Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Bookworm: The Musical

Recently,I read an article about a most unusual musical,written by actress Katherine
Houghton(best known for her role in the film version of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner)about a pair of rare book dealers,Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine B. Stern. Leona and Madeleine became rare book sellers at a time when that part of the literary world was mostly a male dominated field and the two of them wound up unearthing the lost pulp fiction of Louisa May Alcott.

Houghton met up with the ladies while researching a play during the 1980s and became good friends with both of them. Her musical,BookEnds,is based on one of their memoirs. It is being performed by the New Jersey Repertory Company this summer(the last play date is August 26th.

I was thrilled by this article for two reasons-one,I have been a fan of Leona and Madeleine's ever since I read their first mainstream memoir,Old Books,Rare Friends. I was even lucky enough to get a copy of Old Books in the Old World(a journal of their first big book buying trip in Europe)just before it went out of print. This pair of good natured bibliophiles are in the special place in my heart where I set up my shrine to literary superstars,right along side Helene Hanff and Sylvia Beach. And two,I love the idea of a musical about book lovers. It's an idea whose time has come,my opinion.

So,what would a musical like this be actually like? For those of us who are unable to see BookEnds on stage,I thought that I could try to find a few clips that would best give us a idea of what it would be like:


"Belle" from Disney's Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite songs from that movie and I love it that they made Belle a reader gal(plus,the most romantic scene in the movie is when Beast gives her his library as a present-I'd certainly swoon at that!). This number nicely showcases her love of reading:


Legally Blonde was a cute movie about not underestimating a woman's intelligence(too bad the sequel didn't take that message to heart regarding the audience)and the current Broadway musical production seems to be as popular as it's cinema namesake. In "Omi God,You Guys",Elle's smarts are on display early on in an re-enactment of the movie's store shopping scene:


Pink's been a champion of girl power in the music world,especially after "Stupid Girls" hit the charts but not thought of as a book person. While this may be just a clever visual treatment,I do like the images of reading used here in "U + UR Hand":


Willow and Tara were not only wonderful witches on Buffy The Vampire Slayer,they were smart and spirited as well. In one of sweetest numbers in the musical "Once more with Feeling" episode,Tara takes time out on a book run to let Willow know she's "Under Your Spell":


It's no secret that most of the cast of "Golden Girls" have had musical theater experience and it was great whenever they got the chance to do a little song and dance on the show. Here,the ladies are putting on a version of Henny Penny to encourage grade school children to get into reading but Rose insists on encouraging the audience to take her side about the ending she'd prefer for the story:

I hope that musical BookEnds does well and even gets a shot at becoming a movie. Leona Rostenberg passed away in 2005(her good friend Madeleine is still living in Manhattan)and I'm sure that she is watching over the run of the show and waiting to talk it over with her best friend.

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