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Jez

Mamma Mia! (2008) & Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

Based on the hit Broadway musical of the same name, Mamma Mia! follows a young woman named Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), who is about to get married, and wants to invite her birth father, but first she needs to find out who he is. Her mother, Donna (Meryl Streep), first came to Greece in her early 20s, and, according to a diary Sophie finds, was with three men around the time of Sophie's conception. In an effort to find out the truth, she invites all three to her wedding.

In Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, we find Sophie working to transform her mother's Greek villa into a bed & breakfast. She wants to make the grand opening as spectacular as possible to honor Donna's memory. Though a sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, focuses a lot of its time on Donna's youth, showing a younger version (Lily James) first coming to Greece and meeting the three men later questioned to be Sophie's father.

Both films exist in the fantastical world where every moment leads to breaking out in a hit ABBA song. Fans of the Swedish superstars have a lot to love here, with Mamma Mia prominently featuring many of their biggest hits from their Gold album and the sequel finding lesser known, but still enjoyable songs. Featuring an all-star cast, including Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård, Christine Baranski, and Julie Walters, these musicals make a light and enjoyable double feature.

Katie

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.

 
Mary S.

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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Jennifer

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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Mary P.

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.
Jez

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Season 1 (2015)

Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom) went to a great school, got a great job, and is about to be named partner of her law firm…so why doesn’t she feel happy? As she’s having a nervous breakdown over this, she runs into Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III), her childhood boyfriend from camp, who’s giving up on the New York life to move back to his hometown, West Covina, CA. Realizing being with Josh was the last time she felt good about herself, Rebecca quits her job, ends her lease, and immediately moves to California to be with him. Only, there’s a catch: Josh has a girlfriend.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a hilarious and quirky TV musical, where each song is a very specific parody of a popular artist or genre. Between its songs and lovable cast, its positive messages regarding mental health and friendship, there’s no way to go wrong with this off-beat comedy.
Jennifer

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.).
Shirley

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.
IPPL Staff

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.
Denise

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:
IPPL Staff

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.
Mary S.

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.
IPPL Staff

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.
Jennifer

Singin’ in the Rain

Singin’ in the Rain (1952) G
This classic musical comedy is pure entertainment. Set in the 1920s, Singin’ in the Rain shows the awkward transition from silent films to talkies. Everything works in this film – the skits, the songs, and the stars.

The greatest movie musical of all time (according to the American Film Institute) stars Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, and Jean Hagen. Read Roger Ebert’s take on the film. Check out TCM to watch movie clips and featurettes.
IPPL Staff

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.