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  • gilwilson 3:00 PM on December 22, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , bbc 4, , , , , , full cast performance, j.r.r. tolkien, , the hobbit   

    “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien (a radio performance from AudioGo) 


    “The Hobbit”
    by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Full Cast Performance
    Published by AudioGO Ltd
    Running Time: 4hrs

    Okay, first off the first thing that will come to many of my loyal readers’ attention is the length of this audiobook, 4 hours. 4 hours for “The Hobbit”? that’s insane. I know, I know, but this isn’t simply “The Hobbit” audiobook. This is a performance originally aired on BBC 4 radio. The audiobook runs 11 hours or so and this one I am reviewing has been abridged to fit on a radio series format and is now being released as an audio performance by AudioGo. The movie that is about to be released is just under 3 hours, so you know some abridging is being done there as well.

    This performance originally aired in 1968 and features some special effects that are very typical of BBC effects, the voices of the goblins and trolls are very similar to the voices of the Daleks from the Doctor Who TV series, and add a bit of charm to the production. The rest of the performance is very nice to hear. I will have to admit I would have preferred cutting out the music in and music out between each half hour, but that was the original intent in this weekly broadcast so to remain historically accurate it is kept in this audiobook.

    I have read “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Ring” series numerous times in my life and love the adventures and found this audiobook/performance a great addition to my readings. In fact with the movie released I found this to be the perfect refresher before going to see the movie.

    So, if you keep in mind that this is an abridged radio series performance of “The Hobbit,” you’ll be set for an adventure with Bilbo Baggins and the Dwarves to battle the Dragon, Smaug, and simply enjoy the performance. The fun part of this performance is that for the radio production the producers/writers added in what could be taken for an extra character of “The Tale Bearer” or simply put, the narrator. The fun part is that as he is telling the story Bilbo is constantly interjecting with embellishments to the story.

    The story is still the same; Bilbo Baggins a Hobbit from the Shire is unwittingly recruited as a “burglar”, a title which Bilbo is not comfortable with at first. Bilbo is needed to assist the Dwarves on a journey to reclaim their ancestral lands and treasures under a mountain. Other than the long journey, the hazardous part is that the treasure is guarded by a dragon named Smaug and many other races from Middle Earth also wish to possess that treasure. The journey, the battles and the variety of mythical creatures all combine to make this a classic fantasy, and this performance is a great addition to the story.

    So if you are looking for a refresher in the fantasy created by J.R.R. Tolkien, a brief introduction to the story, or just a fun time, give this audiobook version of the radio performance of “The Hobbit” from AudioGo a listen.

  • gilwilson 8:02 PM on August 27, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , full cast performance, , , John Zakour, Lawrence Ganem, , , , ,   

    “Nuclear Bombshell: Book 1 – The Plutonium Blonde” by John Zakour and Lawrence Ganem 

    “Nuclear Bombshell: Book 1 – The Plutonium Blonde”
    by John Zakour and Lawrence Ganem
    Multi-cast performance
    Produced by GraphicAudio
    approx. 6 hours

    I am a huge fan of Science-Fiction and Fantasy, and recently I’ve become a fan of the old Pulp-fiction. With that in mind, imagine my surprise and excitement that a recently written piece of science-fiction was written in the old Pulp-fiction style. “The Plutonium Blonde” audiobook sounds just like one of those old dime detective stories, however the year of this story is 2057 and Zachary Nixon Johnson is the last P.I. on Earth.

    Zachary Johnson narrates his own story and sounds like one of the old detectives, not dry like Jack Webb was in those days, but rather the straightforward deliver with some wit, wisdom and even a bit of sarcasm. Being a GraphicAudio production this audiobook is just as advertised from GraphicAudio, “A Movie in your Mind.” With super sound effects, great incidental and background music and talented voice actors, this production will not only bring this book to life, but will also put you, as the listener, right in the middle of the action. Whether it is barroom brawls with killer androids or hired thugs that know how to trash a living room, the superb sound pouring out of this audiobook will get your heart racing. I highly recommend listening to this and any GraphicAudio production on a full stereo surround sound system to get the full theatrical feel of the story.

    So Zachary Nixon Johnson is the last Private Investigator on earth, sort of, and is popular thanks to the mass of robotic paparazzi that seem to show up at just the right moments. He has his own weapons creator, not unlike Ms. Moneypenny in the James Bond stories. The world’s smartest supercomputer in the form of HARV. Of course HARV is too smart for his own good and is often smug, but he’s always there for Zach. In fact the latest invention puts HARV into Zach’s brain via a special contact lens.

