Leigh’s Broadway Picks from 2017

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As 2017 comes to an end, I wanted to reflect on something that I’ve been listening to a lot this year: Broadway cast albums.

After I saw the live recording of Newsies back in February (and became obsessed), I decided to try listening to some Broadway cast recordings. It seems to me that many people frown upon listening to these albums (maybe less these days after Hamilton) because they think it all sounds cheesy, which I totally disagree with because many current musicals actually sound very similar to things on the radio and have great themes as well. So, I thought I would share with you some of the musicals I listened to this year, as well as a few I hope to listen to as 2018 starts. I will start off with my top two, then go into a few others I listened to a couple of times and ones I hope to listen to soon.

  1. Newsies: music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Jack Feldman (On Broadway from 2012-2014)

On Spotify? Yes.

Favorite song? Watch What Happens (Reprise)

This is my favorite musical of all time. Yes, I like it more than Hamilton. Not only is the music extremely energetic and entertaining, but the themes are very relevant today (strength of the younger generation and standing up for what you believe in). With powerhouse voices like Jeremy Jordan, Ben Fankhauser, Kara Lindsay, and Andrew Keenan-Bolger taking the lead on the soundtrack, you really can’t go wrong. Each leads’ voice lends something unique to the soundtrack. I also love the plot of the show and how fun the lyrics are. Plus, you can’t go wrong with cute guys flipping and dancing around on stage for two hours. But, to experience that, you’ll have to sit down and take a look at the live recording on Netflix. I highly recommend both!

  1. Dear Evan Hansen: music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (On Broadway from 2016-present)

On Spotify? Yes.

Favorite song? Sincerely, Me

I’ve always known about this show, and I was over the moon when Ben Platt won Best Actor and the show won Best Musical at the Tony Awards. However, it was within the last few months that I started listening to it religiously because it wasn’t until then when I realized how relatable and important the lyrics are. The music is also insanely catchy and could definitely be heard on the radio, with its prominent guitars giving it a singer-songwriter vibe. Each song has its own message that accumulates into one big message about the importance of mental health and not being alone. Ben Platt’s powerful vocals round it out and turn it into a stellar musical with a stellar story. It’s a show that can still be the fantastic musical it is without any flashy instruments or a big production.

  1. Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812: music and lyrics by Dave Malloy (On Broadway from 2016-2017)

On Spotify? Yes.

Favorite song? Letters

Amidst all the drama regarding the lead of the show and its failure to get nominated for a Grammy, this show was still the most nominated musical at the 2017 Tony Awards and is still a great album. It’s similar to Hamilton, as it’s a sung-through show, so the soundtrack is basically the show itself. The music and vocals are what really make this show unique and much different from what you would expect. Although I did have trouble understanding the plot, it’s probably because I listened to it while doing homework, because I thought the music was good for that, so I wasn’t focused on the lyrics. This soundtrack is good if you’re in the mood for something very individual and different from other Broadway shows.

  1. SpongeBob SquarePants: music and lyrics by various artists (On Broadway from 2017-present)

On Spotify? Yes.

Favorite song? Bikini Bottom Day

Okay, hear me out. This musical is actually pretty good. I can’t speak for the plot, but the music that I heard on the cast album was a lot of fun. It brought back a lot of memories from when I would watch reruns of the original cartoon on Saturday mornings. I’ve only had a chance to listen to it once, but I will definitely make sure to listen to it again. Ethan Slater really nails the SpongeBob voice and somehow manages to carry it throughout all his singing, which I applaud him for. And I guarantee you’ve heard of at least one person who wrote music for the show. Sara Bareilles? John Legend? Panic! At The Disco? I recommend you try it at least once. It’s an interesting listen.

