L.A. Theatre Works, then a fledgling radio theatre company, completed Babbitt in 1989. This production was so well received that L.A. Theatre Works has since become the world's premiere radio theatre company.
Ed Asner as Babbitt leads this all star cast, which includes Ted Danson, Marsha Mason, Helen Hunt, John Lithgow, Stacy Keach, Richard Dreyfuss, Amy Irving, Ally Sheedy and many more. Babbitt was previously unreleased on CD and digital formats.
©2002 Sinclair Lewis; (P)2008 L.A. Theatre Works
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"A nice change of pace"
The LA Theatre version was a nice change of pace from straight audiobooks, and the cast was awesome.
Unlike another reviewer, I did not mind the introductory material on each segment; I thought it was helpful.
I had read Babbit in college, but remembered only a caricature. This gave me the opportunity to "reread" the book from a different point in life.
In the words of George Babbitt, this recording is a real "corker." I remember fondly when it first aired on one of our local public radio stations, KCRW, over a Thanksgiving holiday. I loved it then, and I was thrilled to find it available here. I'm also delighted to report that the performance still holds up.
While I'm a great admirer of the works of Lewis, I also know that his novels can sometimes be a chore to read, so filled as they are with the details inherent in the Naturalist style of fiction. The beauty of this audio presentation is due in much part to the manner in which the performers bring Lewis's detailed descriptions to life as they capture the essence of the novel's characters as well as its narration.
Lewis, through his work, added the concept of a "babbitt" to the American lexicon...basically, a self-satisfied businessman who conforms readily to conventional, middle-class ideas and ideals. This story of the original babbitt, a man who pursues the standard concept of the American Dream only to find himself unfulfilled and unsatisfied with his life but clueless as to how to find real happiness, still resonates today, almost one hundred years since the book's publication. The more things change...etc.
I've completely enjoyed rediscovering this wonderful audio gem, and encourage others to give it a listen.
"Zenith! The Zip City
Zeal, Zest, and Zowie!
One Million by 1935!"
Obviously, I'm a booster!
From Wikipedia: Babbitt, first published in 1922, is a novel by Sinclair Lewis. Largely a satire of American culture, society, and behavior, its main theme focuses on the power of conformity, and the vacuity of middle-class American life.
As you can imagine, Sinclair Lewis was not America's favorite writer -- but, on the other hand he was certainly well-known. Lots of Americans enjoyed poking fun at America. It has been one of our favorite sports -- and this has been one of our strong points -- and we are still at it. In Latin American, by contrast, it is illegal to for the media to criticize the government.
This cannot be classified as a profound novel, but it is well done, and gives one a feel for the <Real America> of the Twenties -- which in many ways has not changed that much. Sinclair Lewis has come back into style, now that we realize just how stupid we can be.
I have only one criticism: I tired of hearing the credits repeated 29 times. It was originally a serial radio program and they neglected to remove these when they published the whole thing. Of course you can also read the book.
"Entertaining - Mostly"
I really liked it, and it's a performance rather than an audio book. The audio brings you back to the twenties, living the life of someone who was relatively well-to-do, George F. Babbitt, a real-estate agent in Zenith, a city of 300,000 to 400,000 people.
George generally dislikes socialists, but there was a time when he was more liberal, and of course, it's Prohibition, which adds more to the story. It's the modern age of the 1920s, and Babbitt relapses somewhat into his past ideals for a bit, till he gets jolted back with real-life events.
I really enjoyed the listen, in serial format, and it, like most audio-books I've had, make the commute something to look forward to. I had hoped more longer-format performances existed, but this was the longest Los Angeles Theater Works piece I've found, and it's well worth it!
"Well Done All Around"
While I would have preferred the introductions to each segment to have been edited out for a more seamless listening experience, the performances themselves were mostly very well done. I had not read Babbitt before, and the parallels between what the characters were saying and doing in 1920 and what people are saying and doing today are uncanny.
"The perfect novel for a full-cast treatment!"
Only long acquaintance with and respect for LA Theatreworks could have persuaded me to listen to Sinclair Lewis. I'm glad it did. The week I spent in the company of this novel, gussied up with the trappings of "Old Time Radio," was never dull. Many lines that would have seemed stale on the page were vividly brought to life by a parade of great performers. There's a somewhat heavy-handed treatment about conformity and individualism in Babbitt, but it's tempered by Lewis' even-handed critical eye for all walks of life- the conformists are a nasty lot, and the rebels aren't very attractive either. As you get to the end, just as you begin to wonder whether to give up on society in general for good, Lewis gives you an ending that leaves you with a big grin and a ray of hope. Highly recommended.
"Nothing changes but the changes not just a cliche"
Going on a hundred years later, technology has changed, but attitudes, behaviors and what drives us hasn't changed much at all. I'm still not sure whether I'm saddened by this or strangely reassurred. No matter how much everything around us has changed,mankind hasn't. I used to wonder what "Nothing changes but the changes" really meant, but after listening to this, I understand completely.
As for the production itself, I thoroughly enjoyed what was, essentially, a 26-hour play without the visuals. Sometimes I allowed myself to focus on which actor was speaking rather than on what they were saying, but that's me and not a drawback unless you're apt to do the same. I thought it brought the book to life and this was a good vehicle for such a presentation.
"Good story. Not so good music"
This is the 2nd dramatization I have bought from Audible ( A Streetcar Named Desire was the first). I really loved the story and the actors who presented it, but the way it is broken up into segments with old timey music at the beginning and end got irritating to me. There is a synopsis of the prior segment at the beginning of each new segment, which is OK, but the music.....arrgh.
"A great way to revisit this classic"
Low among the high rank.
Ed Asner as Babbitt, naturally
I like the fishing expedition. The men insist on getting away from their wives to rough it, only to be taken down a peg by the local guide.
I laughed a bit, and sympathized too with the put-upon characters. Lewis set them up for a fall, but he did, I hope, have some of a heart for the citizens of Zenith under his barbs and their babble.
This story is relevant today, a century later. Every preacher, motivational speaker, "multi-level marketer," and start-up go getter has a streak of the protagonist and his cronies in him or her.
"Great theatre for the ears!"
Although the performance was stellar, I didn't like the principle characters, so can't rate this very well against others I've read where I liked many of the characters. It was great hearing so many movie and TV stars before they became stars.
No, for the reason stated above
Since this is really a performance, with many actors, it was much easier to tell who was speaking than it would be when reading the book. But it's not a play. The whole book is read, by the actors, who alternately narrate, and speak all dialogue text.
If I'd chosen to read the book, I wouldn't have made it halfway. It was the performances that kept me listening. I chose this book because it had been my ex-husband's favorite book in the mid-sixties, and I'd never read Sinclair Lewis at all. It probably captures its era beautifully, as it's a classic, but times (thankfully) have changed so much!
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