    HARV is a fun character, with super-intelligence, a dry wit and biting sarcasm all wrapped up in a super loyal companion to Zach. HARV is always there to make his objections which most of the time are needed, but Zach works it all out somehow. These two partners make this futuristic pulp-fiction a blast.

    So now Zach is ready for his latest case. This case comes in the form of B.B. Star. It seems Ms. Star’s husband was a genius and a cheat. B.B.’s husband created an android version of her and that plutonium powered blonde has gone missing. After hiring some thugs to destroy Zach’s office to see if he is capable of capturing the android, Zach gets the case of a lifetime, it does come at a cost. First the story of B.B. 2 has to be kept hush-hush due to the illegality of creating an android that so closely resembles a human, and B.B. 1 is a wealthy corporate bigwig and cannot afford the story getting out so a story is concocted in which Zach was cavorting with Ms. Star for meaningless sex (thus ruining Zach relationship with the woman he loves.) Second, B.B. 2 doesn’t want to be found so she’ll do everything she can to stop Zach.

    Once Zach begins the hunt the fun begins. This story is full of humor and action and world destroying androids making it a super fun Sci-fi detective story that you don’t want to miss. One of my favorite features in this book is the use of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as references to God and Heaven, the mentions are subtle but will make you smile when you hear them. Or even more fun is the use of DOS as a term for Hell. Those are just small examples of the fun in this book. Check it out and get ready for the next installment of the “Nuclear Bombshell” series which I hope comes out soon.

  • gilwilson 10:51 PM on July 16, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Andy Taylor, , , , , , Charlie Matthes, Daniel Chacon, Emily Bergl, Floyd Knowles, Francis Guinan, Fredd Wayne, full cast performance, Jeffrey Donovan, Joel Rafael, John Steinbeck, Kate Williamson, , Maurice Chasse, Michael Buie, Michael Weston, Nick Sadler, Richard Masur, Robert Pescovitz, Rod McLachlan, , Shirley, Skirball Cultural Center, Stephen Ramsey, The Grapes of Wrath, the Joel Rafael Band, , Todd Waring, Trista Delamere   

    “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck – Published by L.A. Theatre Works 

    “The Grapes of Wrath”
    by John Steinbeck
    Published by L.A. Theatre Works
    Full cast performance starring: Emily Bergl, Michael Buie, Daniel Chacon, Maurice Chasse, Shannon Cochran, Trista Delamere, Jeffrey Donovan, Francis Guinan, Shirley, Charlie Matthes, Rod McLachlan, Robert Pescovitz, Joel Rafael, Stephen Ramsey, Nick Sadler, Andy Taylor,
    Floyd Knowles, Todd Waring, Fredd Wayne, Michael Weston, and Kate Williamson
    Live music performed by the Joel Rafael Band
    Directed by Richard Masur
    Recorded before a live audience at the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles in October, 2002.
    Approx 2 hours

    Once again I find myself listening to another fantastic production from L.A. Theatre Works, and once again the performance and production as a whole are enthralling that I can let the rest of the world go away and enjoy a classic story.  This time around I got the audiobook from the Audiobook Sync website (http://www.audiobooksync.com), from their SYNC YA summer audiobook program.  Every summer they offer a weekly coupling of Young Adult fiction.  The coupling exists between a new YA story and a classic story.  The week this audiobook was downloaded came with a book called the 11th Plague.  I’m saving that book for later.  I have already listened to several performances from L.A. Theatre Works, and knew that I would love this performance, So with a two hour plus car ride planned, I put this on my new mp3 player and hit the road.

    The cast all performed the parts perfectly, throw that in with the sound effects and music, and once again I was placed in the center of the audience enjoying this great performance.  The interesting thing i found in this production was the music performed by the Joel Rafael Band.  The music had a lot of Woody Guthrie sound to it and at times the lead vocalist sounded a lot like Bob Dylan in his younger years.  All the music pushed the story along and made for great transitions between scenes.

    I have always enjoyed every aspect of this story, from when I read the book (several times) to the movie starring Henry Fonda as Tom Joad.  I think mainly because it is a great description of a tough time in America and the tough stock of folks it took to keep moving on despite all the problems life throws.  Also I love the story because I was raised in Oklahoma and this story portrays Okies as a tough breed of folks.