  1. Bandstand: music by Richard Oberacker and lyrics by Oberacker and Robert Taylor (On Broadway in 2017)

On Spotify? No, but on YouTube and Amazon Prime Music

Favorite Song? Nobody

I’d always wanted to listen to this soundtrack, as I’m a fan of Corey Cott, and I’d seen the huge following it had amassed. So, I finally decided to listen to it a week or so ago, after finding it on Prime Music. I fell in love with it after just the first song. I love the modern vibe that is subtly intertwined with the swing music from the late 1940s it portrays. It’s the type of music you can tap your foot along to and dance around to. Plus, Cott and Laura Osnes’ voices are really great individually and are even better together. The show does a great job discussing PTSD symptoms many soldiers feel post-war (as it takes places after World War 2), especially in the song Welcome Home (Finale). The whole album is fantastic and I can’t wait to listen to it more.

Cast Albums I Plan On Listening to Soon:

The Band’s Visit: music and lyrics by David Yazbek (On Broadway from 2017-present)

On Spotify? Yes.

Once On This Island 2017 Revival: music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens

On Spotify? Not right now, but being released 2/23/2018

Anastasia: music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens

On Spotify? Yes.

And many more….

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Are You Using Rotten Tomatoes Wrong?

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Hey everyone! I’ve been fairly busy this week getting ready for school to start, so I don’t have a new post. However, I do want to share this video posted today by a YouTube channel I like called ScreenJunkies News (an affiliate of the channel ScreenJunkies, who you may know for doing the Honest Trailers videos). I really enjoyed how in depth they went about the history of Rotten Tomatoes, how studios and the public are using the website today, and how to actually use the website itself. If you’d be interested in me going more into depth into my thoughts on Rotten Tomatoes, as well as movie critics, the best websites to use, and the best critics to listen to, please let me know!

Click the image below to check out the video.

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The Importance of a Certain Walking Marshmallow

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This post was inspired by a picture I posted to my Snapchat story a couple of months ago on a long (and late) drive home from Southern California.

If you didn’t know already, I’m a huge fan of superheroes. I’m also a huge fan of Disney. So naturally, when Marvel and Disney partnered to release Big Hero 6 in 2014, I was ecstatic. The movie not only had a great message but was also funny and well-made with the best merchandise. (Yes, I do have a stuffed Baymax.) However, I didn’t realize the great message the movie had until a few years later.

If you haven’t seen Big Hero 6, I highly recommend you stop now and watch the movie. Not only are there some spoilers to follow, it’s also an amazing movie. (You can check it out on ABC this Saturday, August 5 at 8 pm.)

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As you might already know, Hiro Hamada’s older brother Tadashi (RIP) attends San Fransokyo Institute of Technology. There, he has created Baymax, a lovable robot who aims to provide healthcare to anyone who needs it. After Tadashi dies in a fire, Baymax stays in the corner of Hiro’s bedroom, not activated. However, one day, when Hiro drops his nanobot robot on his foot and exclaims “Ow!” (one of Baymax’s activation words), Baymax activates to help Hiro. When Baymax completes his scan of Hiro, he discovers nothing wrong physically, but something wrong mentally. You can watch a clip of this scene here.

That scene is a catalyst for the rest of the movie. Baymax goes through all the crazy adventures and fighting with Hiro as he believes that it will help Hiro heal. He addresses Hiro’s mental health with equal importance as he does Hiro’s physical health, something that I believe to be extremely important for children (and everyone else) to understand. Your brain is still a part of your body, just like your bones and muscles, so why should it be treated any differently?

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Hiro is not the only character dealing with their mental health. The villain (Professor Callaghan) is also dealing with grief (like Hiro), as well as stress and anger. Chase Ricks, who published an article about the movie's representation of mental and physical disabilities, believes that the shy characters in the movie all might have Autism (which he himself has and recognizes the symptoms). The character Wasabi might even be dealing with OCD. While the latter two may not be as recognizable, Baymax helps all these characters confront their issues and shows children that there is someone who will understand what they’re going through and that it’s okay to get help.

