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WYPR Arts

If you've ever spent an afternoon with "Under the Sea" or "A Whole New World" or "Be Our Guest" stuck in your head, you can thank composer Alan Menken.

Menken scored The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and many other Disney classics. He says he prefers his songs "to be hum-able."

The new movie Life, which opens March 24, is about astronauts who discover an alien life form and live to regret it. You could say exactly the same thing about Alien: Covenant, which was originally scheduled to open the following Friday — until someone realized that was a recipe for box-office disaster. Alien: Covenant will now open in early May, and that close call, crazy as it is, isn't uncommon in Hollywood.

The new film, Get Out, defies easy classification. Though it has funny moments, it's primarily a horror film, with racial anxiety at its center. Writer-director Jordan Peele tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that he thinks of Get Out as a "social thriller."

When a TV show really connects with viewers, it's often a lightning-in-a-bottle experience; a collision of talent, material and public mood that is difficult to define. But that hasn't stopped people from asking Dan Fogelman, the creator of NBC's supersuccessful family drama This Is Us, this question: How did you pull this off?

Fogelman's answer: tone, timing and cast.

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Hackers, fake news, conspiracy theories tweeted and retweeted. One takeaway from the election is that the internet isn't living up to the promise that it would revitalize the marketplace of ideas.

A recent lawsuit brought by a blind theatergoer against the producers of the hit musical Hamilton has highlighted Broadway's spotty track record in serving audiences with disabilities.

"It tasted like rotten compost," recalls Max Falkowitz, executive digital editor of the food and wine magazine Saveur, of the time in college he sipped one of the most sought-after teas in the world. That would be pu'er — a legendary, fermented dark tea sourced from ancient trees in the isolated forest canopies of the Yunnan Province in southwest China.

If you ever want to make a group of Southerners groan, just ask them how they feel about kudzu. The now-ubiquitous vine was introduced to the United States from Japan in the late 19th century, and widely publicized as a miracle plant: it could be used as food for cattle; it made a nice ornamental addition to porches. But it didn't take very long for "the vine that ate the South" to go out of control, smothering Dixie and suffocating its other plants.

In B. Catling's mind-bending debut novel, The Vorrh, a host of impossible creatures populated a mysterious, fictional forest in the heart of Africa in the years following World War I. There was a cyclops named Ishmael. There were plastic robots called the Kin. There was a bow made from the body of a shaman.

Over the weekend, I was in Los Angeles and attended a production of Zoot Suit, by the trailblazing Chicano playwright Luis Valdez.

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