    During the Great Depression one of the many things that affected the country was the Dust Bowl that affected Oklahoma.  Severe drought and bad farming techniques created several dust storms that decimated the agriculture of Oklahoma.  The Okies were forced off of their farms and many headed West to California where there were jobs promised, via handbills, working in the fields and orchards.  As the story tells the problem was that many of the California farmers used false pretenses to attract the workers.  Where a farm would need 500 workers they would print 5,000 hand bills and maybe 1,000 workers would show up.  Creating double the people needed and many of the migrants were forced to live in poverty and even die in work camps.

    This story tells of the Joad Family’s experiences as they made their way west and once arriving having to struggle for every scrap of food to feed the family, all the while Ma Joad trying to keep the family together. Eventually the workers get smart and band together to strike the poor working conditions and wages but are threatened with violence by the farmers and landowners of California.

    A great historical epic from John Steinbeck that depicts the struggles of humanity and how working together we can survive.  This performance from L.A. Theatre Works is one of the best performances of “Grapes of Wrath” I have ever heard.  Definitely a must have for anyone appreciating classic literature.

  • gilwilson 10:33 PM on April 19, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , contemporary theatre, , everyman, full cast performance, , , , midwest, , ,   

    “The Man Who Had All the Luck” by Arthur Miller (produced by L.A. Theatre Works “The Arthur Miller Collection”) 

    “The Man Who Had All The Luck”
    by Arthur Miller
    Full Cast Performance Starring:
    Emily Bergl, Kevin Chamberlin, Tim DeKay, James Gammon, Lee Garlington, Graham Hamilton, Tom McGowan, Kurtwood Smith, Russell Soder and Tegan West
    Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
    Approx. 2 hours

    I have recently discovered the magic of theatrical productions from L.A. Theatre Works, and they are now among my list of top 3 audiobook producers.   L.A. Theatre Works records live theatre performances and releases them as audiobooks, making a huge selection of plays,  from classic to contemporary, available for consumption.  The nice thing about these is that the audio production quality put into these releases not only places you in the middle of the audience but the high caliber of acting makes it so the plays will keep you intrigued and wanting for more.  At least that is what has happened to me.

    This time around I listened to another Arthur Miller play (previously I had listened to the Arthur Miller play “Death of a Salesman” starring Stacy Keach).  Arthur Miller wrote many plays about the everyman and created plays that explored the struggles of man.  L.A. Theatre works has put together a collection of his plays called “The Arthur Miller Collection” which includes 10 plays which includes this one.  It also includes, “Death of a Salesman,” “The Crucible,” and more.  I recently got my hands on this collection after listening to “Death of a Salesman” so I could explore more about this American Classic that is Arthur Miller.

    What makes the productions from L.A. Theatre works so good is that through attention to detail recording and production, take a live performance and turn it into an audio medium.  Listening to these performances (and this one is no exception) I felt as if I were in the middle of the audience, with applause and sound effects from the performance pushing that feeling.  The one thing that totally surprised me is that I did not miss any of the visual aspect of the performances and was able to enjoy the full effect of the play(s).  I can’t wait to get on with the rest of this collection, with 2 down and 8 to go, I’m going to spread them out a bit, besides, they are only around two hours each so they are perfect to get in between other audiobooks and while doing all my daily functions.

    “The Man Who Had All the Luck,” is about a young Midwestern boy, David Beeves, who seems to have all his life handed to him, or rather lucks into whatever he gets.  He’s set up in a barn as a mechanic and everyone takes their cars in for repairs, yet he’s never had any training and admits he doesn’t know anything about fixing cars, but he seems to get the job done.  When he is having a problem with a particular car a stranger out of nowhere walks in and is able to fix the car.  When he can’t get married to his girlfriend until her father is out of the way, the father dies in an automobile accident.  When he builds a gas station, the state decides to put a highway right in front of it.  When Beeves gets older he begins to wonder what is going to happen when his luck runs out, is he due for a disaster to pay back for all the luck?

    This play fully explores the question whether fate or hard work decides a man’s future.  David’s brother, Amos, is trained by his father day in and day out to be an expert baseball pitcher, but how does all that hard work pay off?  Not in the way that it would for David and his “Midas Touch.”

    On a side-note here; Kurtwood Smith plays the part of David’s father and is constantly training Amos.  Kurtwood is the one who played Red Foreman in “That 70s Show,” and deep down inside (because I was a fan of the character he played on that show) I wanted him to say a line from the show (I won’t say the line here, but you probably know which one, if you ever watched the show).  But just knowing how great of an actor he was I was happy enough just to hear his voice.

    One of the 10 great plays by Arthur Miller, produced by L.A. Theatre Works and cram packed into this “Arthur Miller Collection.”

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