A sure cure for winter glums is an energetic Broadway cast recording, and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical strikes all the right chords: irresistible oldies, show-biz success story, and a dazzling Tony Award-winning performance by lead actress Jessie Mueller. Turn the grey into “One Fine Day” with a remarkable life in song.
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As tickled as I was to see Veronica Mars return, I missed the inventive noir detective work and motley associates. The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by creator Rob Thomas improves upon the movie, giving Veronica plenty of opportunity to outwit and out-quip those in Neptune who have something to hide.
A body is discovered lying across the border of Sweden and Denmark, and it’s only the first in a series of violent crimes designed to draw attention to social ills. A fascinating achievement of international television, Bron / Broen (The Bridge) straddles intersecting character arcs in a tension-filled series that examines the boundaries we cross.
Need a vacation? Let the honeyed voice of Edoardo Ballerini whisk you to a remote Italian villa in Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. Entwining the past story of a bewitching extra on the set of Cleopatra with that of contemporary film production team, this Audie Award-winner offers a fascinating mental getaway.
The Happiest Millionaire is a favorite lesser-known Disney musical that offers toe-tapping charm. Fred MacMurray is a wealthy father who keeps pet alligators in his mansion and hosts a Bible-and-boxing club in the stables. Lesley Ann Warren, Greer Garson, and the irrepressible Tommy Steele add to the family fun.
Both electric and acoustic strains of the country music scene are showcased in the series soundtracks The Music of Nashville, Volume 1 and Volume 2, and it’s the original songs that make an impact. The best are the sweet yet sultry duets, especially those featuring newcomer Clare Bowen, but there’s something for every mood.
Summertime begs a soundtrack that can back both active afternoons and sultry evenings. For a fun, bluesy, energizing mix, try Marcia Ball’s Peace, Love & BBQ. The influence of her Texas/Louisiana upbringing gleams in the pep of her piano and in her soulful singing. Just try to sit still!
Canadian series Slings & Arrows is must-viewing for anyone with a weakness for theater. Each season showcases the staging of a Shakespeare play that finds its themes oddly paralleled in the current cast’s shenanigans. An entertaining blend of broad comedy and poignant life lessons played by a masterful cast.
Cathleen of Fiction/AV/Teen Services recommends One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni:
No one noticed the first rumble. Lost in thought while waiting in line for visas, a diverse group of nine individuals had no idea their fates were entwined. When the earthquake hits, they find themselves trapped in the basement of the foreign consulate with no escape, little food, dwindling oxygen, and water beginning to seep in through the floor. It isn’t long before tensions lead them to turn on each other, until one suggests they distract themselves by each sharing an important story — one amazing thing — from his or her own life. The tales are heartbreaking, inspiring, and vulnerable, and they illustrate the transcendent power of story as well as the quiet miracles that have the power to transform our lives.
The Flight of Gemma Hardy transports the story of Jane Eyre to twentieth-century Iceland and Scotland, successfully honoring the source material while still offering a few surprises. The graceful, lilting narration of reader Davina Porter perfectly renders Gemma’s progression from neglected waif to independent young woman.