultimately what I ended up seeing. While I normally come away from a new movie either really liking it or really disliking it, I came away from “Stuber” with a mostly “Meh” feeling about the movie overall. 

The first gripe I have about this movie is how it didn’t really seem to have a set tone and couldn’t quite decide whether it wanted to be a buddy comedy or dramatic thriller – the movie has a death within the first five minutes (along with other blood and violence throughout) but there are also jokes, so it felt like rather a mess and there were points where I wasn’t entire sure how to respond. I couldn’t help but wonder afterward as I was walking home “How much better could this movie have been if it had settled into just one genre?”

And that leads into another gripe I have, which is how the leads are ultimately wasted because the movie isn’t settled into one genre. Bautista has shown he is capable of tapping into both his comedic and more dramatic sides in his past works, but ultimately, we don’t get the chance to see him do that deep dive because the messy tone doesn’t give him the chance to do that in  this role, which is a shame. And while Nanjiani proved he has good comedic timing throughout the movie, again, we don’t get to see him fully tap into that because the tone’s such a mess. On the flip side of that, however, I did like the chemistry between these two and thought they played off each other really well in their scenes together. If the movie had stuck to being an opposites attract/buddy comedy, I really think the movie’s energy would have been off the charts and everything would have flowed much, much more smoothly. Unfortunately though, we’ll never know how such a movie would have ended up. 

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