While I can’t speak for the many people living with mental health issues and what their experiences are, I do believe that this movie was a great representation of the topic and sent a positive message to all viewers about the importance of mental health. That is why this is my favorite Disney movie of all time. The merchandise is just an added bonus. 

For more information about what the importance of this movie, check out these articles by Comics Alliance and Nerds of Color.

Some Interesting Things From This Week

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Hey everyone! As I finish my next post (which I’m very excited about), I wanted to share a couple of articles that I found interesting this week. Please take a look at them!

“Why more great movies like ‘Dunkirk’ won’t be made now” is a great article that was recently published in the San Jose Mercury News. The article talked about the recent take over of franchise and blockbuster movies. It’s a great read and presents some good points about the current state of modern cinema.

“IMAX to show less movies in 3D as it realises cinema-goers don’t want it” is a very short news report I saw on Twitter a few days ago. It provided some stats from the MPAA about recent 3D movie releases, as well as a quote from Greg Foster, the CEO of IMAX Entertainment. It is very similar to what I wrote about last week (when are 3D movies worth the money).

Please don’t hesitate to let me know what you think in the comments!

 

To 3D or Not to 3D

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I watched a Jimmy Fallon interview where he mentioned that a particular movie was truly meant to be seen in 3D. So, I decided to look into whether my money is worth spending on a 3D movie.

After having seeing movies like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Doctor Strange, as well as watching the new trailer for Ready Player One, I noticed the modern advances in visual effects are becoming more useful in science fiction movies, making them more enjoyable in 3D and IMAX 3D. However, ticket prices for 3D movies are higher than a normal movie, discouraging low-budget people like myself from seeing a movie in what may be the best possible format to allow for the most enjoyable viewing.

First, I wanted to learn about how much more expensive IMAX 3D and regular 3D movie tickets are compared to a digital movie. So, I looked at the costs of an adult ticket for Spider-Man: Homecoming at AMC and Regal Cinemas, the two biggest movie theater chains in the US (based on the number of total screens). AMC charges $19 for an IMAX 3D movie and $17 for a regular 3D movie while charging only $13 for a digital showing. Regal Cinemas charge $22 for an IMAX 3D movie and $16.50 for a regular 3D movie and only charge $11.50 for a digital showing. Thank goodness I usually go to AMC, because I would not want to pay an extra $9.50 to see a movie in IMAX 3D.

This brought up another question: Why the heck is it so much more expensive to see a movie in a different format? Some people think that movie theaters do it to make money since they don’t make any off of digital showings (meaning production companies take 100% of profits). But that’s not true. The raised prices of 3D movies are simply a marketing tactic. According to an article by cnet.com, theaters think that since a 3D movie is more “special” than a digital movie, it should cost more to be “immersed in the experience” of the movie. This also allows for movies to soar past box office money records, simply because people seeing it in 3D or IMAX 3D, rather than in digital, earn the movie more money. So, it’s a win for both movie theaters and production studios, but not necessarily for a teenager like me who is currently living off of the AMC gift cards she got for her birthday 4 months ago.

I decided to look at the difference between visual effects and special effects in case it would help me decide to spend the extra money. Visual effects are added in the post-production of a movie using a computer and combine live action with CGI (computer generated imagery). Special effects are created during the actual production of a movie and include things like make-up, prosthetics, and wires. I came to the conclusion that a movie with more visual effects might be better in 3D, as the visual effects might be used to create a display that you can’t normally capture in real life (like Ego’s planet in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2). While I loved The Avengers, the visuals were more about the action and not about the scenery, so I didn’t feel I needed to see it in 3D. A movie like Doctor Strange, however, was totally worth spending the extra money to see in IMAX 3D because it was a whole different experience than I had ever seen before.

So, when is it truly worth it to see a movie in 3D or IMAX 3D? For me, I’m willing to spend the extra money if I think I’m going to be immersed in a whole new visual experience, and I’m if going to be thinking “Wow! That’s so cool!” every time I see something new. But the final decision is really up to each of you and your wallets.