By Connie Hocking Ι Sept. 23, 2016
The great American musical! At the tender age of 7, I went to the movie theater with my sister and cousins to see “West Side Story” and instantly fell in love. The music, the singing, the dancing, George Chakiris overwhelmed the senses and has stayed with me all these years. It’s Romeo and Juliet in a gritty urban setting full of color and sound.
At 16, I went to NYC and was introduced to live musical theater. Our group saw “Purlie” starring Melba Moore and Clevon Little. It was based on a play, “Purlie Victorious” by Ossie Davis. Wow! All that singing and dancing, live — and they did it eight times a week.
This appreciation of live theater is rewarded in Salina by all the productions at the Salina Community Theatre, Kansas Wesleyan University and the area high schools. I’ve seen so many wonderful musicals over the years and marvel at the talent each time they take the stage. The first musical I took my daughter, Jennie, to see was “Annie” at Marymount College. A few years ago, I took her daughter, Mia, to see it at SCT.
What does with that have to do with the library? The stories often have their roots and inspirations in books. Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” James Michener’s “Tales of the South Pacific,” T.S. Elliott’s poetry, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” came from the Bible, “Annie” was a comic strip, and “Hamilton” is based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton.
The library has movie musicals available on DVD. You can find classics like “The Sound of Music,” “Funny Girl,” “Oklahoma,” “South Pacific,” “Camelot,” “My Fair Lady,” “Music Man,” “White Christmas” and, of course, “West Side Story.” Newer offerings include “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Les Misérables” and “Dreamgirls.”
Very few Broadway productions are on DVD, but there are a few concert productions of musicals available including a copy of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” done in a concert format at the Stiefel in 2006 by the SCT cast. There are also DVDs highlighting individual Broadway performances.
Soundtracks from Broadway shows are available to check out as well. Browse CD 782.14. Not into “Annie Get Your Gun?” How about “Wicked?” We even have the cast recording of “Hamilton.” If you can’t get your hands on that one, look for “In the Heights” which was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Broadway hit. It would be a good idea to give it a listen. SCT has it in the lineup for next spring, and it really helps to know the songs before you go.
My latest Broadway adventure took place in April when I saw Gershwin’s “American in Paris” and “Beautiful,” the music of Carole King. The highlight and reason for the trip was to see “Tuck Everlasting.” It is a musical based on the book by Natalie Babbitt and is the story of 11-year-old Winnie Foster. Winnie comes across the Tuck family who have drunk from a magic spring and are immortal. She must decide whether or not to drink from a saved vial of spring water when she is 17 so she and Jesse Tuck can be 17 forever. The book brings forth many questions about life and death. The musical is a beautiful interpretation of music and dance. Sarah Lewis Charles, who plays Winnie, is 11 years old and was absolutely incredible. The lyrics for “Tuck Everlasting” were written by Nathan Tysen. Nathan grew up in Salina and graduated from South High. Now his work has been on Broadway. Although the show’s run was too short, the soundtrack will bring the story and characters to life. Check it out and take a listen! Maybe you’ll be bitten by the musical bug!