Category Archives: Other

Disney’s Aladdin on Stage and Screen

While Disney is not my preferred choice for a Broadway show,  the enthusiastic New York Times review and what I saw on the Tonys, peaked my interest in seeing  the Broadway production of Aladdin, the Musical. And so yesterday, as a reward for completing a big writing project before school starts, I  went to see it and was not disappointed; it was loads of fun.  And now rereading the Times review, I’m not surprised to see that the director was also responsible for The Book of Mormon musical. Both have an old-fashioned feel and are loving appreciations of the musical theater genre with production numbers that are reminders of old favorites, while being entertaining all by themselves.

And then there is James Monroe Iglehart who rightly won a Tony for his terrific performance as Genie. At first his performance reminded me somewhat painfully of Robin William’s creation of the character in the movie, but eventually Inglehart’s terrific singing and dancing made the role all his own.  To honor both men here are their performances of the showstopper, “Friend Like Me” and then one more recent video of Inglehart  and the Broadway cast leading a tribute to Williams.

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BBC Television Series of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

I was a huge fan of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell and have been keeping an eye out on the progress of the forthcoming BBC seven-episode series.  I found this article about the filming with some images, one of which is below. There’s also  a facebook page featuring more images and stuff from the series filming.  Evidently the filming is done and they are into post-production.

Bertie Carvel plays Jonathan Strange and Eddie Marsan plays Mr. Norrell.

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Coming Soon: Katherine Coville’s The Cottage in the Woods

I love fairy tale reworkings. At the same time their popularity of late has resulted in a lot of mediocrity and so when I come across something new I’m both excited and wary. Is it going to be a goofy-movie-Shrek-imitating-like thing or more in the vein of Michael Buckley’s Fairy Tale DetectivesChristopher Healy’s Hero’s Guides, or Adam Gidwitz’s Grimm series?  And if YA dark is it going to be a lame bodice-ripper or something with heft, like Tom McNeal’s Far Far Away? And so seeing a  description of Katherine Coville’s debut novel The Cottage in the Woods on Edelweiss,  I requested it on a whim and began reading it with very low expectations.  And so what a lovely surprise when it turned out to be completely engrossing, a book I read steadily until I was done. In other words, reader, I liked it very much.

The story is a unique melding of a Regency Romance/Victorian Gothic set within a fairy tale world. Our heroine and narrator is Ursula Brown, a very proper young bear who has come to the Cottage in the Woods, the wealthy Vaughn family’s estate near Bremen Town, as their young cub’s governess. The three Vaughn bears live an elegant and refined life and Ursula slips into it without much difficulty, tolerating Mr. Vaughn’s stern admonitions, appreciating Mrs. Vaughn’s kind gestures, and falling very much in love with her sweet young charge, Teddy.  But life in the area is not easy. The Enchanted — those animals who talk, dress, and act as humans do — are struggling with envy, prejudice, racial hostility, and out-and-out vigilantism from some of their human neighbors.

The publisher indicates that this is a reworking of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” It is indeed, but I don’t wish to give away just how. I will say that I found it an enormously clever rethinking of that particular story, very much in keeping with the literary tradition Coville is working in, that of the Victorian novel.  I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of them these days and so I was very impressed with how well Coville used those tropes in her story. Ursula is very introspective, the various Enchanteds in her world are as proper and polite as anyone in an Austen, Bronte, Eliot, or Trollope novel. There is plenty of drama here, but not the swashbuckling sort of some of the other fairy tale workings. And while somber on occasion it isn’t as dark as some of the YA ones around.

There are so many clever fairy tale/nursery rhyme touches that also allude to the Victorian novel tradtion. For instance, Teddy’s nurse is an illiterate tippling badger who is quite jealous of our heroine and an amusing contrast to the cozy cute ones of Potter and others. Best of all is the Goldilock’s plot thread — it is a brilliant rethinking of the story within a classic Victorian Gothic setting.  And I love the representation of the doctor who comes to examine her at one point with his Freud-like Viennese accent.

So keep an eye out for this one. I can’t wait to see what others make of it.

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Alice in Paris (with Madeleine and others)

Just came across this remarkable movie featuring Ludwig Bemelman’s Madeleine as well as others from James Thurber, Crocket Johnson, and Eve Titus.

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Coretta Scott King Book Awards

Over at the Nerdy Book Club today I’ve got a post highlighting this year’s Coretta Scott King award winners with the hope that it will help more learn about this important award.

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Peter Pan Live

I’m very curious about the December 4th NBC live production of Peter Pan (with the just-announced Christopher Walken as Captain Hook).  I grew up with the yearly Mary Martin version (first broadcast in 1960) and, as a result, know the songs inside and out. I wonder, will they have Peter played by a woman as is usually the case with this particular version of Barrie’s story? And then there is that very problematic Tiger Lily American Indian story line. How are they going to make that acceptable for audiences today?

If you want a taste of the 1960 Tiger Lily, here she is as played by the very blonde Sondra Lee:

 

 

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Putting a Stop on the Middle Grade Novel’s Increasing Girth

Travis Jonker has a manifesto: All Middle Grade Novels Should Be 192 Pages. No Exceptions.  I like it. A lot. But still do have an exception.  Here’s my comment on his post:

Yes!!! I am with you on this with a caveat (see below). I have always tried to keep my read-alouds (to my 4th grade class) to as close to 200 pages as possible, but it has become harder and harder to stick to that what with many terrific mg books being way more than that. (One of my favorites from last year — Kathi Appelt’s True Blue Scouts — is 352 pages. On the other hand, Jennifer Holm’s forthcoming The Fourteenth Goldfish, which I read aloud to my class last year, is a just right 208 pages.) My reasoning is that I feel that if some of my listeners aren’t 100% into the book (and I can’t believe all of them are rapt no matter how great a reader I am and how great many of us think the book is — they have their own tastes after all), they aren’t stuck with it too too long. And I also think it applies so much to newly independent readers who can lose steam.

That said, I think there is a place for books like Andy Griffith’s 26 Story Treehouse (352 pages) and Stephen Patis’s Timothy Failure (304 pages), books that are light, easy reading for kids who may not gravitate to the arguably more literary titles along the lines of those you mention. They love the longer length of these sorts of books. Makes them feel they are there with those reading so many of the other  longer popular titles (e.g. Percy Jackson or Harry Potter).

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